Skip to comments.Lawyer urges snowbirds to cast their votes (to help Kerry)in Florida
Posted on 10/03/2004 9:04:29 PM PDT by FairOpinion
BOCA RATON In the muddled aftermath of Election 2000, Lawrence Caplan lost a legal fight and learned an important political lesson at the hands of none other than Vice President Dick Cheney:
You can live in one state and vote in another.
Caplan, a tax and corporate lawyer, has turned that lesson into Operation: Snowbird, an Internet tool designed to make a difference in the election of 2004 if Democratic voters in New York and New Jersey respond to it.
POPULAR PAGESAll they have to do, according to Caplan's Web site, www.operationsnowbird.com, is switch their registrations to Florida, where their votes are more likely to be needed by the Kerry-Edwards ticket than in the deep "blue" states up north. (The last day to register for the Nov. 2 election is Oct. 4.)
New York went for Gore-Lieberman by more than 1.7 million votes, while the official margin for Bush-Cheney in Florida was 537. If only 600 of the 2.2 million votes cast for the Democratic ticket in New York had been cast in Florida, according to the Snowbird site, the state's electoral votes and the presidency would have gone to Al Gore.
"We don't know how close this election is going to be," Caplan said. "If we get 10,000 people to switch it's worth it."
But they'd better heed the instructions on the Web site, because Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood is on the warpath over a New York newspaper's claim last month that at least 46,000 New York City dwellers are registered both there and in Florida, and some have been voting in both places. That's voter fraud, a federal crime with a fine of $10,000 and up to five years in prison.
Hood has asked the FBI and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to investigate the allegations and advise the state Division of Elections how to deal with the problem of multiple registration.
Caplan's Web site warns voters emphatically about the penalties for trying to vote in two states and lays out the process for moving registration legally. It says anyone is eligible who maintains a mailing address in Florida and intends to make the state his or her legal residence at some unspecified time.
"(Y)ou do not even have to be a homeowner in Florida," the site says, "but could merely be a part-time renter who wishes to become a Florida resident."
The Operation: Snowbird instructions include a list of 15 things that can be used for identification and links for downloading registration forms, checking state election law and contacting all supervisor of elections offices.
"The key is having a mailing address," Caplan said in an interview. "Whether you're renting, or own it, or it can be your mother's address. If you have a driver's license, a Florida ID card or even just a utility bill with your name and address on it, then you can register to vote, effective immediately, just like there was no waiting period for Cheney in Wyoming."
Constitution forces Cheney switch
As the nation focused on who would get Florida's electoral votes in 2000, Caplan filed suit in Miami federal court to stop Texas' 32 electoral votes from going to George W. Bush and Cheney. Both were legal residents of Texas, the suit said, and the U.S. Constitution's 12th Amendment forbids a state's Electoral College delegates from casting their votes for both a president and vice president from the same state.
Cheney lived, worked, voted and claimed homestead exemption in Texas during the 1990s, while he was CEO of the Halliburton Co. energy conglomerate. Just before he became Bush's running mate, he flew to Wyoming, where he grew up and still owned property, and switched his voter registration and driver license. That, his lawyers would later argue, made him an "inhabitant" of Wyoming and provided a loophole around the 12th Amendment.
Caplan's suit was rejected on jurisdictional grounds in Miami, then refiled by other lawyers in Texas. There, it was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater, a conservative Republican for whom George P. Bush Gov. Jeb Bush's son, who got married last month has clerked since finishing law school at the University of Texas at Austin.
A three-member panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals two appointed by George H.W. Bush and one by Ronald Reagan upheld Fitzwater's ruling. But the U.S. Supreme Court, after reversing the Florida Supreme Court to halt the recount of the state's ballots and give Bush the presidency, declined to hear an appeal of the 12th Amendment suit.
"What happened four years ago was totally unplanned, a reaction to what was going on around me," Caplan said in an interview. "I'm not a political animal, I have no party involvement, I'm registered as an independent, I vote for the person, not the party."
But he said controversy over touch-screen voting systems, the Bush administration's failure to fund the Voter Education Act and the debacle over a list of 40,000 felons the state proposed to purge from voter rolls "kind of ticked me off."
That emotion spawned the Web site for snowbirds slang for Northerners who spend winters in Florida.
Weston Cowan, 22, a recent college graduate working in New York City, said he definitely intends to take advantage of Caplan's instructions and switch his registration back to Broward County, where his parents own property.
"I just really don't like George Bush," Cowan said, "and I figure my vote doesn't really count much in New York because the Democrats are going to win anyway."
Democratic and Republican reaction to the snowbird initiative is predictably partisan.
"The Democratic Party always welcomes more voters in Florida," said Carol Ann Loehndorf, head of the Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee. "We're happy to have more voters down here, but I wouldn't want anybody to have a personal loss by losing their homestead exemption in New York."
Loehndorf's GOP counterpart, Sid Dinerstein, also cited homestead exemption as an issue. He called the plan "just another way that Democrats exploit (people), particularly seniors, in their quest for ever more illegitimate power.
"Democrats, across the country, steal votes, whether it's slightly legal or slightly illegal. This guy probably protected himself with all his caveats, but if somebody does what he says and votes here, they could be in danger of losing their homestead exemption."
Will some vote early and often?
The Web site maintains that anyone who intends to take up legal residence, even for a brief time, can legally register to vote and then transfer the registration back later. Voter registration can be used as identification when claiming homestead exemption, according to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser's office, but claiming exemptions in two places would be a crime.
Theresa LePore, Palm Beach County's supervisor of elections, said after reviewing the Web site that her main concern would be about double voting.
"He was very careful to put all the caveats about changing their legal residence, so we can't say it's not legal," LePore said. "Hopefully, they won't be committing a felony."
Caplan's caveats got a grudging approval from Secretary of State Hood's office, which oversees the state Division of Elections.
"While the intent of the Web site may be irresponsible," press secretary Jenny Nash said, "it has all the right words."
Electoral expert Allan Lichtman, chairman of the history department at American University in Washington, said he saw nothing illegal or unethical about using a residence in Florida as a basis for voter registration.
"This is someone taking advantage, very shrewdly, of our Electoral College system where, unfortunately, votes count more in some states than in others," said Lichtman, author of The Keys to the White House and of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights study of Florida ballots rejected in the 2000 election.
"It would be a little hard for Republicans to say this is illegal, having shipped Alan Keyes (from Maryland) to Illinois to run for the U.S. Senate."
Yeah, but he just happened to file a lawsuit against Cheney, and he just happens to have a website to encourage New Yorkers to vote for Kerry in Florida. Gimme a break!
>>"We don't know how close this election is going to be," Caplan said. "If we get 10,000 people to switch it's worth it."
I don't understand why states allow snowbirds to register
when they are not resident there in the last 30 days
It seems it could also be a TAX scam to avoid some rustbelt state taxes?
thanks for posting this important article.
Hi, Oxen & Joe -- fyi for a Florida and beyond PING.
The easiest way to become an official Florida resident is to file a declaration of domicile. Declaring Florida Domicile is a "question of intent". The courts have ruled that your heart is where your treasure lies. Many households have more than one residence, sometimes more than two, so the matter of "intent" is very important. The fact that one has lived in Florida continuously for six months is not always true.
The Declaration of Domicile which states that you reside at a given address, is notarized and filed with the County Clerk of the Circuit Court of residence. No time constraint is required before one can legally be declared a resident.
For more information, contact the Sarasota County Clerk of Circuit Court, 2000 Main Street, Sarasota, FL. Telephone (941) 362-4066, or go to www.floridadomicile.com.
Interesting: "question of intent" and "your heart is where your treasure lies"
I heard on FNC a couple of weeks ago that Florida had (I think)~40,000 voters that were registered in New York and Florida. That is a felony and they were exploring what it would take to prosecute. Haven't heard a word since.
Good luck, jerkweed lawyer. The deadline is today. (Not that rules ever need to apply to Democrats.)
I don't know if Florida has any game birds, but perhaps they could open a hunting season this year on "snowbirds", with "liberal" bag limits.
Care to call Jeb on this?
...surprisingly I agree with you.
God is in charge of hurricanes...
..this is a reason for these hurricanes......
...who can know the mind of the Lord...
..what if.....just what if.....somehow these hurricanes dissuaded illegal political activity from taking place.....or at least some of it.
Goodness knows the Dems will keep trying to unbalance Florida to the bitter end!!!!
Indeed. Vote fraud, regardless of which side is doing it, undermines the very foundation of our political process. It ought to be prosecuted far more often than it is (I don't mean for simple administrative mistakes, like fortetting to take yourself off your old roll when you move to a different district, but rather deliberate attempts to commit outright fraud). If we as a country are not going to be serious about stopping this nonsense, then Jimmy Carter is right and we really aren't any better than a two-bit banana republic when it comes to our elections.
Start demanding photo ID...either a state drivers license or state ID card in order to vote and prosectuing vote fraud ...and it will drop off...
Those wanted for crimes are not going to show up to vote....and those who fear going to jail are not likely to risk getting caught just to vote..
It's no wonder Gov. Doyle (Democrat) of WI vetoed a bill that would curtail voter fraud and passed by our house and senate...