Thursday, September 6, 2007

That's Strange?

While it's not Earth-shattering news, the story of Jane Balogh and her dog, Duncan M. McDonald has been floating around here for a few months now. A little over a year ago, Balogh registered the dog to vote in the state of Washington "by putting her telephone bill in the dog's name and using that as identification when she mailed the form to election officials." Her point was that she believed that recent changes to voting laws made it much easier than it should have been for people to register to vote, as one needed no proof whatsoever that one was actually eligible to vote. And with most of Washington turning to an exclusively vote-by-mail system, you don't have to actually go to a polling place and show any other identification. In Ms. Balogh's opinion, it's a system that's just asking for voter fraud. (I'm not sure that I disagree with her on this point.) So she set out to demonstrate to elections officials just how easy it was. Ms. Balogh never actually committed voter fraud - she voided out the ballots that had been sent to her dog, signing them with Duncan's paw print, and she readily fessed up when elections officials called to inquire. She pled "Not Guilty" to a charge of "Making a False or Misleading Statement to a Public Servant," a charge that many felt was designed to make an example of someone who'd so easily embarrassed an elections system that's already been under fire for years, and the charges are being dropped in return for 10 hours of community service, a $250.00 fine (Wanna bet that there are people volunteering to pay it for her?), and staying out of trouble with the law for a year. Case closed. Now the local media aren't the only ones who picked up the story. The Associated Press wrote a piece on it for distribution, which was reprinted in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. (Aside: Why does the P-I run the AP versions of local stories that they've already reported, sometimes quite extensively?) It was listed in the "mypi" bar in the "ap: odd news" section, and its URL is: ""

Okay. So... why is this odd? This doesn't strike me as being one of the "wacky and offbeat" stories that you'd expect to be labeled as "Odd." I've never understood how this determination is made, and I've come to believe that it sometimes trivializes important stories. Ms. Balogh set out to prove that the only thing that prevents illegal voter registration is personal honesty - and as far as I'm concerned, she's done that. That seems a little more serious than women mowing laws in bikinis, or a retiree squabbling with a subdivision over the fake palm trees in his backyard.

I'm also somewhat impressed that we haven't seen some sort of organized, high-profile Republican or otherwise conservative push to make changes. After all, the political Right has been raising Cain over voter fraud up one side and down the other, to the point that many have speculated that the scandal over the firing of United States Attorneys was predicated on failures to more aggressively pursue alleged Democratic cheating. But when a clear example of a sloppily written registration law practically falls into their laps out of a clear blue sky, nothing...

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