California Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced yesterday that Mark Anthony Jacoby — owner of a signature-gathering firm called Young Political Majors, which has been running the California Republican Party‘s controversial voter registration effort — was arrested Saturday night on suspicion of committing voter-registration fraud.
Jacoby allegedly registered himself to vote in 2006 and 2007 at the Los Angeles address of his childhood home, where he no longer lives. What’s the big deal? Well, state law requires signature-gatherers to sign a declaration stating they’re either registered to vote in California or that they are eligible to do so; Jacoby allegedly registered to vote where he didn’t actually live so he in turn could travel California collecting petition signatures and registering voters.
Voter-registration fraud is a felony punishable by up to three years in prison, and providing false information on a voter registration card is perjury; the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office’s Public Integrity Unit has charged Jacoby with two counts of each. Bowen’s fraud unit and the Ontario Police Department arrested Jacoby, 25, near an Ontario hotel just before midnight Saturday, and he’s now awaiting arraignment.
These charges don’t yet address allegations that Jacoby’s firm was playing it fast and loose with voter registrations. YPM was banking $5 per new voter from a fund partially supported by 2010 gubernatorial candidate and California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, but the Ventura County Star reported last month that dozens of Ventura County residents had their party registration changed to Republican against their will; since then, allegations have been coming out of the woodwork all over Southern California about similar “slamming” of voters by YPM workers. County prosecutors reportedly are now reviewing affidavits about this.
The state GOP’s reaction was to attack Bowen in a news release issued yesterday:
On the eve of California’s voter registration deadline, 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 stemming from 2006 and 2007.
The fact that these charges are being leveled against an individual operating in a highly-contested area of California, and the significant gap between recent allegations and the charges we’ve seen today suggests that this is politically motivated.
It’s clear that Bowen, herself the recipient of an ACORN endorsement (still displayed on her campaign website), has elevated these issues to achieve maximum political benefit and deflect attention from the Democratic Presidential nominee’s high-profiled problems and associations with the radical community activist group ACORN.
While we condemn voter fraud in all forms, it is evident that Debra Bowen is using her office to play politics with the public’s perception of political parties. This is inappropriate at least, and an abuse of her office and a willing suspension of her duties at worst.
The release goes on to question why Bowen hasn’t pursued a case against ACORN — the community-organizing group criticized by Republican presidential nominee John McCain and the national GOP for alleged voter-registration irregularities across the nation — in San Diego, where ACORN flagged as suspicious almost 18 percent of the 26,513 voter-registration cards it sent in 2008′s first nine months.
Wait, what’s that? Yes, ACORN flagged those cards as suspicious before sending them to the county registrar; all voter-registration organizations are required by law to turn in all registration forms even if they’re suspected to contain bogus information. Can you accuse an organization of fraud if it’s calling attention to the problem and following the law?
Besides, this isn’t the first time California Republicans have found themselves in voter-registration hot water: two years ago it was in San Bernardino County.
It seems the GOP is hot to have election law enforced only so long as it benefits the GOP.
Got fraud? If you believe you’re aware of a California Elections Code violation, contact the Secretary of State’s Election Fraud Investigation Unit at (800) 345-VOTE.
UPDATE @ 2:14 P.M. MONDAY: Steve Poizner’s office just called to clarify that his new-voter bounty is offered only to volunteer organizations, not to paid signature gatherers like Jacoby’s YPM. Sorry, my bad.