COUNSELOR'S CORNER:

Jane Balogh served in the United States Army. She lives with her four dogs and five cats in a suburban area of Washington. She also has two grown children.

Balogh was bothered by consistent allegations of voter fraud in her neck of the woods. The first was after the presidential election in 2000, and the second was after the gubernatorial race in her state in 2004.

Balogh wanted to bring some attention to this problem. She may have gone too far, however, when she decided to register one of her dogs to vote.

Duncan is the dog, and Balogh did what was needed in order to make Duncan eligible. She put her telephone account in his name and then used a bill from the telephone company as identification to register Duncan, who is a good-looking Australian shepherd-terrier mix, to vote in King County.

She also signed a form on Duncan’s behalf indicating that he was a “legitimate voter.”

Balogh did this early in 2006, and in the next few elections she requested absentee ballots for Duncan. She then sent in the ballots writing “void” on each of them and signing the envelopes with a paw print. Each time she would send in one of Duncan’s ballots she would write to her legislators telling them exactly what she had done and was continuing to do and begging them to “fix the system.”

After the third ballot was sent in Duncan’s name, Balogh finally got a phone call from someone who was working for the election, followed by contact from a detective from King County.

Balogh was told she was facing a felony. The district attorney office’s offered her a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony of “making false or misleading statements to a public official” with a fine of $250 and 10 hours of community service.

Initially Balogh agreed to the deal but changed her mind as she noticed that Duncan remained on the voting rolls eligible to vote.

She was told that it is a lot more difficult to take someone off the list of those eligible to vote than to put someone on. Election officials are now criticizing Balogh through their spokeswoman Bobbie Egan, calling her behavior “an attack on democracy; a manipulation of the system.”

Balogh remains quite disturbed at the fact that her dog remains on the voting rolls.

She says that her goal was to show how easy it is to register someone or something to vote and how people can do this and win an election that way.

In old Chicago, it was dead people voting myriad times; here it is a pooch on the voting rolls.

Balogh’s concern is that others are loading the voting rolls with people, animals, whatever, getting absentee ballots and are then able to vote more than once. She is now charged with felony voter fraud, which could lead to a year in jail.

Locally, other than with election officials and police officers, Balogh has become pretty popular. Her actions are constant fodder for local talk radio where she is deemed quite the clever person.

On the other hand, the Seattle Times describes her behavior as having “crossed the line.” Balogh, 66, says she is shy and somewhat of a recluse and cannot believe all of the attention she has been getting.

This is not causing her to back down, however. She hired a lawyer and plans to take her case to trial.

Balogh’s point is that she is not the one who wants to affect an election; she wants to show election officials how easy it is to register an entity that should not be permitted to.

I would agree that technically Balogh broke the law; however, I do not think she deserves a jail sentence or even a criminal conviction for that matter. One might argue that she performed a service for King County, and hopefully the county will get its act together with respect to getting appropriate people on and off the voting rolls.

If Balogh had just written a letter to the election officials complaining about things, I don’t imagine anyone would have taken action. The fact that her dog, Duncan, is registered to vote and this matter is now in the press will hopefully lead to change.


 CHARLES J. UNGER is a criminal defense attorney in the Glendale law firm of Flanagan, Unger & Grover, and a therapist at the Foothill Centre for Personal and Family Growth. He may be reached at (818) 244-8694 or at www.charlieunger.com.

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