Watchdog Groups Charge Vote Fraud; Return to Paper Ballots?
• Time for America to clean up its election process and stop vote thievery.
By Keith Johnson —
With each election season comes a fresh new batch of vote fraud claims from polling places across the nation. This year proved to be no exception as election watchdog groups in every state of the Union grappled with an unprecedented rise in duplicate ballot casting and non-citizen voters.
Nowhere are these challenges more apparent than in the state of Maryland, where lax voting laws have provided politically motivated fraudsters with ample opportunities to game the system.
In late October, election integrity group Virginia Voters Alliance (VVA) filed a lawsuit against two Maryland election boards after they found thousands of registered voters had misrepresented their legal status on official government documents. According to VVA’s investigation, many of the same residents who claimed United States citizenship on their voter registration cards denied being citizens on jury duty forms.
“If they were lying to get out of jury duty, that’s perjury, and if they were lying to get on voter rolls, that’s perjury,” said Reagan George, president of the VVA.
Voting by non-citizens is a bigger problem than most people realize. According to a Cooperative Congressional Election Study, over 14% of non-citizens were registered to vote in the last two election cycles. Though that only represents a tiny fraction of the U.S. population, a group of political science professors at Old Dominion University recently suggested that this participation is large enough to impact the outcome of close political races.
In a recent article for The Washington Post, the studies’ authors pointed out that non-citizen voters tend to favor Democrats and may have provided them with just enough votes to win some major victories.
“Non-citizen votes could have given Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health-care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress,” the article argued. “It is also possible that non-citizen votes were responsible for Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina. Obama won the state by 14,177 votes, so a turnout by 5.1% of North Carolina’s adult non-citizens would have provided this victory margin.”
As with North Carolina, the state of Maryland is consistently cited as a breeding ground for this kind of vote fraud primarily because of government policies that attract illegal aliens and allow them to take up residency with relative ease.
Among those working hard to address this problem is Cathy Kelleher, president of Election Integrity Maryland (EIM). Since 2011, Ms. Kelleher and her group of volunteers have made it their mission to restore faith in the election process by ensuring that voter registration records are maintained according to the National Voting Rights Act.
“We’re just a group of citizens trying to get people to do their jobs,” Ms. Kelleher said during a recent interview with this AMERICAN FREE PRESS reporter. “Initially, we found that the board of elections was paying little attention to the basic things they’re chartered and assigned to do, such as keeping the voter rolls free and clear of people who are deceased or have moved out of the area. Now we have additional problems with non-citizen voters and those casting ballots in more than one state.”
Unfortunately, getting the state of Maryland to address these emerging concerns has been an uphill battle, as Ms. Kelleher explained: “We recently found more than 40,000 people who were registered to vote both in Maryland and Virginia. Of those, we identified 164 people who voted in both states during the 2012 presidential elections. We’ve turned our evidence over to the board of elections and the state prosecutor in Maryland and they have done nothing with that so far.”
Unfortunately, getting the state of Maryland to address these emerging concerns has been an uphill battle, as Ms. Kelleher explained: “We recently found more than 40,000 people who were registered to vote both in Maryland and Virginia. Of those, we identified 164 people who voted in both states during the 2012 presidential elections. We’ve turned our evidence over to the board of elections and the state prosecutor in Maryland, and they have done nothing with that so far.”
When asked what measures EIM endorses to help remedy Maryland’s flawed electoral system, Ms. Kelleher replied: “We’ve always advocated having a government-issued photo ID as a way of getting a handle on who are actually casting votes. Right now it’s an honor system, and that’s not working.”
Ms. Kelleher went on to say that these recommendations have thus far been a hard sell on those who currently oversee Maryland’s voting policies.
“There’s this prevailing attitude against voter ID,” she said. “Even if you try to offer ID to help them understand the spelling of your name you are admonished by the checking judges. They believe asking for ID causes voter suppression and refuse to acknowledge statistics proving that voter participation is actually up in all states where ID is required.”
Aging electronic voting machines are also contributing to Maryland’s dysfunctional voting environment.
“Right now we’re working with older Diebold machines that have had serious calibration issues,” Ms. Kelleher said. “We’ve collected reports from people all over the state who claim to have voted for one candidate but the machine defaulted to another. Four years ago, Maryland had received the financing necessary to replace all of the voting machines in the state but Governor O’Malley decided to strike it from the budget and delay replacement of the machines until 2016. We want to know why.”
Of course it could be argued that the Democratic Governor’s reluctance could stem from the fact these machines are notorious for flipping Republican votes to Democrat. That argument, however, is something that Ms. Kelleher chooses not to entertain.
“We don’t make allegations based on speculation,” she said. “We deal with facts and the fact is that the system is not working to prevent duplicate voting and it does not protect the vote of a U.S. citizen from being cancelled out by a non-citizen. Maryland’s goal should be to preserve the sanctity of every legitimate voter but that’s not what’s being done.”
Keith Johnson is a writer based in Tennessee. He can be contacted at [email protected].
Return to Verifiable Paper Ballots Welcomed
By Olga Belinskaya
More and more states are dumping electronic voting machines and returning to verifiable pencil-and-paper voting systems. In the past two years, voting on electronic machines has fallen by 14%. According to election watchdog Verified Voting Foundation, Inc., in the 2014 congressional elections, only 25% of voters voted electronically without a paper record while 67% voted on a paper ballot. The remaining 8% voted on an electronic device with a paper record.
States shifted voting to unverifiable machines when the federal government invested $3 billion on direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines, which record the vote electronically instead of on a paper ballot after the battle over the “hanging chads” in the 2000 Florida presidential election. In 2000, 12.5% of voters used a DRE machine but by 2012 use peaked at 39%.
Over the decade, DRE proved expensive, unreliable and capable of adding, flipping and losing votes without an ability to recount. According to The Hill, a group from Princeton, New Jersey needed only seven minutes and simple hacking tools to install a computer program on a digital voting machine that took votes for one candidate and gave them to another.
States are returning to paper ballots as the electronic machines wear out. Concerns about the integrity of elections and the price of technology are driving the return to paper. Counties must pay for and maintain the faulty DRE machines, which cost twice as much as the optical scan systems that count paper ballots.
Take for example Sedgwick County, Kansas, where a fleet of new DRE machines may cost as much as $7 million, or $346 paid by each person between age 18-65 in a county where the median household income is $50,000.
Although paper ballots are returning, 25% of votes in the 2014 congressional election were still cast electronically. Reports of flipped votes surfaced within hours of polls opening. By noon of Election Day in Maryland, the GOP had alerted the state Board of Elections to 50 reports of votes switching from Republican to Democrat.
For example, Marsha Epstein’s Republican vote registered after three attempts and help from an election judge. “My concern is if you’re not alert, you would think you were voting Republican but you’re voting for a Democrat,” said Maryland voter William Childers, whose vote flipped to Democratic.
Juan E. Gilbert, Ph.D., who helped design a DRE machine, blamed the flipped votes on sensitive screens and voters who are careless, have fat fingers or long nails. A video posted to the Internet, however, clearly showed one voter choosing a Republican candidate but the Democratic box being highlighted again and again.
Systematic problems with voting equipment have driven Los Angeles County, one of the biggest voting jurisdictions in the U.S., to decide to build its own voting system using commonly available software that returns control of elections to the public, reports USA Today.
Olga Belinskaya is a native of Ukraine and is AFP’s former bookstore manager. She is currently a peace and monetary reform activist now based in Virginia.