Guest Blogged by DES
What's the matter with Indiana? Nothing. Unless you want to vote. And happen to fall onto anti-democracy champion, Republican Sec. of State Todd Rokita's hit list...
TPM Muckraker proves the value of LexisNexis today by digging up a 2002 South Bend Review news story highlighting the Rokita's involvement in the Florida 2000 Presidential election fiasco [emphasis ours]:
The Republican Rokita was elected to the state's top election position just a few short years later, in 2002. He's been very, very busy, in the last few years in the battleground state, pushing for the most restrictive photo I.D. voting laws in the nation.
Rokita has been hard at work again, sendingsending a letter [PDF] to NW Indiana U.S Attorney David Capp, the Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter, the FBI, and the Lake County, IN, Prosecutor requesting prosecution of ACORN under RICO statutes, declaring that his office "has found evidence of multiple criminal violations, including possible state and federal racketeering laws, in conjunction with hundreds of fraudulent voter registration applications filed in Lake County."
At issue are two apparently opposing statutes in Indiana law --- a requirement to turn in voter registration forms vs. knowingly submitting fraudulent applications." The full story follows...
Secretary of State Todd Rokita said today that a preliminary investigation by his office has found evidence of multiple criminal violations, including possible state and federal racketeering laws, in conjunction with hundreds of fraudulent voter registration applications filed in Lake County.
The findings and a request for prosecution are detailed in a letter Rokita, Indiana’s top election official, sent last week to Lake County Prosecutor Bernard A. Carter, U.S. Attorney David Capp and Michael Welch, special agent in charge of the FBI's Indianapolis office.
Acorn officials contend they are required by law to submit all applications it collects, and a spokesman said they made efforts to call attention to applications that appeared to be problematic. The official said Acorn was the victim of unscrupulous employees and the organization fired at least five of those involved with the Lake County drive.
Rokita's letter, however, states that "complying with the law to submit legitimate applications does not allow Acorn officials to evade the law against knowingly submitting fraudulent applications."
Via TPM Muckraker, the Obama Campaign held a conference call on Monday to protest what they call "an orchestrated effort on the part of Republican officials across the country to work with the McCain-Palin ticket and the Republican National Committee to disseminate this message of fraud..."
Bauer called the effort "a fear campaign."
Lake County has already been a hotspot for GOP attempts at voter suppression. Last week, the state Supreme Court declined to support a Republican bid to shut down early voting centers in three strongly Democratic cities in northern Lake County.
More from the NWI Times:
ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has blamed the bulk of the invalid registration on a handful of unscrupulous canvassers, who were paid $8 to register voters. Kettenring said state law requires the group to turn in every application collected, so it segregated the sketchy forms before submitting them to Lake County officials.
The Indiana Law Blog helpfully points to the relevant portion of Rokita's letter, in which the Republican Secretary of State argues that, even though ACORN says it complied with the law requiring that all forms be submitted, the organization is not absolved of "knowingly submitting fraudulent forms," a Class D felony:
If ACORN is contending that it brought this matter to the attention of local election officials, then NWI-ACORN will surely wish to assist law enforcement in bringing the bad actors inside the organization to justice. ACORN has also claimed to be in compliance with Indiana law IC 3-14-2-5(b). But contrary to the claims of ACORN, a person who complies with the law to submit completed voter registration applications is not able as a result to evade the law against knowingly submitting false or fraudulent applications.
Indiana Code 3-14-2-5(b) provides that a person who "fails to file or deliver to the proper officer a . . . form of registration after the . . . form has been executed commits a Class A misdemeanor." The law exists to prevent "lost" applications of those thought to be supporters of an opposing party candidate, for example. Indiana Code 3-14-3-1.1 makes it a Class D felony for a person to knowingly procure or submit "voter registration applications known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent" and IC 3-14-2-1 makes it a Class D felony for a person to conspire with another in such behavior.
Every person has the duty under the law not to aid or assist others in breaking the law. Clearly, ACORN representatives continued to submit applications they knew to be fraudulent to voter registration officials rather than submit evidence and contact information for possible suspects to local law enforcement officials (who have offices in the same building). Simply put, complying with the law to submit legitimate applications does not allow ACORN officials to evade the law against knowingly submitting fraudulent applications. [ILB - Emphasis in the original.]
For its part, ACORN has responded that Rokita "appears to have changed his opinion on this question two weeks before the election":
Echoing prior statements by ACORN, Kettenring also said "what's clear is that there is a coordinated Republican effort to go after, to manufacture a crisis of voter fraud."
"Bogus voter registration applications are not fraud, period," Kettenring said, distinguishing between a fraudulent application and the later act of someone casting a ballot on the basis of a fraudulently procured registration that was submitted and resulted in a tainted registration being placed on the voter rolls. "And, so what you really have is a hysteria about a non-issue," Kettenring added.
Rokita's heavily redacted letter is also posted with the NWI Times article, and can be viewed here [PDF].
Here's the statute Rokita cites:
Procuring or submission of false, fictitious, or fraudulent registration application; procuring, casting, or tabulating false, fictitious, or fraudulent ballot
Sec. 1.1. A person who knowingly does any of the following commits a Class D felony:
(1) Procures or submits voter registration applications known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent.
(2) Procures, casts, or tabulates ballots known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent.
As added by P.L.103-2005, SEC.32.
And the seemingly contradictory statute cited by ACORN, requiring that all registration applications must be submitted by law:
Destruction or failure to file or deliver registration form or absentee ballot application after execution
Sec. 5. (a) A person who recklessly destroys or fails to deliver an absentee ballot application to the proper officer after the application has been executed by another individual in accordance with IC 3-11-4 commits a Class A misdemeanor.
(b) A person who recklessly destroys or fails to file or deliver to the proper officer a registration affidavit or form of registration after the affidavit or form has been executed commits a Class A misdemeanor.
As added by P.L.5-1986, SEC.10. Amended by P.L.103-2005, SEC.24.