Lack of Oversight Leaves Massive Openings for Voter Fraud

Although fraud remains uncommon, a lack of cooperation between the states creates an opportunity even voter ID laws won’t fix.

Voters: Independents still hold key.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
Aug. 13, 2014, 1:47 a.m.

Nearly 12 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans pack up and move every year. Most of them as­sume that by re­gis­ter­ing to vote in their new home cit­ies or states, their old re­cords will be in­val­id­ated. In many cases, they’re wrong. There is no uni­fied sys­tem in the United States alert­ing elec­tion of­fi­cials that former res­id­ents have moved away and plan to vote in someone else’s jur­is­dic­tion.

As a res­ult, mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans are re­gistered to vote in more than one place in any giv­en elec­tion, leav­ing open the pos­sib­il­ity of massive voter fraud that would not be hal­ted by voter-iden­ti­fic­a­tion laws that have swept through the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly in red states, in re­cent years.

With the op­tion of vot­ing by mail gain­ing steam, par­tic­u­larly in West­ern states, the pos­sib­il­ity of voters re­ceiv­ing mul­tiple bal­lots at their homes in any giv­en elec­tion is a fright­en­ing scen­ario for elec­tions of­fi­cials. Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton now vote en­tirely by mail, and in the last pres­id­en­tial elec­tion, around half of voters in Ari­zona, Cali­for­nia, and Col­or­ado re­ques­ted mail bal­lots as well.

Enter the Elec­tron­ic Re­gis­tra­tion In­form­a­tion Cen­ter, or ERIC, a pro­ject cre­ated by the Pew Char­it­able Trusts that is now crunch­ing voter-re­gis­tra­tion data in 11 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia. The new sys­tem, which has been up and run­ning since 2012, al­lows states to share and com­pare data about their voters, help­ing to elim­in­ate those from the voter rolls who have either moved or died since they last voted.

Pew was alarmed to find in a 2011 study that about one in eight voter re­cords are out­dated. In co­oper­a­tion with IBM and elec­tions of­fi­cials from across the coun­try, the or­gan­iz­a­tion cre­ated ERIC to help solve the prob­lem. ERIC soft­ware com­pares mo­tor-vehicle re­cords, voter re­cords, So­cial Se­cur­ity in­form­a­tion, death re­cords, and change-of-ad­dress re­cords. Pew has since taken a back­seat, al­low­ing the states to handle the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the pro­gram them­selves. Us­ing the ERIC soft­ware cre­ated by IBM, states can now cre­ate lists of in­di­vidu­als the pro­gram flags as im­prop­erly re­gistered to vote either be­cause they have moved or have died. The states then con­tact those in­di­vidu­als to con­firm their status be­fore re­mov­ing them from the rolls.

In just the first sev­en states that joined ERIC’s pi­lot pro­gram in 2012 — Col­or­ado, Delaware, Mary­land, Nevada, Utah, Vir­gin­ia, and Wash­ing­ton — the soft­ware found 60,000 people who had died but were still re­gistered to vote. Ad­di­tion­ally, ERIC dis­covered an astound­ing 1.5 mil­lion voters had moved from one part of a state to an­oth­er with the state’s elec­tions de­part­ment be­ing none the wiser.

“You’ve got a situ­ation where ba­sic­ally mo­tor vehicles in these states had an up-to-date ad­dress … but that in­form­a­tion nev­er made it to the elec­tions de­part­ment,” said Dav­id Beck­er, the dir­ect­or of Pew’s Elec­tions Ini­ti­at­ives.

ERIC also found 250,000 people who had moved from one of the par­ti­cip­at­ing sev­en states to an­oth­er. And these fig­ures don’t ac­count for in­di­vidu­als who moved to states not tracked by ERIC, like Cali­for­nia, New York or Texas. “You can just ima­gine what these num­bers would look like if you in­cluded some large states,” Beck­er said.

It is un­likely — but not im­possible — that pri­or to 2012, voters who moved from Vir­gin­ia to Mary­land, for ex­ample, took ad­vant­age of their dual re­gis­tra­tion and crossed state lines to vote twice in per­son. But in places with all-mail or ma­jor­ity-mail bal­lot­ing, like Wash­ing­ton and Col­or­ado, it’s very likely that some voters re­ceived mul­tiple bal­lots in the mail, up­ping the chances of fraud­u­lent vot­ing.

Dav­id Am­mons, a spokes­man for the Wash­ing­ton sec­ret­ary of state, poin­ted out that when in­di­vidu­als send in their bal­lots they must sign a de­clar­a­tion con­firm­ing their iden­tity and as­sert­ing their voter status in that jur­is­dic­tion. Vot­ing mul­tiple times, lan­guage on the bal­lot warns, is a felony that in­cludes a max­im­um pen­alty of five years in pris­on and a $10,000 fine.

But that won’t de­ter every­one, Am­mons ad­mit­ted. “It def­in­itely is something that we are con­stantly watch­ing for,” Am­mons said.

Still, des­pite the lack of safe­guards to pre­vent mul­tiple voter re­gis­tra­tions across the coun­try, the ac­tu­al in­cid­ence of voter fraud is ex­tremely low. A five-year in­vest­ig­a­tion by the Justice De­part­ment dur­ing the George W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion found just 120 cases of fraud it deemed worth tak­ing to court, and many of them ap­peared to be ac­ci­dent­al rather than ma­li­cious cases of im­prop­er vot­ing. Loy­ola Uni­versity law pro­fess­or Justin Levitt, who stud­ies voter fraud, wrote in The Wash­ing­ton Post earli­er this month that he’s found just 31 cred­ible cases of fraud com­mit­ted in the United States since 2000; that’s out of more than 1 bil­lion bal­lots cast.

In one highly pub­li­cized case earli­er this year, Robert Mon­roe, a sup­port­er of Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er, was charged with 13 counts of voter fraud after he cast mul­tiple bal­lots in sev­er­al cit­ies in two states as him­self, as well as fam­ily mem­bers. As Levitt noted, it’s un­likely that any of Mon­roe’s crimes would have been pre­ven­ted by stronger voter ID laws. But it ap­pears that at least some of the al­leg­a­tions would have been pre­ven­ted by a com­par­at­ive re­cords sys­tem, like ERIC.

Beck­er, of Pew, also noted that the in­cid­ence of voter fraud na­tion­ally is re­l­at­ively low. But, he ad­ded: “No one even wants the per­cep­tion of fraud out there, or the pos­sib­il­ity of fraud out there…. Just the fact that there are bal­lots out there that can’t be con­nec­ted to a spe­cif­ic eli­gible state voter can be a prob­lem.”

And the prob­lems go bey­ond is­sues of ac­tu­al fraud. As Beck­er notes, im­prop­er voter re­gis­tra­tion can wreak all kinds of hav­oc. “It means you’re send­ing mail to the wrong place. You’re draw­ing pre­cincts think­ing a voter’s there, when they’re not,” he said. “Voters aren’t get­ting in­form­a­tion on what polling place to go to, so they go to the wrong one which can cause lines [and] pro­vi­sion­al bal­lots can end up be­ing cast. Voters who vote by mail aren’t get­ting their bal­lots or bal­lots are go­ing to the wrong place.”

ERIC has had oth­er side be­ne­fits. In 2012, states used the pro­gram to help identi­fy po­ten­tially eli­gible voters and get­ting them re­gistered on­line long be­fore Elec­tion Day. Voters tend to re­gister in the weeks im­me­di­ately be­fore a pres­id­en­tial elec­tion, leav­ing of­fi­cials with a short time peri­od to get all of them in the rolls. Be­fore the pro­gram came along, elec­tions of­fi­cials entered pa­per re­gis­tra­tions by hand in­to com­puters, which lead to nu­mer­ous entry er­rors. Re­gis­ter­ing some of those voters early and on­line through ERIC has saved time and money for par­ti­cip­at­ing states.

Since 2012, an­oth­er four states — Con­necti­c­ut, Louisi­ana, Min­nesota, and Ore­gon — and the Dis­trict of Columbia have signed up for ERIC. And, Pew says, many more are in the pro­cess of join­ing the pro­gram. Pew em­ploy­ees are hope­ful that by 2015, they’ll have even more state mem­bers shar­ing their voter-re­gis­tra­tion data.

But Beck­er ac­know­ledges that there is some nat­ur­al re­luct­ance to join­ing a sys­tem like ERIC. The United States has “a long his­tory of loc­ally and state-run elec­tions. We as a so­ci­ety have de­cided that we prefer de­cent­ral­iz­a­tion of elec­tions,” he said. And giv­en the amount of data that’s shared between the states through ERIC, pri­vacy is­sues also re­main a con­cern, though Pew and IBM in­sist that the pro­gram uses “highly se­cure serv­ers.”

The Pres­id­en­tial Com­mis­sion on Elec­tions Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which was formed in 2013 to help stream­line the mod­ern elec­tions pro­cess, re­com­men­ded earli­er this year that every state join up with ERIC. The com­mis­sion is co­chaired by Robert Bauer and Ben­jamin Gins­berg — who served as coun­sels for the Obama and Rom­ney cam­paigns in 2012, re­spect­ively — and their opin­ions are help­ing the pro­cess along, Beck­er said.

“It’s one of these re­forms that I think is gain­ing trac­tion,” he said. “I think more and more states will see that this is a tool that they can’t af­ford not to use. Es­pe­cially as big states start join­ing there’s go­ing to be tre­mend­ous value” in ERIC’s data.

What We're Following See More »
DONATING TO FOOD BANKS
Government Buying $20 Million in Cheese
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Thanks to competition from Europe, America's cheese stockpiles are at a 30-year high. Enter the U.S. government, which announced it's buying 11 million pounds of the stuff (about $20 million). The cheese will be donated to food banks.

Source:
BRIEFER THAN TRUMP’S?
Clinton to Receive Classified Briefing on Saturday
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS
FHFA RULES APPLY
Judge: Freddie Mac Doesn’t Have to Open Its Books
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Freddie Mac shareholders cannot force the mortgage finance company to allow them to inspect its records, a federal court ruled Tuesday." A shareholder had asked the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to allow him to inspect its books and records, as Virginia law allows him to do. "The court held that Freddie shareholders no longer possess a right to inspect the company’s records because those rights had been transferred to the Federal Housing Finance Agency when the company entered into conservatorship in 2008."

Source:
MANY BEING TRADED ON BLACK MARKET
Pentagon Can’t Account for 750k Guns Provided to Iraq, Afghanistan
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The Pentagon has "provided more than 1.45 million firearms to various security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, including more than 978,000 assault rifles, 266,000 pistols and almost 112,000 machine guns." Trouble is, it can only account for about 700,000 of those guns. The rest are part of a vast arms trading network in the Middle East. "Taken together, the weapons were part of a vast and sometimes minimally supervised flow of arms from a superpower to armies and militias often compromised by poor training, desertion, corruption and patterns of human rights abuses."

Source:
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
×