As my cover story in the latest issue of the magazine notes, voting and election fraud are real, and we need safeguards against them; they are also unlikely to affect elections decided by anything but the narrowest of margins, and hard to escape detection when frauds involve significant numbers of votes. News from Aberdeen, Miss., underlines all of those points, as a notary’s actions in notarizing ballots without observing their signatures led to vacating the results of an election decided by 37 votes, where 66 ballots were invalid:
A judge is ordering a new runoff election for the Ward 1 alderman seat in Aberdeen. In the sixty-four-page order, Judge Jeff Weill not only calls for a new election but also finds evidence of fraud and criminal activity, in how absentee ballots were handled, how votes were counted, and the actions by some at the polling place. In his ruling, the judge said that sixty-six of eighty-four absentee ballots cast in the June runoff were not valid and should never have been counted. Nicholas Holliday was declared the winner by a 37 vote margin. Robert Devaull challenged the results in court. Judge Weill found many irregularities with absentee ballots. He issued a bench warrant for notary Dallas Jones, who notarized absentee ballots. During a hearing, Jones admitted violating notary duties. “When you have an absentee ballot, there’s an envelope, you vote, fold the ballot, put it in an envelope, lick the flap, sign across the flap, then notary signs your election certificate, she testified that she didn’t sign in front of anybody, didn’t see anybody sign it, she just notarized it, just stamped them,” said Lydia Quarles, attorney for Robert Devaull.