December 5, 2019

Voting Fraud and Suppression

Voting Fraud and Suppression

In America, we place our sacred trust in the collective wisdom of voters.  I have always assumed that, while individual voters may be badly off base in their selection of candidates for whom to vote, that if the vast majority of eligible voters cast their votes, the best candidate would win.

Citizen empowerment is a core value for Americans, so having elections not subject to significant voter fraud or voter suppression is essential.  Whether one agrees with every position the Heritage Foundation takes on every issue, this statement is concise and compelling relative to the right to vote:

“The right to vote in a free and fair election is the most basic civil right, one on which many other rights of the American people depend.

Congress and the states should guarantee that every eligible individual is able to vote and that no one’s vote is stolen or diluted.”

We have allowed special interests to engage at a state and local level in either suppression of the votes of those who would oppose their preferred candidates, or fraudulent voting that illegally and artificially inflates the vote totals of candidates they prefer.

In Southern states, it was clear for a number of decades that efforts were made to suppress voting by African Americans.  Until the 1970’s, voter suppression was led by conservative Democrats, because they were trying to oppress African Americans.  When these states turned Republican, voter suppression occurred because African Americans predominantly voted for Democratic candidates.

For example, there is no justification for depriving a convicted felon of the right to vote after completing a prison sentence.  However, some states have either permanently deprived convicted felons of the right to vote or made it exceptionally difficult to get their right to vote restored.  Since African Americans are disproportionately represented in the former felon population, Republicans targeted them for exclusion from the right to vote.  That is wrong.

Similarly, in these states, shorter polling hours, fewer and more difficult-to-reach polling places in many communities, overly restrictive forms of identification and inaccurately communicated voting processes are other ways to keep lower-income people, especially minorities, from voting.

The opposite problem is “voter fraud.” The Heritage Foundation listed these types of voter fraud:

“There are many ways for criminals to steal votes and change the outcome of an election. These include:

  • Impersonation fraud at the polls: Voting in the name of other legitimate voters and voters who have died, moved away, or lost their right to vote because they are felons, but remain registered.
  • False registrations: Voting under fraudulent voter registrations that either use a phony name and a real or fake address or claim residence in a particular jurisdiction where the registered voter does not actually live and is not entitled to vote.
  • Duplicate voting: Registering in multiple locations and voting in the same election in more than one jurisdiction or state.
  • Fraudulent use of absentee ballots: Requesting absentee ballots and voting without the knowledge of the actual voter; or obtaining the absentee ballot from a voter and either filling it in directly and forging the voter’s signature or illegally telling the voter who to vote for.
  • Buying votes: Paying voters to cast either an in-person or absentee ballot for a particular candidate.
  • Illegal “assistance” at the polls: Forcing or intimidating voters—particularly the elderly, disabled, illiterate, and those for whom English is a second language—to vote for particular candidates while supposedly providing them with “assistance.”
  • Ineligible voting: Illegal registration and voting by individuals who are not U.S. citizens, are convicted felons, or are otherwise not eligible to vote.
  • Altering the vote count: Changing the actual vote count either in a precinct or at the central location where votes are counted.
  • Ballot petition fraud: Forging the signatures of registered voters on the ballot petitions that must be filed with election officials in some states for a candidate or issue to be listed on the official ballot.”

In Connecticut and other states dominated by Democrats, we appear to have a voter fraud problem. A recent Democratic Mayoral primary in Bridgeport, Connecticut, should give us pause.  Incumbent Mayor Joe Ganim (a convicted felon) was challenged by an African American legislator named Marilyn Moore.  She had a clear margin of victory in the votes reported from the polling places, but Ganim had an overwhelming margin among the “absentee” ballot voters.

Allegedly, Democratic party regulars focused on getting Ganim re-elected secured hundreds of absentee ballots on behalf of senior citizens in assisted living facilities.  They acquired them in bulk from the local Registrar of Voters, went to assisted living facilities, allegedly got the senior citizens to complete the ballots and returned them to the Registrar.  These ballots provided the margin of victory for Ganim.

There are several things wrong with this practice, which is called “vote harvesting”:

  • There is no way to know whether the senior citizens actually completed the ballot or whether the party regulars completed the ballot on their behalf;
  • We do not know whether these senior citizens actually were of sound mind and even knew what vote had been cast; and
  • It is quite likely that, even if these senior citizens completed the ballot, the process was unlikely to have been a secret ballot, which means that it had the potential for coercion.

In the 2018 election, which resulted in an increased Democratic legislative majority in the General Assembly and a restored Democratic majority in the Senate, verification of identity and eligibility of voters at the polls did not meet a standard that would suggest that fraud did not occur:

  • Connecticut did not require those who registered on election day to have a drivers’ license that met TSA standards. Students are easily able to get fake drivers’ licenses to get access to liquor at establishments requiring proof of age.  Same-day registration only works if the form of identification is highly secure, such as the new TSA-mandated drivers’ license.
  • There was no systematic way to restrict an individual with a fake ID from voting in more than one place on election day. There is no statewide database that gets updated and checked in real-time to prevent voting in multiple precincts.
  • The process of purging the voter rolls of those who have passed away or moved out of a community is not rigorous or current in many communities. A campaign staff member working for then Congressman Christopher Shays in 2008 told me that the Congressman sent out letters to every registered Democratic voter to try to see if he could persuade some of them to vote for him.  Over 10,000 of them were returned as “Undeliverable” because no such person existed at the so-called “registered voter address.”

The Better Solution: Voting by Mail for Everyone

Properly and securely done, voting by mail is the least expensive, least hackable, most secure way of soliciting and recording votes.  It does not put stress on voters to go to a certain place on a single day.  In fact, we would not need a holiday on election day, because voters would have several weeks to complete their ballots and return them.

To make voting by mail work, these safeguards would have to be in place:

  • We would have to eliminate registration and voting on “Election Day.”.
  • The ballot would need to be mailed to the registered voter at the address in the registered voter rolls. No one other than the voter should have access before or after the vote to his or her ballot.
  • The ballot should be sealed and returned, either by mail or in person, by the registered voter. If the registered voter has a disability, the Postal Service letter carrier can be instructed to pick up the ballot when delivering the mail to that person. There is no need to have anyone else collect ballots in bulk from any group of voters, or even to have an individual carry a ballot from the voter to either the mail collection box or the Registrar of Voters.
  • The signatures on the ballots need to be matched to the signatures on file for voters. This prevents unauthorized signatures or forgeries.

When I was Pitney Bowes’ CEO, we created such a secure system.  We called it Relia-Vote.  It is still in use today, although the business selling and operating Relia-Vote was sold by Pitney Bowes and is now called Blue Crest.  This is a link to the description of Relia-Vote.

I have read a number of the essays opposing voting by mail, and the arguments are of little merit:

  • Voter fraud has occurred in voting by mail systems, but only when people steal ballots out of mailboxes. However, the Relia-Vote system does signature comparisons that reduce the odds of this being successful.
  • The argument that the Postal Service will not deliver ballots is outdated and wrong. We can now track every piece of mail through the use of the Intelligent Mail Bar Code.
  • The argument that Native Americans who share PO Boxes on reservations will not get their ballot is easily addressed by requiring a signature by the intended recipient. If the recipient is unavailable on a given day, arrangements can be made to deliver the ballot on another day.  This is not a large part of the US population.
  • Coercion by family members is a laughable argument. Unless someone has a family member with him or her 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the voter can always find a time and place to complete a ballot and place it in the mail.
  • The question of whether voting by mail is more or less expensive is open to question.
  • The argument that the communal experience of voting should be preserved is a relic of a different time. Americans are busy people.  Their time should be respected.  Standing in line for hours at a polling place is a horrible and unnecessary use of their time.
  • The argument that it disadvantages candidates can be addressed by giving candidates or referendum proponents and opponents an opportunity to include explanatory materials in the ballot package, which is the way California approaches the ballot. Besides, why do we assume that voters get the input they need in other ways?

Voting by mail avoids the problems of hackable voting machines, voting machines that break down on election day, machines that miscount votes, or other forms of polling place voting machine manipulation. Moreover, all the challenges of getting to polling places and waiting in the cold or heat or confronting polling places not set up for people with disabilities go away.

Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Colorado all provide for 100% voting by mail.  This is the most secure, hack-proof, fraud-proof and uniformly accessible system.

We need uniform, secure, trustworthy, hack-proof voting processes.  If we do not create such a system, then the core constitutional right to have every vote count and not be diluted by fraudulent voting will continue to be compromised.