A principal named Larry Henson watched a woman vote three times, and in 2013, he told a North Carolina legislative committee about the experience.
“On the second time, I pointed her out to the chief judge,” he said. “The third time, I again pointed her out to the chief judge . . . (who) looked into it and saw that the lady was trying to vote for a man. When questioned, she replied, ‘You’re trying to deny my neighbor’s right to vote.’ She was voting for someone else.”
Besides voiding the ballot, the chief judge took no further action. Nobody collected evidence – not even a fingerprint – that could aid in prosecution. Instead, the judge told the triple voter, “Go get your neighbor.”
Such catch-and-release policies ensured that she could try again later, after Larry went home. This lack of prosecution allows fraud-deniers to repeatedly claim that there is no vote fraud in North Carolina.
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For the past five years, the Voter Integrity Project has forensically analyzed vote fraud and made corrective recommendations to lawmakers and law enforcers brave enough to listen. So far, we’ve inspired a few good reforms. We’ve also triggered 17 criminal referrals and two indictments.
Our first conviction was a registered Republican who admitted he voted in three states during the same federal election in November 2012 and even submitted a false Social Security number in one of his registrations.
Critics counter that voter ID wouldn’t have prevented those crimes. Half true. While “real” voter ID laws would, indeed, have prevented this felony, North Carolina’s “fake-ID” law does little to stop this and several other types of vote fraud.
This problem stems from 1993 election reforms that shifted the landscape to allow only laws that might expand the opportunity to vote, but nobody mentions risk assessment. Until the public demanded voter ID, every reform loosened our system’s ability to prevent fraud.Pick any law: no-excuse absentee voting, early voting, same-day registration, nongovernmental registrars and out-of-precinct provisional voting. We’ve found fraud and abuse with each provision.
Efforts to improve turnout always invite more fraud. Granted, such laws do help activists drag a few more low-commitment voters into the polls, but the overall participation rate remains stagnant. Even Norway halted its online voting experiment after it failed to increase turnout and demonstrably lowered public trust in the system.
The media, academic and political elite mindlessly buy into the myth of honor-based elections and join the chorus that attacks anybody reporting discordant facts. Illustrating this point, the first time VIP identified vote fraud, we challenged more than 500 voters who had ducked jury duty by claiming to be non-U.S. citizens. Instead of thanking us, an election official scolded us for “undermining public confidence in the electoral process.”
We deserve better. The Federal Republic of Mexico now requires a “real” government-issued photo ID card, thumbprint included. Then, on Election Day, each voter must sign a form and give a thumbprint, just like cashing a check at bank.
We never thought we’d believe Mexico conducts elections more honestly and competently than America, but thanks to our fraud-friendly election laws, the only banana republic remaining on this continent is ours.
Our nation’s con-game approach to elections must be corrected, but useful reform will never start unless mitigating fraud is valued equally with increasing turnout.
Lt. Col Jay DeLancy (retired, USAF) is director of the Voter Integrity Project, a Raleigh-based nonpartisan organization.