Voter Fraud: Devil, Details, etc.

Does voter fraud exist? I mean, really exist?

The answer, from an article in yesterday’s New York Times:

The court found that all five restrictions “disproportionately affected African-Americans.” The law’s voter identification provision, for instance, “retained only those types of photo ID disproportionately held by whites and excluded those disproportionately held by African-Americans.”

That was the case, the court said, even though the state had “failed to identify even a single individual who has ever been charged with committing in-person voter fraud in North Carolina.” But it did find that there was evidence of fraud in absentee voting by mail, a method used disproportionately by white voters. The Legislature, however, exempted absentee voting from the photo ID requirement.

So it does exist.

From an editorial in the same day’s Times:

So here it is: Voting fraud is extremely rare, and in-person fraud — the only kind that would be caught by voter ID laws — is essentially nonexistent, as study after study has shown. And as for those foreigners, a new survey of local election officials in 42 jurisdictions turned up a total of about 30 cases of suspected noncitizen voting last November — out of more than 23 million votes.

So it exists, but it’s rare. Here are the figures. A couple of hundred voters here and there.

From an entry in Wikipedia for the village of “Kiryas Joel, New York,” which I was inspired to read after listening to this lecture.

Electoral fraud allegations[edit]

On four occasions since 1990, the Middletown Times-Herald Record has run lengthy investigative articles on claims of electoral fraud in the village. A 1996 article found that Kiryas Joel residents who were students at yeshivas in Brooklyn had on many occasions apparently registered and voted in both the village and Brooklyn;[26] a year later the paper reported that it had happened again. In 2001 absentee ballots were apparently cast by voters who did not normally reside in the village. In some cases, ballots were cast by people who seemed to reside in Antwerp, Belgium, without a set date of expected return and thus would not be allowed under New York law to vote in any election for state or local office. That article led to a county grand jury investigation in 2001, which concluded that while procedures were not followed and many mistakes were made, there was no evidence of deliberate intent to violate the law.[27]

Before the 2013 Republican primary in that year’s special election for the state assembly seat vacated by Annie Rabbitt, later elected county clerk, members of United Monroe, a local group that organizes and coordinates political opposition to the village and those local officials it believes support it, asked the county’s Board of Elections to assign them to Kiryas Joel as election inspectors, who verify that voters are registered before allowing them to vote. The board’s Democratic commissioner, Sue Bahrens, initially agreed to appoint six to serve in the village, but later reversed that decision. The six sued the county, alleging religious discrimination; it responded that they had no standing to sue. Village Manager Gedalye Szegedin said the citizens were entitled to have inspectors who spoke Yiddish and understood their culture and customs. A state court justice dismissed the discrimination claim but ruled that the United Monroe inspectors had been dismissed arbitrarily and capriciously and were entitled to their appointments, but did not say when or where.[27]

In 2014, the newspaper examined claims by poll watchers from United Monroe that they were intimidated and harassed by other poll watchers sympathetic to the village government when they tried to challenge voters whose signatures did not initially appear to match those on file during the previous year’s elections for county offices. They further alleged that election inspectors in the polling place, a banquet hall where 6,000 residents voted, sometimes gave the voters ballots before the signatures could be checked.[27]

Some of the United Monroe poll watchers claimed that Langdon Chapman, an attorney for the Monroe town board, which they believe is controlled by members deferential to Kiryas Joel and its interests, was one of those who intimidated them. Coleman told the Record that while he had been at the banquet hall in question, he had only insisted that poll watchers state the reason for their challenges, as legally required, and had left after two hours. He was subsequently appointed county attorney (the lawyer who represents the county in civil matters) by new county executive Steve Neuhaus, whose margin of victory included all but 20 of the votes from the village.[27]

After the election, United Monroe members found over 800 voters in Kiryas Joel whose signatures did not match those on file, in addition to 25 they had challenged at the polls, three of whom were later investigated by the county sheriff; the rest were considered unfounded. Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler, elected along with Neuhaus, told the newspaper it was difficult to investigate the allegations since they could not verify the identity of either signer, if in fact there were two. The Record attempted to contact some of those voters; the only one they reached hung up when asked about the election.[27]

So it exists, but it’s rare–a couple of hundred voters here and there, maybe a couple thousand–and yet sometimes worth taking sufficiently seriously to require repeated journalistic and legal investigation.

Obviously, the real question is: what are the criteria for “sometimes”?

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