Having nothing to lose, the Democrats have decided to use the question of Scott Newcomer's residency against him. Newcomer, you may recall, was the winner on December 13th of the special primary election for the Republican nomination in the 33rd Assembly District. The Democrats are filing a complaint with the Waukesha DA Paul Bucher alleging vote fraud, saying Newcomer was not a resident of the 33rd Assembly District when he voted there.
Newcomer's response is that the charge is purely a political attack and that he has a Get Out Of Jail Free Card from state elections board counsel George Dunst. Here are the key paragraphs from the Dunst letter,
You informed me that you had recently purchased a house in the City of Delafield which you planned to tear down in order to build a new house. You said the new home would not be ready to be occupied until July or August 2006. I advised you that you could list the address of the Delafield property on your candidate registration and nomination papers and that, if you won election to the office, you would not be required to find temporary housing in the 33rd Assembly district while your new home
was under construction.
You also told me that you and your wife Julie wished to change your voter registration to the City of Delafield so you could vote there in the election to be held on October 18, 2005 as well as any elections held thereafter. I advised you that because you owned property in both the Village of Elm Grove and the City of Delafield, you were within your right to change your voter registration to the City of Delafield and vote in that municipality, but that once you changed your registration, you would no longer be eligible to vote in the Village of Elm Grove.
It is therefore my opinion that the votes cast by you and your wife on October 18, 2005 are legal and that you can continue to vote in the City of Delafield.
...Because of the misperception that the place of sleep determines the place of residence, the Board’s staff has had to opine on a number of occasions regarding the residence of a candidate or other voter who is in the process of constructing or rehabilitating a home and seeks to establish a voting residence at that place before beginning to sleep there. And in 2002, in a Brown County Supervisor’s race, the Board, itself, was asked to determine whether a candidate, who could not sleep at his future dwelling because of renovation work, could use that dwelling as his voting residence. Both the Board and the staff have concluded that a voter and a candidate may establish a voting residence in a dwelling that the voter cannot occupy at the time of voting or on the date of the election. There is more to voting residence than just sleeping at a particular place.Democrat Patrick Byrne has about as much chance of beating Newcomer in that district as I have of becoming a San Francisco drag queen. So it's not surprising the Democrats are dragging out everything they can to try and win, regardless of whether it showed any effect in the Republican primary. That they can call for an investigation and then tenuously link Newcomer to Waukesha DA Paul Bucher (through a campaign consultant) is a two-fer they couldn't pass up. Heck, they got the two of them pictured side-by-side in the Waukesha Freeman, so the little effort invested at practically no cost has already shown dividends for the Democrats.
The staff’s conclusion of September 19, 2005, that there is no reason why you cannot register and vote from your Delafield residence, still stands.
Then there's the chance lightning could strike, and either Bucher, a special prosecutor, or the state elections board could wade into the controversy and declare Newcomer's voting in the district to be illegal. The Democrats best chance is with the state elections board. After all, Dunst's opinion is not binding on the board, the board has shown a willingness in the past to ignore their counsel's advice, and almost anything can happen when the full board looks at something. (Precedent is for wimps.)
I suspect that Bucher will deftly sidestep this issue and pass the buck neatly to someone else (it's not like he doesn't have available choices). I think the Democrats overplayed their hand in pointing to such a weak potential conflict of interest that would have had more of an impact had Bucher decided to dismiss the complaint rather than appoint a special counsel or announce he was going to defer the matter to the state elections board. We'll get to see which way the issue goes when he tosses it into the "out" basket on his desk.
Meanwhile, the reaction around the web is interesting:
Patrick at Badger Blogger says, "I don't wan't to say I told you so, but..."
I knew this was going to happen, here we are, one week from the election and the Democrats are coming out with this cheep shot, these questions have been answered, but what they and their willing accomplices in the media are hoping for is that enough people will only hear their charge, and not have the opportunity to learn the truth before the election.Brian Fraley says "sometimes cheap shots are funny."
Charges of felony vote fraud should not be thrown out so causually. But this cheap shot is damn funny nonetheless. Now, as someone who has challenged the Elecitons Board's staff attorney's reccomendation and won, I know first hand that his word does not have the power of case law, much less an Elections Board ruling. But you can't really ignore it. Unless challenged before the full board, his views do have some wieght.
Clearly, Newcomer is going to win this seat. But the full Board should have ruled on this matter.
Finally, Scott Newcomer opened himself to such criticism by actually using a vacant lot as his primary voting address.
*In case anyone is wondering, nope, no angry e-mails from Republicans demanding I take the counter down. Not that I would.