James Lacy

James Lacy is a nationally recognized attorney specializing in political and advocacy issues.

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Today is actually: 201410310628Today is: 201410310628

FlashReport Weblog on California Politics

 
 

Liberal latino activist facing felony voter registration charges

 

by James Lacy - Political Law (bio) (email)(print)

 
6-26-2009 12:11 pm
     Well, I guess Debra Bowen and the Los Angeles District Attorney are being bipartisan in enforcing voter registration rules.  Last week they nailed a GOP voter registration collector, Mark Jacoby, for voter registration fraud and this week they filed charges against well-known southern California liberal Latino activist Nativo Lopez for allegedly fudging on his own voter registration.   According to Martin Wisckol's well researched article in the Orange County Register today, Lopez is facing felony charges for being registered to vote at a Los Angeles address while actually living in Orange County.

     Bowen and the DA did the same with poor Mark Jacoby, a guy who makes his living collecting signatures on petitions, (a dirty business) and he plead out to a misdemeanor.  But his plea surprised me.   "Voter registration fraud" is really not the same as "voter fraud."   "Voter fraud" is about stopping dead people and illegals from voting.  In these "voter registration fraud" cases, Bowen and the LA District Attorney are enforcing laws that require people who are registered to vote to actually live at the address listed.   But the Election Codes includes a couple quirky concepts relating to voter registration and "intention" of the voter is at least a consideration in the decision of where to register.   In the case of Jacoby, I think the enforcement was really aimed at punishing him for other claims involving illegally switching voter's registrations from Democrat to Republican in order to receive "bounty payments" from the GOP (a miserable way to increase registration and make a living).

     The situation with Lopez is quite different.   Lopez is a political figure, the head of the Mexican American Political Association and a board member of several other liberal groups.  His voter registration status is not influenced by using it to try to make a living, as in the case of Jacoby.   There have been claims of Lopez's involvement in "voter fraud" activities, particularly the 1996 win by Loretta Sanchez over Bob Dornan in a tight Congressional race in Orange County, but as in the case of Jacoby, those are not the charges he is facing today.

     Lopez is due to be arraigned on July 8 and is out on bail of $55,000.

     I think these prosecutions are over-kill, whether focused on a Republican or Democrat.   They are not correcting true "voter fraud," rather, they involve questions about whether or not Lopez or Jacoby actually intended to sleep where they registered.   Sort of a "thought crime."  Felony prosecution and $55,000 bail sounds pretty harsh to me.  If Lopez engaged in voter fraud in his past, that was the time to bring a case that would matter.

     I would not be surprised to see Lopez plead "not guilty" on the 8th and use this prosecution to his political advantage.  And I predict with a good set of lawyers, as he will certainly have, he will "beat the rap."   Perhaps it would be different for Jacoby because inevitably the way he makes his living would come in at trial, however, assuming Lopez can establish a scintilla of "intent," what Los Angeles jury would stick a felony charge on a liberal political activist named Lopez for such a technical offense?  I think this will backfire on Bowen and company.
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