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Fire up the Wayback Machine for Barney the dog

By Jonathan Morales
Thursday, October 15th, 2009 at 4:13 pm in Lafayette.

In tomorrow’s Sun and Times there should be a brief about Barney the toy poodle from Lafayette passing away earlier this month. Some readers may recall that Barney gained international fame when his owner, Donald Miller, registered him to vote to point out deficiencies in the voter registration process. Multiple news organizations from around the globe covered the story, including the Times.

Here’s the original story that ran on the front page of the Times onĀ  March 15, 2002:

Man dogged for registering pet Republican

By Jewel Gopwani
Times Staff Writer

Contra Costa County Superior Court expects Barnabas R. Miller to report to jury duty later this month.

There’s one thing that will keep that from happening.

Barnabas is a dog.

Now the 9-year-old toy poodle’s owner, Donald Miller, has to explain how Barney’s name landed in the pool of prospective jurors.

The Lafayette resident registered Barney to vote a few years ago to prove a point.

“If I can register my dog, then anybody can register, ” Miller said.

Miller, 78, said by registering his dog, he showed that the registration process has gaps that could allow non-U.S. citizens to register and vote.

“You’re supposed to be a citizen. He doesn’t even have a driver’s license, ” said Miller, a retired shop iron worker.

The county and the state are not pleased with Miller’s experiment.

“He can make that a point to his assemblyperson. He should not make his point in this manner, ” said Candy Lopez, assistant registrar in Contra Costa County.

Voters sign the bottom of their registration cards to confirm that all of the submitted information is true.

“The voter is signing under penalty of perjury that the information is correct, ” said Shad Balch, spokesman for the Secretary of State. He said individuals convicted of perjury could be fined and jailed up to four years.

Miller, who signed the registration card, said he didn’t think registering his dog would be illegal. “I didn’t give it a thought, ” he said.

But Miller said he never submitted a ballot for Barney, a registered Republican.

“I have never let him vote, because that would be considered a felony.”

Balch said it is sometimes difficult to tell when someone falsifies information on their voter registration card.

“Registering to vote in California is highly based on the honor system. We try to make it a very simple process, ” he said.

The system has changed since Miller registered to vote almost 60 years ago in Ohio, where he had to show his birth certificate to register.

California had a similar system requiring in-person registration. But Lopez said the state in the 1970s started allowing people to register by mail.

Miller said he’s not sure what he will tell the court. He has a few more days to send an affidavit answering the jury summons.

“I just want to see what comes out of this, ” Miller said. “I hope I can get some reaction of some of the public officials.”

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