North Carolina’s State Board of Elections is referring evidence to prosecutors that five people appear to have voted in both North Carolina and in Florida. The information the board is passing on wasn’t gathered by government officials, but by a private watchdog group called the Voter Integrity Project.
Jay DeLancy, a former Air Force lieutenant colonel who is VIP’s executive director, told me that his group was only able to check the voting records of people who voted in 2012, listed an alternate address in the other state, and also voted in the second state. “Lots of students and snowbirds don’t list addresses in two states when they vote, so we feel the felony fraud we uncovered could be the tip of an iceberg,” he told me. The fraudulent voters typically voted at the polls in one state and by absentee ballot in the other.
In January, VIP turned its list of 33 suspects over to both the Florida secretary of state’s office and the N.C. Board of Elections office and asked them to investigate. This month, the North Carolina Election Board indicated that five of the names had matching signatures on voter books in both states and they would be referred for possible prosecution. “The Board doesn’t have the power to prosecute election fraud but we hope the legislature grants them that power this year,” DeLancy told me. The legislature is also currently debating a bill that would require North Carolina voters to show proof of ID before they vote.
DeLancy says his group’s experience makes clear why critics of voter ID can claim almost no fraud exists. “Prosecutors don’t make voter fraud a priority, and basically don’t act unless someone refers an airtight case to them,” he told me. He noted that VIP was lucky both North Carolina and Florida have relatively open voter records which can be searched for problems. Some states, such as California, don’t even have a statewide database of voters, so there’s no realistic way for outside groups to detect fraud.
“The fraud deniers give good sound bites,” says DeLancy, “but their claim that there is almost no fraud is as absurd as claiming that no speeding happens on I-40 unless the Highway Patrol writes tickets.”
The need to clean up the nation’s voter rolls is urgent. The Pew Center on the States reported that one of out of every eight voter registrations in the U.S. are no longer valid or contain major errors. In addition, nearly 2 million dead people are listed as voters — providing a way for the unscrupulous to vote in their names with little risk of detection. Finally, by Pew’s estimate, some 2.75 million people are registered to vote in more than one state.
Both Pew and another group headed by Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach are promoting multi-state databases that would make it easier for jurisdictions to exchange voter information and catch problems and potential fraudsters.
As it is right now, under our current voter-registration system there is almost no chance of individuals who register and vote illegally in more than one state being caught because states do not run comparisons between their voter registration lists. So there are really no security mechanisms in place in our registration honor system to prevent double or triple votes by people who want to abuse the system.