Oct 302012

The leek: a satirical take

By Horace Heller Hedley, IV

Seamus Romney, namesake of the Republican presidential candidate’s infamous family dog, attempted to cast a ballot in Iowa’s early voting. Republicans are citing the incident as evidence that tougher voter ID laws are urgently needed.

The fraudulent voting was attempted in the County Auditor’s office in Guthrie County, Iowa, where early voting began on September 27. Election Officer Sheila Johansen gets credit for detecting the foul play. “First off, I’ve lived here all my life, and I’d never seen the guy before.   When he gave his name, I thought, wait a minute…isn’t that the name of the dog that Mitt supposedly strapped to his luggage rack and drove to Canada? I must have given the guy quite a look, because he bolted out the door before I could call the police. I told my friend about it, and she said, ‘Well, maybe he just really had to go out.’”

The would-be voter is still at large. If apprehended, he could face up to five years in prison and fines of $10,000 under federal law.

“Of all eleven cases of voter impersonation fraud recorded in the U.S. in the last twelve years, this one has to be the most brazen,” said Iowa Election Commissioner Robert Richards. “To my knowledge, it is our first documented case of cross-species impersonation. On top of that, Seamus never resided in Iowa, and has been deceased for over ten years.”

The real Seamus Romney, the family’s Irish Setter, became an important figure during the Republican primary. It was revealed that in 1983 Mr. Romney placed Seamus in a dog carrier secured to the roof of the family’s station wagon (protected by a windshield Mr. Romney had constructed himself) for the 650-mile trip from Massachusetts to Ontario. The incident drew widespread criticism from dog lovers, a political attack ad from Newt Gingrich, and the Devo single “Don’t Roof Rack Me, Bro (Seamus Unleashed).” But Seamus Romney’s reappearance in the context of voter fraud came as a surprise to election observers.

Voter ID laws have become a contentious issue across the country as both parties prepare for a close election. In 2011, legislators in 33 Republican-controlled state legislatures (plus Democrat-controlled Rhode Island) drafted bills tightening voter ID requirements. Proponents demand the tougher regulations to prevent voter impersonation fraud. Critics of the laws are willing to accept the current rate of voter impersonation — one instance out of every 15 million prospective voters, according to a recent study. Opponents also worry that strict voter ID laws risk alienating minority and low-income voters, who are less likely to have photo ID’s and may lack the financial resources and transportation to obtain them. These critics also doubt that many voters would risk five years in federal prison in order to boost their candidate by one vote.

But many Republican governors and legislators are unwilling to take that chance. In Texas, Governor Rick Perry expedited his voter ID bill as “an emergency item,” and crafted legislation not only requiring photo ID’s, but limiting them to the most secure forms of identification. As a result, the final legislation allowed gun permits as acceptable forms of ID while excluding student ID cards. Though this policy drew attacks from some critics, Governor Perry stood firm.  “Down here we don’t say no to nobody waving their concealed packin’ permit. We got more sense than that.”

Likewise, at the Governor’s request the Texas Department of Mental Health has pioneered the systematic study of eklogemania — compulsive voting. The department documented one case of a male patient who traveled the state on election day 2004, casting at least 27 votes for George W. Bush before being remanded into treatment.

For voter ID proponents, the Seamus impersonation underscored the need for constant vigilance. “Never underestimate the risks a determined voter will take,” said Andrew Wyatt, of the independent think tank Polis. “I mean, in 2010 over one-third of eligible voters showed up, in the rain and everything, and hardly any candidate on the ballot was even sane.”

Pennsylvania Republican State Representative Daryl Metcalfe, a key supporter of perhaps the nation’s strictest voter ID law, clearly felt vindicated. “Well, it all looks different since Seamus, doesn’t it? This just goes to show you how crafty these voter impersonators can be. This guy picked Iowa intentionally because they have no voter ID regulations at all. So voter ID laws suppress Democratic votes? Well, I guess this proves otherwise. You know Seamus would have voted straight GOP.”

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