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Thursday, March 01, 2012

Heather Wilson Staff Linked to Illegal Voter Registration Scheme

ProgressNow New Mexico has discovered that senior staff from Republican Heather Wilson’s US Senate campaign are connected to a recent illegal voter registration stunt in Albuquerque.

One day after an unnamed name announced that he had illegally registered his dog to vote in New Mexico, ProgressNow NM discovered that the dog actually belongs to senior Wilson staffer Heather Wade and the "unnamed man" in the KOB report is her husband, Thomas Tolbert.

FrauddogOn February 20, 2012 Tolbert approached a voter registrar at UNM and asked to register to vote.  According to an interview he gave to KOB-TV, he created a false social security number and date of birth and used his dog’s name “Buddy” to complete the application to vote.  Tolbert then signed the form under the statement “I swear or affirm… that all information I have provided is correct.”

ProgressNow has called on Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston and UNM Police Chief Kathy Guimond to launch an investigation into alleged voter registration fraud, a 4th degree felony in New Mexico.

Now, our own investigation reveals that Thomas Tolbert is married to Heather Wade, a senior staffer with Heather Wilson’s Republican campaign for US Senate.  Wilson’s FEC reports and Wade’s own LinkedIn profile confirms her status with the campaign.

“This new information raises the stakes significantly,” says Pat Davis of ProgressNow NM. "Heather Wilson's team is undermining the integrity of our voting system from their kitchen tables.  And they are using her payroll to do it."

Both also share the home where the fraudulent registration card was mailed.  Tolbert told KOB-TV that he received the card in the mail earlier this week.

ProgressNow NM intends to ask Chief Guimond and Sheriff Houston to expand their investigation to determine if both persons were involved in a conspiracy to undermine the integrity of our voting system.

Read the full post and view the documents, pictures and more at ProgressNowNM.org/blog

March 1, 2012 at 09:35 PM in Election Reform & Voting, Heather Wilson, ProgressNow New Mexico | Permalink

Comments

We need to keep an eye on the station that got the exclusive story. Channel 4 has become our local FOX News. The Republicans know they can go to the station for favorable coverage. Notice they blur the last name of the dog on the registration. They did not want Democrats to recognize the last name and connect the dots.

Keep watching this story evolve. Channel 4 will have little if any coverage now that it is tied to Wilson's campaign. The other two stations will run the story for a couple of days. Even the Journal will do a far better job on the story than Channel 4.

The Mayor's office uses Chris Ramirez, the city's former Public Information Officer (spin doctor), to hit municipal unions. His favorite target is the fire union. Ask a firefighter if they agree. If you post something about Chris Ramirez's link to the Mayor's office on one of his stories, it will be removed in about an hour. Then they review all of your future posts before they put it online.

We need to make people aware that Channel 4 is local FOX.

Posted by: Tony Arellano | Mar 1, 2012 11:17:31 PM

Stupid bastiges.

Posted by: Proud Democrat | Mar 2, 2012 9:52:13 AM

This should be a teachable moment. Fine Mr. Tolbert a little bit and find him guilty of a lesser offense; it’s clear that he broke the law, not with the intent to defraud, but to prove a point. (Though, given the temptation to cast a vote on Buddy’s behalf, who knows if he would have given in or not? Still, we don’t yet prosecute for crimes that have not yet been committed.) It was clearly a case of proving the point Republicans have been making: voter fraud is possible in New Mexico. I think his point was well made, and our focus should be on the fact that there are inadequate checks for new voter registrations.

I am a godless liberal, and I don’t favor the requirements that Republicans tend to favor, that would have the (unintended? Hardly.) consequences of disenfranchising certain classes of voters. But we can, and should, clearly tighten up the processes for new registrations so just such scenarios are no longer possible. Still, the least of our worries in America, and in New Mexico, is that there are too damned many people voting.

It’s a transparent and amateurish political ploy to try to besmirch Heather Wilson’s campaign with this story. I’d rather Democrats would ask her what she thinks of personhood, contraception, and women’s rights in general, as well as how she feels about climate change, teaching evolution in schools, drilling in Alaska, and polar bears, among other endangered species.

Posted by: Ms. Ann Thrope | Mar 2, 2012 1:56:13 PM

"we don’t yet prosecute for crimes that have not yet been committed"

The crime was committed. It was committed the moment he signed the line saying he swore that his statements are true, when he knew them to be false.

It's perjury, or something like perjury (I don't know the technical definition of perjury). It's telling a lie under oath. He did it.

If he had gone ahead and pretended to be Buddy in order to cast a vote, that would have been a whole 'nother crime.

"But we can, and should, clearly tighten up the processes for new registrations so just such scenarios are no longer possible."

Why? Do we really need to go all nuclear and make people submit DNA samples and birth certificates and retinal scans and then go through X-ray machines at voting booths?

Isn't it enough so rely on deterrence? Isn't that why this dude needs to spend a year in prison, so that others know we're serious about perjury and we don't have to do all those other expensive intrusive things?

Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Mar 2, 2012 3:21:10 PM

"But we can, and should, clearly tighten up the processes for new registrations so just such scenarios are no longer possible."

Why? Buddy the dog can't actually show up and vote, can he?

Repubs are so determined to show there is voter fraud that sometimes they manufacture it.

Posted by: Michelle Meaders | Mar 2, 2012 4:07:11 PM

"make people submit DNA samples and birth certificates and retinal scans and then go through X-ray machines at voting booths?"

I know you will be shocked, but that isn't what I was thinking of. But you knew that, and since it is easier to tear up a paper tiger than a real one, you extrapolated for me. Thanks, but no thanks.

Simple fix: check SSNs against DOBs. Make sure people are still alive, or remove them from the voter rolls. Not expensive. Just takes software that is readily available. (The DA can lend it to you if you don't already have it.)

Can Buddy show up to vote? Uh, no. You don't think that solves the problem of Buddy having been registered, do you?

Just to reiterate: yes, if a dog can be successfully registered to vote in New Mexico, I think that's a problem that should be fixed. So sue me. Or, you know, lock me up.

A year in jail for this guy? Really? REALLY? Good god, I wonder what you'd do to someone for stealing an apple. Or for, say, being an OWS protester and trespassing.

Posted by: Ms. Ann Thrope | Mar 2, 2012 4:37:00 PM

"Simple fix: check SSNs against DOBs"

Okay, I can see doing that. However, I'm not sure it really solves the problem. If someone really wants to fraudulently register it's still possible, it just requires a little more effort on the liar's part - they have to check the DOB - SSN match they're using. But I don't think it'd be too expensive, so I'll agree we should provide the money and means and have clerks do that much.

"A year in jail for this guy? Really? REALLY? Good god, I wonder what you'd do to someone for stealing an apple. Or for, say, being an OWS protester and trespassing."

Yeah, I'm a hard ass when it comes to lying. I'm particularly a hard ass when it comes to lying under oath.

Our society depends on trust. It depends on being able to take people at their word, in most cases, and rely on what they say. Every day I rely on companies not to lie on the packages of their products, I rely on salespeople to tell me the truth, I rely on all kinds of people to tell the truth. I even rely on people to tell the truth when they use their turn signals in traffic, although I understand that sometimes people change their mind between the time they signal and the time they don't change lanes.

In particular, our legal system relies on people telling the truth under oath. Our legal system is already way too cumbersome, complicated and expensive. If people learn that there's no real penalty to lying under oath, it'll break down even more completely.

That's why lying under oath - the crime here - is a felony. It's serious. I agree that it's serious.

Trespass, as practiced by protesters, is a misdemeanor. It's not so serious. Society won't break down is people do a little trespassing without causing other damage. I've had people trespassing on my 20 acres in the mountains, and until they started stealing rocks I didn't get upset.

So yes, lying under oath is far more serious than simple trespass, and should be punished far more severely.

Maybe a year in prison is excessive. Heath Haussaman, on his blog*, pointed out that the guy convicted of lying on voter and candidate applications in Sunland Park only got 18 months probation, $700 in fines, and 150 hours of community service. And presumably lost the right to vote, the right to possess guns, the right to a number of professional licenses such as lawyer, and other things. I can see that level of punishment, too.

"So sue me."

I don't want to sue you, I just want to explore whether you've got a good rational basis for your opinion, to see if I should change my mind and adopt your position.

* http://www.nmpolitics.net/index/2012/03/man-who-registered-dog-to-vote-married-to-wilson-staffer/

Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Mar 2, 2012 5:16:37 PM

I don't know what just happened, but I think the intertubes just ate my response. Hopeing that this won't be a double comment, I'll try again:

"Simple fix: check SSNs against DOBs"

Okay, I can see doing that. However, I'm not sure it really solves the problem. If someone really wants to fraudulently register it's still possible, it just requires a little more effort on the liar's part - they have to check the DOB - SSN match they're using.

"A year in jail for this guy? Really? REALLY? Good god, I wonder what you'd do to someone for stealing an apple. Or for, say, being an OWS protester and trespassing."

Yeah, I'm a hard ass when it comes to lying. I'm particularly a hard ass when it comes to lying under oath.

Our society depends on trust. It depends on being able to take people at their word, in most cases, and rely on what they say. Every day I rely on companies not to lie on the packages of their products, I rely on salespeople to tell me the truth, I rely on all kinds of people to tell the truth. I even rely on people to tell the truth when they use their turn signals in traffic, although I understand that sometimes people change their mind between the time they signal and the time they don't change lanes.

In particular, our legal system relies on people telling the truth under oath. Our legal system is already way too cumbersome, complicated and expensive. If people learn that there's no real penalty to lying under oath, it'll break down even more completely.

That's why lying under oath - the crime here - is a felony. It's serious. I agree that it's serious.

Trespass, as practiced by protesters, is a misdemeanor. It's not so serious. Society won't break down is people do a little trespassing without causing other damage. I've had people trespassing on my 20 acres in the mountains, and until they started stealing rocks I didn't get upset.

So yes, lying under oath is far more serious than simple trespass, and should be punished far more severely.

Maybe a year in prison is excessive. Heath Haussaman, on his blog*, pointed out that the guy convicted of lying on voter and candidate applications in Sunland Park only got 18 months probation, $700 in fines, and 150 hours of community service. And presumably lost the right to vote, the right to possess guns, the right to a number of professional licenses such as lawyer, and other things. I can see that level of punishment, too.

"So sue me."

I don't want to sue you, I just want to explore whether you've got a good rational basis for your opinion, to see if I should change my mind and adopt your position.

* http://www.nmpolitics.net/index/2012/03/man-who-registered-dog-to-vote-married-to-wilson-staffer/

Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Mar 2, 2012 5:22:05 PM

"I don't want to sue you, I just want to explore whether you've got a good rational basis for your opinion, to see if I should change my mind and adopt your position."

[dialing it back...]

I appreciate your Aikido-like response, Michael. :-) Here is what I'm thinking, as far as jail time. Legally, I think the law requires both action and intent. Obviously, he committed the act, and intended to. But I don't think his intention was to actually defraud the system but to prove the weakness of the system, as a whistleblower would.

I don't know that the question of the letter or the spirit of the law is valid to raise in court, but it's important. Most of the interest in throwing the book at this guy comes from those who think it scores a gotcha point against Heather. (Note that there is silence from Republicans, who believe that such fraud occurs regularly, and oppose it. That silence is the mirror image of Democratic umbrage AND it may also be because they understand that he was proving a point, not intending to defraud.) I'd much rather have her on record about teaching creationism in schools, Wall Street prosecutions (or lack thereof), contraception, climate change, and so on.

I think he has shown a weakness in the system that should be fixed. Dems think it's a slippery slope from this to requiring IDs at the polls. I don't see it that way. Conceding one point doesn't require conceding the other. And we really should have a registration system that reliably removes the dead from the rolls before each election and doesn't allow fictitious persons to register.

Posted by: Ms. Ann Thrope | Mar 2, 2012 8:41:51 PM

If Buddy registered for the first time, Buddy would need an ID the first time he/she voted. So unless Buddy shows up with an ID when s/he votes for the first time, Buddy does not get to vote.

Unless Buddy is an absentee voter using his/her first-time registration, and that is the place where we have long said it would be possible to defraud as an actual voter, as opposed to defrauding as an act of registration.

These people treat it like a joke, which it is not. It is a felony to affirm that the information is correct on the form. He affirmed it and signed it. A felony. Throw the book at him.

I am a trespasser. So what?

Posted by: bg | Mar 3, 2012 3:24:44 PM

Oh, and PS, Wilson participated in having the US Atty fired for not prosecuting voter fraud. Because there was no voter fraud.

But these people DID commit a felony. Prosecute them. NOW. Make a lesson of it.

Posted by: bg | Mar 3, 2012 3:26:28 PM

Sorry it took me so long to reply, Ms. Thrope, but I went to sleep early last night.

"Most of the interest in throwing the book at this guy comes from those who think it scores a gotcha point against Heather."

That may be true, but I don't see it as particularly relevant. There may be zillions of bad faith reasons for a particular opinion, but the question is whether there are good reasons. We should put the purely partisan aside, if we can, and try to look for what's best for the system as a whole.

"But I don't think his intention was to actually defraud the system but to prove the weakness of the system, as a whistleblower would."

This seems to be the essence of your position, so I'm going to try to take it in detail, if not in order.

Whistleblower: a whistleblower is some who chooses NOT to do something wrong, in order to to expose the wrongdoing of others (my definition). That's not what happened here.

Here we have someone who chose to do wrong - commit a felony - in order to disclose an administrative failure. If I understood our Clerk's comment at the other side, nothing that office did was wrong, that if there's any problem it's a problem with what the legislature has told the clerks to do.

Further, I don't see it as disclosing anything. We've had these stories about dogs etc. registering to vote in NM (and elsewhere before, so there was a wrong done in order to disclose something that pretty much everyone already knew. That seems like a week justification.

I don't think that having dogs and dead people and people who have moved to LA remaining on the voter rolls is a big problem. Yes, it's a bit more administrative overhead, and it makes the statistics about voting rates and party affiliation wrong, but I don't see those as big issues. Personally, I think it's better to have ten dogs and dead people who don't vote on the rolls, than to wrongly exclude 1 live qualified elector who wants to vote.

So I don't think it's worth spending a lot of time and energy making sure dogs don't register, and clearing dead people off the rolls. I've handled the estates of three people, and never once did it even cross my mind that I should do something to clear them from the voter rolls. I just assumed that after not voting they'd be purged.

Nothing is perfect. Everything has errors. The question is always whether it's worth the cost to try to reduce the error rate, knowing you'll never get to zero. In elections there will always be dead people on the rolls, even if they're only the people who died after midnight the night before. There wile always be votes miscounted. That's life.

Every time you add some mechanism to reduce error, you run the risk of actually increasing the error rate. A process to eliminate dead people risks eliminating live people because someone messes up a name or ID or something (you hear stories of credit reporting agencies declaring people dead all the time). A process for checking SSNs risks disenfranchising someone because a data entry operator misread the handwriting.

So I don't see the weakness as particularly meaningful, and therefore don't give much credit for pulling another stunt to again repeat the press coverage of dogs registering to vote.

Intent to defraud: Let me take a run at this from way, way back.

The essence of what you are calling fraud, I think, is vote fraud. Knowingly voting more than once, or in the wrong place, or the like.

Yes, that's the essence of vote fraud - but that's a whole separate category of offense than voter registration fraud.

Voter registration fraud is concerned with lying on the registration application.

I agree that vote fraud is much worse than voter registration fraud, at least as an offense against the integrity of our elections.

But I really really don't like people lying under oath.

Maybe that's just me. I'm hard core about reading everything before I sign it. I had a minor problem with APD when I was stopped for having a burned out tail light. The officer wrote it up as a warning, and then asked me to sign the bottom where it said I admitted the truth of everything she'd written. I said I wanted to see the tail light before I'd admit it was burned out. She wouldn't let me out of the truck. I finally decided to sign (falsely) because it seemed the lesser evil than getting into a squabble with the officer. So maybe I'm outside the norm when it comes to expecting people to take it seriously when they sign things.

The rule with civil disobedience, from the time of the lunch counter sit-ins, is that you accept the penalties of the crimes. There's a reason that MLK's famous letter from Birmingham jail was, um, written from inside the jail. If you commit a serious crime - and for reasons I hope I've explained, I take lying under oath seriously - you should be prepared to cop to the felony.

While I wouldn't punish him as severely as I'd punish someone who committed perjury with the intent of stealing money, I'd treat it as a very very serious form of something like malicious mischief - that is, I think he was committing the serious crime largely because (a) he didn't take lying uder oath seriously; and (b) he wanted to make trouble. I don't think (b) justifies (a).

Sorry I went on so long.

Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Mar 3, 2012 5:06:27 PM

I think he should be prosecuted for a felony to prevent other republicans from trying to whip up election fraud fear. A conviction would show that the system is working.
Leave it up to the judge to sentence just like any other felon. No more stunts like this one should be tolerated.

Posted by: qofdisks | Mar 5, 2012 5:12:00 PM