By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
An Anaheim woman who registered outside a Wal-Mart described herself as a lifelong Democrat and was adamant that her voter-registration affidavit had been altered. "I guarantee you that I would never register as a Republican," she said. "Somebody must be playing games with it." Because the registrar requires anyone who checks out blank registration affidavits in bulk to identify themselves, it was easy to trace this person's card to a representative of the local GOP.
Another woman, who belongs to no party, said the person who registered her outside a grocery store insisted it was okay to leave the party-preference box blank. And that's how she left it. Unbeknownst to her, the affidavit showed up at the registrar's office with a forged check in the Republican box. (No wonder the GOP has a 238,170 county registration advantage over Democrats.)
Although the Orange County Registrar of Voters office cooperated with both the Times' and Register's efforts to inspect voter-registration affidavits filed by Democrats connected to Hermandad, it wasn't as helpful in our effort to look at Republican voter files connected to Dornan and Morrissey. Initially refusing any access to official registration cards, the registrar's office eventually relented but only provided redacted second-generation copies. Nevertheless, our search proved a gold mine. Forty-five of the 59 cards reviewed appeared to be fraudulent, according to Cochran. Party preference, dates or other relevant information had been visibly tampered with on the cards. Registration bounty hunters who had obviously completed sections of the affidavits failed to identify themselves on cards as required by law. Other Republican registrations appear blatantly fraudulent, as sequentially numbered affidavits were completed and signed by the same hand. Theoretically, someone could vote multiple times using these fake Republican registrations.
"What you've found is the tip of the iceberg," Cochran said. "I would bet there's a boatload of garbage in Orange County."
Both Cochran and Sam Clauder, a bounty hunter who lives in Orange County, say they have complained to authorities, including the secretary of state, the registrar of voters and area district attorneys.
"I've told [the DA] what's going on and given them evidence of fraud in the past, but they've just dropped it," Clauder said. He says he has evidence of bounty hunters tearing up registrations they wouldn't be paid for, such as those for another party. Neither the Orange County registrar of voters nor the district attorney's office returned repeated phone calls.
Questionable Republican voter registration efforts also have broader implications. Lost in the media feeding frenzy over Hermandad is how GOP wrongdoing may have aided Dornan and Morrissey, who defeated Democrat Lou Correa by just 93 votes out of 53,000 cast in an overwhelmingly Democratic Assembly district. Of course, first the powers that be--including the Times--would have to open their eyes and look, but that hasn't happened in four months. For some reason, evidence of Republican fraud has been steadfastly ignored--quite a remarkable omission considering the exhaustive scrutiny into Hermandad.
On the night of Nov. 5, Congressman Dornan was expected to share a private suite on the second floor of the Westin Hotel in Costa Mesa with fellow Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher, Ed Royce and Chris Cox, but he didn't. While his fellow Orange County Republicans enjoyed an election-night blowout in the hotel's grand ballroom, Dornan faced the first gut-wrenchingly tight race of his 23-year political career. He rented his own room.
As the night wore on and it became clear that Sanchez might win a stunning upset, media interest--including reporters from all seven Los Angeles television stations--focused on Dornan. Everybody wanted an interview. But instead of remaining accessible in the ballroom, the nine-term congressman spent much of the night secluded, watching TV news updates with his family. Dornan--a longtime vociferous critic of the media in general and Times reporters in particular--gave only one reporter access to his inner sanctum that night: Peter Warren of the Times O.C.
Experienced Dornan watchers know he rarely gives anything without taking. Reporters who write anything less than pro-Dornan articles invite his wrath. (Last year, he banned me from a press conference and accused me--as he's routinely done to his critics--of committing assorted crimes.) But Dornan--who could not be reached for comment--obviously felt comfortable with Warren, a cagey veteran political reporter. Their relationship is significant because the two men, working in conjunction after the election, rocked the political world with the controversial charge that Latinos stole the election for Sanchez. The truth, however, is not what Dornan and his newfound friends at the Times want the public to believe. Yes, noncitizens did vote--a serious issue deserving investigation and exposure. But no credible evidence has emerged that proves there was a conspiracy--except perhaps for the one perpetrated by the unholy union of a bitter, defeated politician and a scandal-hungry newspaper.
From the beginning, this has been a story about numbers. Dornan's only chance to overturn Sanchez's 984-vote win has been to allege massive Democratic voter fraud. His opening, widely publicized shots involved charges that 150 people illegally registered from business addresses, 100 voted twice, and there was a 2,000-vote discrepancy in Registrar Rosalyn Lever's compilations. (Dornan would later name Lever--a Republican--part of the Latino conspiracy after she proved the claims baseless. The Times downplayed her devastating findings in a Jan. 22 article with the misleading headline: "Registrar details irregularities.")