Invasion of the Election Snatchers

Urban Democrats are flooding rural districts to steal elections.

by John Fund
The Wall Street Journal
December 29, 2009

Even in an economic recession, Americans in urban areas continue to buy second homes in rural parts of the country, frequently helping to revitalize depressed areas. Inevitably, though, political operatives have also been seizing on weekend residents as a way to change the political complexion of rural communities.

Nowhere is the battle being more fiercely fought than in New York’s Columbia County, a two-hour drive up the Hudson River from New York City. Local Democrats have encouraged weekend residents to register and vote on the theory that their ballots aren’t needed in New York City, where Democrats already hold an overwhelming registration edge. In a lightly-populated upstate community, however, a few transplant votes can represent the balance of power.

That was certainly the case last month in the town of Taghkanic, which has about 1,500 people. In a closely contested race for local offices, more than 20% of the ballots were cast by absentees, almost all of them by weekend residents who appeared to have delivered narrow victories to local Democrats. In response, Republicans have sued, pointing to evidence that many of the absentees were people whose jobs, drivers licenses and primary residences were in New York City and legally should have voted there. Some may even have voted in both jurisdictions. Approximately 60 absentee ballots are at issue and could sway the result of some races if disqualified.

The case will be heard by a local judge in State Supreme Court in Columbia County tomorrow. Evidence before him will include spreadsheets showing that many of the county’s absentee voters had signed affidavits for property tax exemptions on homes outside of Columbia County or signed second-home riders on mortgages securing their Columbia County property. Those riders explicitly say their primary residences are elsewhere.

“We are not against weekenders,” says John Faso, a former GOP state legislator from Columbia County, who is supporting the legal challenge. “They don’t realize they’ve been encouraged to vote in a way that isn’t in accordance with the law.” But Democrats are arguing that legal precedents allow people to choose where they can vote — some have even launched a Web site called that urges weekenders to “vote where your heart is.”

A charming sentiment, but it flies in the face of New York’s election law, which includes several criteria for determining where someone can legally vote, including place of employment, location of tax payments and where a family’s children go to school.

Flooding rural elections with newbie voters who really live somewhere else is a clever tactic, but it appears to violate election law and can also exacerbate often delicate relations between long-time local residents and newcomers. If weekenders want to vote where they claim their hearts are, let them give up their city tax breaks, their exemption from local jury duty and their often blissful indifference to the real problems and challenges of their adopted communities from Monday through Friday.

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