Jim Crow Calif. Candidate Gets Cleared

By The News May 17, 2007

Former Orange County Congressional candidate Tan Nguyen sent letters to Latino immigrants warning them that if they tried voting then they’d be incarcerated or deported, according to a brief in the New York Times today. But California’s attorney’s general office won’t press criminal charges against the Republican candidate from Vietnam who eventually lost to Democrat Loretta Sanchez and an opportunity to serve a sixth term. The LA Times explained:

"We looked closely at voter intimidation statutes but couldn’t find any criminal intent," Gareth Lacy, a spokesman for the office, said of the letters sent by Republican Tan Nguyen’s staff three weeks before November’s election, in which he failed to unseat Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana). "It was offensive," Lacy said of the letters, but there was no "criminal intent to intimidate lawful voters."

Oh pah-lease. Gene Iredale, a lawyer who represented Nguyen in the case, said:

"It wasn’t intended to intimidate people from voting, but designed to say that noncitizens may not vote," he said. "While it is an appropriate thing for the government to make sure that voter intimidation does not occur, it is equally true that ineligible voters should not violate the law." The controversy stemmed from the October 2006 mailing by Nguyen’s campaign of 14,000 letters to Democratic voters with Spanish surnames born outside the United States advising them in Spanish that "if your residence in this country is illegal or if you are an immigrant, a vote in a federal election is a crime that can result in imprisonment or you will be deported for voting without the right to do so."

Things just got uglier.