Romney voter fraud allegations loom as general election liability

Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney has survived the heated GOP nominating contest so far without attracting significant attention to what may become a general election issue: allegations that he committed voter fraud in 2010.

In January 2010 the former Massachusetts governor proudly cast a ballot for Republican Scott Brown in the special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. He didn’t own property in the state at the time, and had registered to vote listing his son’s unfinished basement as his residence.

Massachusetts law defines a residence for voter registration purposes as “where a person dwells and which is the center of his domestic, social, and civil life.” Anyone found guilty of committing voter fraud faces up to five years behind bars and a fine of $10,000.

The issue was first raised last year, after long-shot GOP candidate Fred Karger traveled to Romney’s former community of Belmont and interviewed members of his former church — who informed Karger that the Romneys had moved — and their former realtor, who told him, “Oh, they moved to California.”

Additionally, Karger claimed that Ann Romney told him that the couple lived in California.

Karger filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Elections Division and the allegations received breathless coverage on “The Rachel Maddow Show.” However, a representative of the Elections Division told The Daily Caller in June 2011 that “the time to bring this up was when he voted.”

Maddow gleefully quoted on her show a Belmont town clerk who told a local publication: “Since he is an active voter, he proves that this is where his residency is” — to which she retorted, “If he has been voting illegally, does the fact that he is voting illegally a lot make it not illegal?”

Despite the initial lack of interest in the issue, if Romney secures the Republican nomination — which appears increasingly likely — supporters of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign are bound to seek out low-hanging fruit to blemish the former governor’s squeaky-clean public image.

Election law experts contacted by The Daily Caller explained the possible legal justifications for Romney registering to vote at his son’s house, but also noted that significant facts must be established before the presidential candidate can be vindicated of wrongdoing.