In what may be the most important voting case since Bush v. Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court in January will hear a challenge to Indiana’s 2006 law requiring a voter ID to vote. If the court rules against the law, 22 state voter ID laws that were designed to prevent voter fraud could be eliminated.
Democrats and so-called voting rights groups such as ACORN, the ACLU and the League of Women Voters (all of whom are challenging the law) claim there has been little actual voter fraud, few federal prosecutions and convictions, and that the purpose of the Indiana law is to prevent minorities and the poor from voting.
This argumentation and legal challenge are being made despite numerous cases of voter fraud that have been reported by the media over the last 10 years. Adding fuel to this fire recently were stunning statements by two prominent political activists — a Democrat and a Republican — on opposite sides of the continent that show that voter fraud in the United States is very real.
The Albuquerque Tribune reported in January 2007 that the newly elected New Mexico elections director and former general counsel for the state Democratic Party, Daniel Ivey-Soto, frankly told county elections officials that voter fraud exists in that key swing state. “I have been in conversations with people who have told me that, at various times, they’ve voted more than once on Election Day.…It happens.” Asked by the clerks how he could guarantee that same-day voter registration laws would not cause more voter fraud, Ivey-Soto replied, “I can’t … but I can’t guarantee there isn’t fraud going on now.…I know people who have gone on Election Day and voted multiple times because they knew people who weren’t going to vote. I’ve never participated in that, but I know people who have.”
And from the other side of the fence, Republican attorney and campaign volunteer Heather Heidelbaugh in Pittsburgh, Pa., pointed out the same thing from her experience in the campaign trenches. “When you send out a letter to people who have registered recently and the letter comes back as an address of an empty lot or is undeliverable, you tell me, is that fraud or not? When people say to me there is no such thing as evidence to commit voter fraud, it is false. I’ve seen it. I’ve witnessed it. I’ve lived through it,” said Heidelbaugh in a September 2007 statement to Steve Rosenfeld of alternet.org.
Backing this up in 2005, the bi-partisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, led by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State Jim Baker, reported that the U.S. Department of Justice had conducted more than 180 investigations into election fraud since 2002. Federal prosecutors had charged 89 individuals and convicted 52 for election-fraud offenses, including falsifying voter-registration information and vote buying. That is why this bi-partisan commission supported laws that require voters to show a photo ID before voting using the Federal Real ID law.
Since the Democratic Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993, numerous loopholes have been created that have permitted thousands of dead voters and former residents who have long ago moved to remain on the voter rolls for nearly a decade. Also, there is only one state — Arizona — that finally adopted in 2004 a law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote.
Former Vice President of the Virginia Electoral Board Association Edward O’Neal recently testified before the U.S. House Administration Committee how the NVRA prevents election administrators from removing outdated and false voter information from voter-registration rolls for as many as 10 years. According to O’Neal and other witnesses who testified before the subcommittee, prohibiting the removal of erroneous information makes it impossible for election officials to maintain database integrity and prevent voter fraud.
Just a casual look at news reports over the last 10 years reveals a number of serious cases of voter fraud in key elections from President, U.S. Senate, U.S. House, governor and other offices down to the local level. From the White House to the courthouse, voter fraud has been widely reported but seldom prosecuted because of the difficulty of proving it.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel initiated an investigation of the 2004 presidential election in Wisconsin, which had one of the closest results, with Kerry winning the state by only 11,000 votes. The newspaper investigation resulted in a probe by U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic and Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann that found clear evidence of fraud in the election, including more than 200 felons who voted illegally and another 100-plus people who voted under bad addresses or false names or who voted twice.
Concerning the 2000 presidential election, the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund reported last July that “the Florida secretary of state’s office … found ‘legally sufficient’ evidence that some 60 people in Palm Beach County had committed voter fraud by voting both there and in New York State” in 2000.
One of the most comprehensive studies of the 2000 presidential election, “Democracy Held Hostage,” was conducted by the Miami Herald — it found that 400 votes were cast illegally in heavily Democratic Broward County when poll workers allowed voters to vote who were not on the precinct voting rolls. And another 452 were cast illegally by felons in Broward. In Volusia County — which supported Gore — 277 voters voted who were not registered, including 73 voters at predominately black Bethune-Cookman University, which voted heavily for Gore.
The Herald review of votes in 22 counties (with 2.3 million ballots) found that 1,241 ballots were cast illegally by felons who had not received clemency. Of these voters, 75% were registered Democrats. And the Herald study counted only those who had been sentenced to prison for more than a year.
The Herald also found that it was a myth that many non-felons were removed from the rolls illegally in Florida. As the report says: “Instead, the evidence points to just the opposite — that election officials were mostly permissive, not obstructionist, when unregistered voters presented themselves.” County elections officials removed only one out of every five voters whom the secretary of state suggested were possibly felons, despite the media hysteria about this state list. The list was supposed to be investigated by the county officials who instead largely ignored it. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement received only eight valid complaints from voters who were misidentified as felons on Election Day.
Across the Country
One of the most recent well-publicized voter fraud cases occurred in the Washington State governor’s race in November 2004 in which Democrat Christine Gregoire allegedly defeated Republican Dino Rossi by 129 votes after weeks of vote counting. The Washington State Superior Court found that 1,400 felons voted illegally, along with illegal votes cast by 53 dead people, two non-citizens and 27 double votes. Since Washington State does not have party voter registration, there was no way of proving exactly how they voted, so the judge ruled there was not enough proof to void the election.
In one of the few cases in which an election was overturned because of voter fraud, the Tennessee State Senate voided the results of a September 2005 special state senate election in which Democrat Ophelia Ford was initially elected over Republican Terry Roland by 13 votes. The results were thrown out on a 26-to-six bi-partisan vote after allegations of election wrongdoing that included voting by felons and nonresidents of the district as well as three ballots cast by dead voters in one polling place according to the Knoxville News.
In a case of voter fraud involving a Texas U.S. House seat, the San Antonio Express-News said in 2004 after Henry Cuellar won by only 58 votes: “We may never know if illegal votes propelled Laredo lawyer Henry Cuellar to victory in the 28th Congressional District Democratic primary. …On Tuesday, a district judge ruled that U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez cannot introduce evidence alleging ballot fraud and the illegal casting of votes.” This was after the newspaper reported that primary voters in almost two dozen residences in one Cuellar stronghold (Webb County) had moved out of the district and had not changed their voter-registration address.
In another case concerning a U.S. House seat in which voter fraud may have influenced the result, California Republican Congressman Bob Dornan was defeated by Democrat Loretta Sanchez in an upset, by the narrow margin of 984 votes in 1996. Dornan charged that Sanchez’s margin came from non-citizens, and an investigation by the House of Representatives found that 547 non-citizens had voted in the election, but not enough to void the election. Some believe that far more non-citizens who were not detected actually voted. John Fund, in his book Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy, says that an INS investigation in 1996 into alleged Motor Voter fraud in California’s 46th District revealed that “4,023 illegal voters possibly cast ballots in the disputed election between Republican Robert Dornan and Democrat Loretta Sanchez.”
Another serious case of alleged voter fraud involved a U.S. Senate seat. Louisiana Republican Woody Jenkins filed charges of voter fraud in 1996 before the Senate Rules Committee after he lost to Democrat Mary Landrieu by 5,788 votes. According to the Almanac of American Politics, Jenkins “presented affidavits showing that more votes were counted in many New Orleans precincts than the number of voters who signed in, and testimony of campaign operatives, apparently from [Democratic Mayor Marc] Morial’s L.I.F.E. organization, ferrying people around to vote in one precinct after another.”
In April 1997, the Rules Committee agreed, by a nine-to-seven party-line vote, to broaden the investigation. By June, however, committee Democrats were complaining that the inquiry had failed to produce hard evidence of fraud and withdrew from the probe. Committee Chairman John Warner (R.-Va.) proceeded to hold closed field hearings in New Orleans without the consent of ranking Democratic member Wendell Ford (Ky.), and after the Justice Department pulled its agents off the investigation, the hearings produced little substantive testimony regarding the alleged improprieties by Morial’s political machine and state Democrats came forward with allegations that Jenkins’ investigators had engaged in witness-tampering.
Senate Republicans forged ahead with the election probe in September, belittling Democratic attempts to block committee meetings using parliamentarian tactics. By October, however, the Rules Committee voted unanimously to end the inquiry. While concluding that “isolated instances” of voter fraud did occur, Warner said there was no evidence to prove that there was a “widespread effort to illegally affect the outcome of this election,” or that Landrieu had any involvement in the violation of election laws.
Your right to vote will be at stake when the Supreme Court decides this case next year. It is now endangered unless there are adequate safeguards against voter fraud such as Indiana’s voter ID law. As former Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer warned recently, “In this day of illegals’ potentially gaining access to the driver’s license system, the verification of citizenship and accuracy of the connection of the ID card to the person voting is only common sense. Anyone who thinks that there is no stealing of votes should go home and next time don’t lock their doors or cars when leaving.”