Voting Isn't A Crime
New York Daily News
July 23, 2003
Raise your head above the political hedgerows in Brooklyn, and you're liable to get it shot off. Figuratively speaking, of course. But figurative doesn't mean painless. Just ask John O'Hara, the only American since Susan B. Anthony to be prosecuted for voting once in an election. He's paying an excruciating price.
This bizarre tale started when O'Hara challenged the Brooklyn Democratic machine by fielding a few insurgent candidates for various offices. The response was a politically motivated indictment and three trials. The charge: False registration and illegal voting, according to District Attorney Joe Hynes.
O'Hara committed the supposed crime of voting from his girlfriend's address - where he was living at the time - instead of his own. But voting cannot be criminalized, even in Brooklyn, and the state courts erred grievously in allowing this farce to proceed all the way up to a split state Court of Appeals. O'Hara, once a licensed lawyer, is now a disbarred, convicted felon.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this year that federal judges must not defer to state courts and should examine state criminal matters much more closely.
The federal appeals court in Manhattan now has the chance to right a grievous wrong. The judges are expected to decide soon whether to hear O'Hara's case. In the interest of justice, they must grant a hearing. If any matter demanded federal intervention and examination, it's this one.