by Rob Roper, 11/16/16
The real threat of voter fraud comes not from someone showing up at the polls claiming to be someone they’re not (though that’s certainly not good), but rather through the growing prevalence of absentee ballots.
How does the state or a town clerk know for sure that A) the person they sent an absentee ballot to is the person who actually requested it, B) that the absentee ballot was received by the person who was supposed to receive it, and C) that the ballot was filled out and returned by the voter authorized to do so? Answer: They don’t. No clue.
Vermont Watchdog recently ran a story on how absentee ballots could pose a major problem in our state in which the reporter posed some hypothetical situations for the Secretary of State’s office:
… someone wishing to commit fraud could request ballots without permission and have them sent to addresses where they can collect them and fill them out. When Watchdog posed that scenario to [Will] Senning [,director of elections], he admitted that the fraudster would “not necessarily” be caught.
Deborah Beckett, the Williston Town Clerk, confirmed, “Once a ballot leaves the office, you don’t know that it reaches the right person.” The reality is, the people running the elections and counting the votes have no way of knowing for sure if the people casting the votes are legitimate voters or not. So, how can these be considered valid votes?
Moreover, there is no way (barring luck) to identify if and/or how often fraud occurs. If someone did request an absentee ballot for someone else intending to commit fraud, and that voter did show up to the polls only to be told they had already voted absentee, would it be considered a clerical error or a crime? And if by chance a crime, how would authorities identify and catch the person who committed the crime? You probably couldn’t.
And, so officials like our Secretary of State, Jim Condos, say voter fraud doesn’t occur. But he has no clue whether it does or not because the system allows no way of knowing.
This is a big problem and getting bigger. 95,203 ballots in Vermont out of 320,467 were cast absentee. In North Carolina there is an investigation looking into fraudulent “absentee ballot mills” that could have impacted the outcome of their gubernatorial election. We’ll see what happens there.
But in the mean time the next legislature in Vermont should demand that systems be put in place to ensure our town clerks have the ability to prove that the votes they are counting are cast by voters who are who they say they are, and live where they say they live. Until that occurs, our elections are less than legitimate.
- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute