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Voting--the Sacred Trust

For weeks, the Orange County district attorney has been investigating allegations of voting fraud in a hotly contested congressional election. Now the office has definite information that should spur the probe onward.

Times reporters found 19 people who are not citizens but who cast ballots, illegally, in the race between Robert K. Dornan and Loretta Sanchez. Dornan, a Republican who had held the seat for 12 years, was beaten by Democrat Sanchez by fewer than 1,000 votes.

Nineteen bad ballots is a tiny fraction of the more than 100,000 votes cast in this election, far from enough to tip the balance. No link between Sanchez and the illegal voting is alleged.

Eighteen of the voters in question took citizenship classes offered by the Orange County office of the civil rights organization Hermandad Mexicana Nacional. All 19 registered to vote on forms signed out to Hermandad by the county registrar’s office. All said they thought they were eligible to vote, although Hermandad’s director said the organization had stressed that they could not vote until they became naturalized citizens, a process that requires passing tests and swearing an oath of allegiance to the United States.

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While the violations were few, they are disturbing. Voting is at the heart of democracy. Corruption of the process should be dealt with severely. The improper voting, even if done innocently, gives ammunition to those who wrongly try to keep foreigners out of the United States, a nation of immigrants.

Dornan leveled charges of illegal voting soon after the Nov. 5 election results were known and has filed a complaint with the House of Representatives contesting the election. So far there is no evidence that cheating was as widespread as he has claimed. However, the district attorney’s investigation, with assistance from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, is proper and necessary to learn the extent of the problem.


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