Liberals who oppose efforts to prevent voter fraud claim that there is no fraud — or at least not any that involves voting in person at the polls.
But New York City’s watchdog Department of Investigations has just provided the latest evidence of how easy it is to commit voter fraud that is almost undetectable. DOI undercover agents showed up at 63 polling places last fall and pretended to be voters who should have been turned away by election officials; the agents assumed the names of individuals who had died or moved out of town, or who were sitting in jail. In 61 instances, or 97 percent of the time, the testers were allowed to vote. Those who did vote cast only a write-in vote for a “John Test” so as to not affect the outcome of any contest. DOI published its findings two weeks ago in a searing 70-page report accusing the city’s Board of Elections of incompetence, waste, nepotism, and lax procedures.
The Board of Elections, which has a $750 million annual budget and a work force of 350 people, reacted in classic bureaucratic fashion, which prompted one city paper to deride it as “a 21st-century survivor of Boss Tweed–style politics.” The Board approved a resolution referring the DOI’s investigators for prosecution. It also asked the state’s attorney general to determine whether DOI had violated the civil rights of voters who had moved or are felons, and it sent a letter of complaint to Mayor Bill de Blasio. Normally, I wouldn’t think de Blasio would give the BOE the time of day, but New York’s new mayor has long been a close ally of former leaders of ACORN, the now-disgraced “community organizing” group that saw its employees convicted of voter-registration fraud all over the country during and after the 2008 election.
Greg Soumas, president of New York’s BOE, offered a justification
for calling in the prosecutors: “If something was done in an untoward fashion, it was only done by DOI. We [are] unaware of any color of authority on the part of [DOI] to vote in the identity of any person other than themselves — and our reading of the election law is that such an act constitutes a felony.” The Board is bipartisan, and all but two of its members voted with Soumas. The sole exceptions were Democrat Jose Araujo, who abstained because the DOI report implicated him in hiring his wife and sister-and-law for Board jobs, and Republican Simon Shamoun.
Good-government groups are gobsmacked at Soumas’s refusal to smell the stench of corruption in his patronage-riddled empire. “They should focus not on assigning blame to others, but on taking responsibility for solving the problems themselves,” Dick Dadey of the watchdog group Citizens Union told the Daily News. “It’s a case of the Board of Elections passing the buck.” DOI officials respond that the use of undercover agents is routine in anti-corruption probes and that people should carefully read the 70-page report they’ve filed before criticizing it. They are surprised how little media attention their report has received.
You’d think more media outlets would have been interested, because the sloppiness revealed in the DOI report is mind-boggling. Young undercover agents were able to vote using the names of people three times their age, people who in fact were dead. In one example, a 24-year female agent gave the name of someone who had died in 2012 at age 87; the workers at the Manhattan polling site gave her a ballot, no questions asked. Even the two cases where poll workers turned away an investigator raise eyebrows. In the first case, a poll worker on Staten Island walked outside with the undercover investigator who had just been refused a ballot; the “voter” was advised to go to the polling place near where he used to live and “play dumb” in order to vote. In the second case, the investigator was stopped from voting only because the felon whose name he was using was the son of the election official at the polling place.
Shooting the messenger has been a typical reaction in other states when people have demonstrated just how easy it is to commit voter fraud. Guerrilla videographer James O’Keefe had three of his assistants visit precincts during New Hampshire’s January 2012 presidential primary. They asked poll workers whether their books listed the names of several voters, all deceased individuals still listed on voter-registration rolls. Poll workers handed out ten ballots, never once asking for a photo ID. O’Keefe’s team immediately gave back the ballots, unmarked, to precinct workers. Debbie Lane, a ballot inspector at one of the Manchester polling sites, later said: “I wasn’t sure what I was allowed to do. . . . I can’t tell someone not to vote, I suppose.” The only precinct in which O’Keefe or his crew did not obtain a ballot was one in which the local precinct officer had personally known the dead “voter.”