Supporters of a people’s veto campaign to restore Election Day voter registration were obviously concerned when Secretary of State Charlie Summers announced last Wednesday that he was holding a news conference to discuss what his office described as “preliminary findings regarding voter fraud allegations.”
The group’s anxiety was partially attributable to fears that Summers may have discovered voting impropriety within Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster’s mysterious — some say dubious — list of 206 out-of-state college students. But more worrisome to the coalition was the scene that unfolded the next day in Summers’ office.
A throng of television cameras, radio and print reporters awaited his remarks. Supporters of same-day voter registration knew that visuals of Summers in his office would appear on that night’s newscasts, that afternoon’s newspaper websites and in print the next day.
In effect, the opponents of same-day voter registration, who include Summers himself, would own the news cycle for at least 24 hours. Webster had achieved the same feat just three days earlier, and had done so without presenting any real evidence, merely a redacted list of college students who he said “may have” committed fraud.
The coalition said the timing of Summers’ news conferences was suspect. But the timing was also problematic for a signature-gathering effort closing in on its Aug. 8 deadline in order to get the same-day voter registration on the November ballot.
Summers opened with a stunning and sensational bombshell: His office had discovered potential identification fraud and a cover-up within the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. That investigation, he said, would be folded into a probe of Webster’s vague allegations against college students.
How many people were involved? Did they vote? Was this new allegation linked in any way to same-day voter registration? What evidence was there that Webster’s list warranted an official probe by the state’s attorney general?
In about 15 minutes of questioning, Summers offered few answers. He said he was prohibited from discussing anything because of the ongoing investigation.
Which begs the question: What was the purpose of the news conference?