Analyst: GOP voter fraud scandal 'really serious'
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Monday October 20, 2008

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The Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday that dozens of voters have complained they were duped by a firm working for the GOP into switching their party registration to Republican while being told they were signing a petition for tougher penalties on child molesters.

The switches could impede Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts and could prevent those affected from voting in next year's Democratic primaries. Some of the voters were even switched to absentee status, meaning they could lose their vote entirely if they show up at the polls on Election Day without bringing an absentee ballot.

The story began last summer, when California Democrats noticed sudden, unexplained turnarounds in Republican registration in certain counties and obtained a list of the new registrations from the San Bernardino County registrar's office. They found that more than 75% of the phone numbers given were invalid, and of those voters who could be reached, over 80% said their registrations had been switched to Republican without their knowledge.

A single group turned out to be behind the "slamming" -- Young Political Majors, which was previously found to be using similar tactics in Florida in 2004. In that election, YPM was employed by another firm called JSM Inc., which was working for conservative powerhouse Arno Political Associates. Similar stories involving all three have surfaced in Arizona, Massachusetts, and Ohio.

MSNBC's Contessa Brewer asked legal analyst Susan Filan on Monday about the case. "This is really serious," Filan responded. "This is a very specific, deliberate intent to mislead." She contrasted it with the far more trivial accusations of voter fraud against the anti-poverty group ACORN, which has handed in occasional fake registrations under names such as "Mickey Mouse."

Late on Saturday, the owner of Young Political Majors, Mark Jacoby, was arrested on charges of having fraudulently registered himself to vote at a California address where he lived as a child so that he would meet California's legal requirement that signature gatherers be eligible to vote in that state.

Jacoby's attorney called the charges "baseless" and part of a "long pattern of harassment," saying that his client travels a lot and has continued to use his parents' home as his legal address.

The California GOP issued a statement claiming that "California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has decided to once again show her partisan colors and charge an individual for questions surrounding his own, personal voter registration. ... The charges we've seen today suggests that this is politically motivated. ... It is evident that Debra Bowen is using her office to play politics with the public's perception."

Filan's comment on this claim was, "To say this is politically motivated is just nonsense. To not prosecute something like this would be an extreme dereliction of a public official's duty." However, she did not address the question of whether there was any impropriety in arresting Jacoby for his personal actions rather than because of the accusations of fraud against his firm.

Bradblog has been following the Jacoby case and is posting regular updates.

This video is from MSNBC's News Live, broadcast October 20, 2008.

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This video is from CBS 2 News, broadcast October 20, 2008.

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