There are times in our political process where legal recourse is needed. Now is not that time; Michigan is not that place.
On Tuesday, the state featured a competitive Republican primary, with Mitt Romney winning with support from both Republican and Democratic voters.
Why did Democrats vote for Romney? First, Michigan’s Democratic primary was meaningless because the party took away the state’s delegates as punishment for rescheduling its primary in opposition to party rules (Hillary Clinton ran unopposed).
Second, a Romney victory keeps the self-financed candidate in the race, meaning he pays for more attack ads and the Republican base has less time to unify before a tough presidential race.
Third, it takes some legitimacy away when Republican delegates are gained through Democratic voters.
The idea gained steam last week when liberal blogger Markos Moulitsas suggested it. Soon after, John Bambanek of blogcritics.org asked the Michigan attorney general to investigate criminal charges against Moulitsas and his Daily Kos blog for possibly advocating voter fraud.
In his complaint, Bambanek alleges, “that this violates 168.932a(c) of Michigan state law by ‘aiding or counseling a person who is not a qualified and registered elector to vote or offer to vote at the place where the vote is given during an election.’”
Bambanek’s wrong. If voters are registered, they’re qualified, and there’s nothing illegal about telling people who to vote for. That’s called political advocacy.
When defending his complaint, Bambanek said voters were being fraudulent by saying they wanted a Republican ballot when they had no desire to be Republicans after the conclusion of the primary.
Again, wrong. Michigan has open primaries, and it doesn’t even ask party affiliation on voter registrations.
Back in 2004, voters in Curry and Roosevelt counties registered as Republicans to vote in the district attorney primary between Matt Chandler and Brett Carter. Nobody would argue voter fraud if those voters never lifted a finger to help the Republican party again. Political activity is voluntary in America, and party registration is not a contract for lifetime allegiance.
Besides, Michigan has a legal precedent. Republicans crossed over to help secure Democratic delegates for Jesse Jackson and George Wallace, and Democrats returned the favor in 2000 by picking John McCain over George W. Bush. Those voters weren’t being fraudulent when they voted for the other party in the general election a few months later.
Bambanek is confusing illegal with immoral in this case. Is it unethical to vote for Mitt Romney only to hurt his party? Probably. But is it legal? Definitely.
There’s a large difference between unethical and illegal, and seeking legal recourse for the former won’t improve our political process. If Michigan’s political parties don’t want crossover voters in their primaries, they should work together to close them, not sue when the opposition party takes advantage.
Seeking legal action against Moulitsas now may foster a “boy cried wolf” situation later, and legitimate cases of voter fraud or suppression could go ignored. Republicans and Democrats alike should keep their distance on this one.
Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail: