Voter Fraud Watch: A Primer on What to Watch For
Our resident expert on election law explains the ins and outs of how to detect voter fraud. Join PJM/PJTV's Voter Fraud Watch
October 27, 2010 - 12:02 am
There’s been lots of talk about voter fraud this election season. Already machines have purportedly preselected candidates and in other places, documents demonstrate non-citizens are registered to vote. Anyone who says voter fraud doesn’t exist has no credibility. I’ve covered elections for over 10 years. I’ve seen it over and over again with my own eyes. I’ve proved it in federal court. It is significantly more common than Sasquatch.
But what does voter fraud look like? What can citizens be on the lookout for when they participate in their election? Let me share some examples:
Commands to vote
I’ve seen election judges telling voters for whom to vote. In Philadelphia, I have repeatedly seen the people who sign you in and check off your name give instructions to voters for whom to vote. It isn’t supposed to work that way, and if you see it, get the name of the election official and report it to their boss. Better yet, try to get the name of the voter.
Mass illegal assistance
One of the most outrageous behaviors is campaigns of illegal assistance. I’ve seen lone soldiers of a political machine march dozens of voters into the booth and vote for them. In some instances the voter provided little or no input. Remember that disabled citizens have a right under federal law to have anyone assist them, as long as it is not an employer or union representative. Illiteracy and inability to speak English well also trigger this right. So just because someone is in the booth with a voter doesn’t mean something illegal is happening. But if you see van loads of voters being “voted” without expressing their own input, get the tag number of the van and remember what illegal assistant looked like.
I’ve watched people in states without voter ID seek to vote who were clearly not the people they said they were. During one election, I saw a young man give a name. It caused the women working the polls who knew him to laugh at him and tell him to stop fooling them. He insisted, even under watchful eyes, that he was this person everyone knew him not to be. Everyone was laughing, but the poll workers relented and reluctantly gave him a ballot, somewhat perturbed that he pushed the issue. For a brief moment, he was someone else. And since voter ID was not the law in this state, he voted a regular ballot.
Absentee ballot signature mismatches
In some states, there must be signature verification on the absentee ballots. Signatures of the voter must match with supposedly identical signatures. Some states even have a review process open to the public that allows scrutiny of the matching process. Pay attention. Hang out after the polls close and watch. Mississippi, for example, has a rigorous process where every absentee ballot must be reviewed and they are subject to challenge for defects. Even defects as small as a signature not being across a flap properly are potentially fatal defects.
Cash for votes
The last few years have seen numerous indictments for people being paid to vote. In one southwestern Virginia county, it wasn’t even cash. Instead, votes were being bought for pork rinds. Whatever the payout, it is illegal to pay someone something to vote. If you see wads of bills around the election site, it is usually a problem. I once watched a woman keep the wad of cash in her bra. She pulled it out over and over throughout the day.
It most states, there are laws against just hanging out at the polls. Know your state law. In Texas, for example, nobody is allowed inside the polls or within a certain distance of the entrance if they are not voting. Video of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee potentially violating this law was shown on the internet in the last few days. Loiterers can be a sign of a bigger problem. If nothing else, election officials who fail to enforce rules against polling place loitering can hardly be counted on to enforce other important integrity safeguards. And loitering rules are an integrity safeguard.
Intimidation of poll watchers
Poll watchers serve an important role in our elections. They are eyes and ears that make sure illegal behavior is recorded. Naturally, the deployment of dozens of highly trained poll workers in Houston at every early voting site in Houston unsettled some. Law abiding citizens with pen and pad can do more to stop election fraud than anything else. It is no wonder incident after incident of intimidation was directed to the poll watchers. Poll watchers prevent voter fraud. No quarter should be given to those intimidating poll watchers. Get names, tag numbers, physical descriptions of the intimidators, and, if state law allows, video evidence.