Under questioning from Sen. Robert P. Griffin (R-Mich.) who said it was "inconceivable" that Flaherty would be testifying without having read the memo. Flaherty acknowledged that a Justice Department attorney accompanying him, Craig [WORD ILLEGIBLE] , had a copy of the document.
But Flaherty refused to give the copy to the committee, finally invoking executive [WORD ILLEGIBLE] when Griffin asked for it for [WORD ILLEGIBLE] a part of the [WORD ILLEGIBLE]
Outside the hearing room, Flaherty insisted that the document was intended merely to make "a devil's advocate" case that election-day registration would lead to serious vote fraud. Flaherty dismissed the possibility of such fraud, saying that this had not been the experience where the system now exists in Minnesota.
During testimony before the House Administration Committee, several witnesses made the point that the Minnesota experience was not necessarily representative of vote-fraud potential in other states. The point was made again before the Senate Rules Committee yesterday by two Chicago witnesses.
Both Bernard Carey, the Republican state's attorney in Cook County, and John H. Hanley, the Democratic chairman of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, said that the legislation would wipe out hard-won provisions which have reduced vote fraud in Chicago. Without pre-registration, Carey testified, it would be virtually impossible to track down and prosecute persons who voted fradulently on election day.
The Chicago testimony was expected. What was unexpected was Griffin's challenge to the Justice Department attorneys to produce the memo and Flaherty's claim of executive privilege.
The effect of Flaherty's action was to make the internal memo, one of several prepared for Bell, seem more important than the department's official position that there is minimal likelihood of fraud.
While the vote-registration bill was getting off to a shaky start in the Senate, it continued to move smoothly through the House Administration Committee.
Committee Chairman Frank Thompson Jr. (D-N.J.), who has promised "a tight bill," continued to accept a number of Republican-sponsored amendments to the legislation.
Among the amendments approved yesterday was one which would require voters registering on election day to sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury attesting that they are citizens and giving their name, address, residence and date and place of birth. Federal and state penalities for false registration would be stated on the affidavit, which in the original bill was discretionary.
The committee also increased from 20 to 25 cents per voter the amount of money available for states to pay for the cost of same-day registration. It reduced from 20 cents to 10 cents per voter the bonus paid states which adopt the system for state and local elections.