New York City’s Department of Investigation (DOI) has just shown how easy it is to commit voter fraud that is almost undetectable. Its undercover agents were able to obtain ballots for city elections a total of 61 times — 39 times using the names of dead people, 14 times using the names of incarcerated felons, and eight times using the names of non-residents. On only two occasions, or about 3 percent of the time, were the agents stopped by polling-place officials. In one of the two cases, an investigator was stopped only because the felon he was trying to vote in the name of was the son of the election official he was dealing with.
Ballot security in checking birth dates or signatures was so sloppy that young undercover agents were able to vote using the name of someone three times their age who had died. As the New York Post reports: “A 24-year female was able to access the ballot at a Manhattan poll site in November under the name of a deceased female who was born in 1923 and died in April 25, 2012 — and would have been 89 on Election Day.” All of the agents who got ballots wrote in the names of fictitious candidates so as not to actually influence election outcomes.
Last year, guerrilla videographer James O’Keefe sent hidden cameras into polling places around the country to demonstrate just how easy it is to commit voter fraud and how hard it is to ever know it happened. In Washington, D.C., one of his assistants was able to obtain Attorney General Eric Holder’s ballot even though Holder is 62 years old and bears no resemblance to the 22-year-old white man who obtained it by merely asking if Holder was on the rolls. In New Hampshire, poll workers handed his assistants ballots in the names of ten dead people. After a public outcry, New Hampshire’s legislature passed a photo-ID law over the veto of the state’s Democratic governor.
But opponents of photo-ID laws scoffed at O’Keefe’s revelations. The Department of Justice, which is currently suing Texas to block that state’s photo-ID law, dismissed the Holder ballot incident as “manufactured.” The irony was lost on them that Holder, a staunch opponent of voter-ID laws, could have himself been disenfranchised by a white man because Washington, D.C., has no voter-ID law. Polls consistently show that more than 70 percent of Americans — including clear majorities of African Americans and Hispanics — support such laws.
An even richer irony is that it is the people Attorney General Holder purports to speak for — the poor, often minority, inner-city residents — who suffer the most from voter fraud.
As law professor Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit noted: “Many of America’s largest and worst-governed cities suffer from entrenched and corrupt political machines that maintain their position in no small part via voter fraud. Corrupt machines (like that of Detroit’s disgraced ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick) siphon off money that should go to essential services and instead divert it to political fatcats and their supporters.”
But after O’Keefe’s stings, the elite media once again yawned and dismissed concerns about voter fraud. New York magazine asked if it were possible to organize fraudsters to go to different polling places to vote for a particular candidate. “Sure, it’s probably doable,” they concluded. “But it has never happened. . . . National Weather Service data shows that Americans are struck and killed by lightning about as often [as voter fraud happens].”
But how would we know fraud had occurred if procedures are as lax as New York’s Department of Investigation found? If one of the undercover agents had cast a vote for a real candidate, would any of the dead people, felons sitting in jail, or out-of-city residents have complained? “It could be the perfect crime because once a secret ballot is cast you can’t go back and identify one that’s fraudulent,” former California secretary of state Bruce McPherson once told me. “Because it’s so hard to detect is why strong prevention measures against fraud, like clean voter rolls, voter ID, and better security on absentee ballots are vital.” The issue of dead people on the voter rolls is a real one: A 2012 study by the Pew Research Center found that nationwide that are at least 1.8 million deceased voters still registered to vote.
The New York Department of Investigation’s report doesn’t address the serious issue of absentee-ballot fraud, where at least a paper trail to catch fraud can be created. But it does highlight a troubling case indicating that voter impersonation Chicago-style is still with us. The report noted that the Gothamist newspaper had reported that in New York City’s September primary election:
People had attempted to vote for other registered voters at IS 71, a poll site in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. DOI spoke with four poll workers assigned to IS 71 who cited multiple instances of young men they believed were attempting to vote for other registered voters at IS 71 during the 2013 primary and additional instances during the 2013 runoff election. Two of the poll workers recalled instances where young men who appeared to be 19 or 20 years old sought to vote as registered voters who were in their thirties or sixties based on the dates of birth recorded in the registration books. One of the poll inspectors stated that she asked some individuals to confirm their dates of birth, after which they typically walked away without voting.”
The city’s Board of Elections monitored that polling site for the rest of the day but how much hanky-panky could have been happening at the city’s other polling places? The DOI report paints a scathing picture of a Board of Elections chock full of political patronage employees and rife with “systemic problems with accountability, transparency and dysfunction.”
As the New York DOI report demonstrates, it is comically easy to commit voter fraud in person, and, unless someone confesses, it’s very difficult to ever detect — or stop. The Gothamist reported that police officers observed the problems at IS 71 last September but did nothing because voter fraud isn’t under the department’s purview.
Opponents of photo-ID laws — which the DOI report does not address — claim they will block people from voting. But there are very few cases of legitimate voters who have been unable to have their vote counted because they lacked ID. People who show up without photo ID at the polls are allowed to cast a provisional ballot that is counted after proof of identity is offered.
“From voter fraud to election chicanery of all kinds, America teeters on the edge of scandal every November,” writes Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and author of a comprehensive survey of voter fraud called “Dirty Little Secrets.” The fact that so many people want to thwart legitimate and prudent efforts to improve ballot integrity has become a scandal in its own right.