Absentee ballot vote fraud
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Definition of absentee ballot fraud
The United States Department of Justice in a 2006 Report defined the following actions that constitute absentee voting fraud.
- Voting or attempting to vote more than once during the same election as someone may vote absentee in the one municipality as an absentee voter and votes again in person in the same or different municipality on election day.
- Knowingly causing to be mailed or distributed, or knowingly mailing or distributing, literature that includes false information about absentee ballot information, voter’s precinct or polling place, the date and time of the election or a candidate.
- Intentionally changing, attempting to change, or causing to be changed an official election document including ballots, tallies, and returns.
- Intentionally delaying, attempting to delay, or causing to be delayed the sending of certificate, register, ballots (in-person or absentee) or other materials whether original or duplicate required to be sent by jurisdictional law.
- Intentionally making a false affidavit, swearing falsely, or falsely affirming under an oath required by a statute regarding their voting status, including when registering to vote, requesting an absentee ballot or presenting to vote in person.
- Registering to vote whether in person or absentee without being entitled to register.
- Knowingly making a materially false statement on an application for voter registration, absentee ballot or early voting, or re-registration.
- Voting or attempting to vote in an election after being disqualified or when the person knows that he or she is not eligible to vote.
Other types of absentee ballot fraud include:
- Many people may choose to live in a certain city or state for only as long as needed to vote in an election depending on state law.
- People who work in the city government they vote in but they do not live in the city of jurisdiction at the time of the election.
Absentee ballot requests by state in 2008
|State||Absentee ballots requested||Expected turnout|
Episodes of absentee vote fraud
- See also: Vote fraud in Alabama
Valada Paige Banks, a former member of the Greensboro City Council, pled guilty to voter fraud in September 2009 and was given a 12-month prison sentence. The sentence was suspended; however, Banks is prohibited from participating in any absentee voting or voter registration activity while she is on probation.
Banks was convicted on the evidence that she had forged an affidavit of an absentee voter. She pled guilty to criminal possession of a forged instrument with intent to defraud.
- See also: Vote fraud in Arizona
James A. Marshall and Karen S. Marshall of Green Valley, Arizona, pled guilty to a misdemeanor count of deprivation under color of law after they were accused by federal prosecutors of voting twice in the 2008 elections, once in Arizona and once in Kansas. The Marshalls admitted to a U.S. Magistrate that they had voted by mail in Kansas and in Arizona.
- See also: Vote fraud in Florida
The Miami Herald won a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering how "vote brokers" employed by Xavier Suarez, a Republican and a candidate for mayor of Miami, stole the 1997 mayoral election by tampering with 4,740 absentee ballots. According to the paper, many of the votes were cast by homeless people who didn't live in the city and who were paid $10 apiece and shuttled to the election office in vans.
All the absentee ballots were thrown out by a court four months later and Suarez's opponent, Joe Carollo, was installed as the city's mayor. The wording on the Pulitzer description was "for [the Miami Herald's] detailed reporting that revealed pervasive voter fraud in a city mayoral election that was subsequently overturned."
- See also: Vote fraud in Mississippi
Connie Hollins of Woodville, Mississippi, went on trial in September 2009 on three counts of voter fraud. The allegation is that she committed absentee ballot vote fraud during a 2007 Democratic Party primary in Wilkinson County. leveled during the Wilkinson County Democratic primary, the prosecution of the only person charged in the incident will begin Monday.
- See also: New Jersey vote fraud
Ronald Harris of Atlantic City pled guilty on October 13, 2009 of engaging in fraud with messenger-delivered absentee ballots. The fraud was engaged in to help the (unsuccessful) June 2009 primary campaign of Atlantic City Councilman Marty Small who was running for Mayor on the Democratic Party ticket. Harris may serve up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $15,000 is possible.
Twelve other campaign workers have also been charged but Harris is the first to plead guilty. Harris said that he conspired with others involved in Small's mayoral campaign to submit false documents related to the procurement, casting, or tabulation of messenger absentee ballots in the primary.
Prosecutors say that those under investigation:
- Solicited "applications for messenger absentee ballots from individuals not qualified to receive them and had the voters not fill in the name of the messenger, so they could fraudulently designate themselves as the authorized messengers or bearers."
- Obtained "messenger ballots from the county clerk and submitted them to the board of elections as vote s on behalf of voters who, in fact, never received or voted the ballots or, in some cases, were given only the security envelope for the ballot and were told to sign it. Those voters were not given the opportunity to vote in most instances."
- "Picked up sealed absentee ballots from voters, unsealed them and, if they were votes for mayoral candidates other than Small, destroyed them, thereby disenfranchising those voters. If they were votes for Small, they allegedly resealed them and submitted them as votes."
- "Illegally instructed voters to fill in messenger ballots as votes for Small."
- "Submitted voter registration applications and messenger ballot applications on behalf of individuals who were not residents of Atlantic City, falsely representing they were."
- "Forged the signatures of voters on messenger ballots."
- "Fraudulently delivered messenger ballot applications and messenger ballots to voters simultaneously and instructed the voters to fill out both during the same visit."
- See also: Vote fraud in New York
A special prosecutor has been named to investigate the allegations of thirty-four citizens of Troy, New York, who claim that workers and officials of the Democratic and Working Families Parties duped them into signing applications for the September 15, 2009 Working Families Party primary, even though they were not eligible to vote. After filling out the forms, they say, they never received absentee ballots until later when an investigator showed them forged signatures where they supposedly had voted.
- See also: Vote fraud in Ohio
- The Hamilton County Board of Elections announced in October 2009 that it is investigating a case of attempted voter fraud based on the fact that absentee ballot applications were turned in using false information. The fraud was identified because although the names and addresses on the ballots were correct, the social security numbers and signatures didn't match voter registration cards. Inconsistencies were noticed in a batch of about 40 applications on Thursday, September 29. The office said, "There have been attempts in the past to fraudulently register people to vote. This is now going a step further in attempting to actually garner a ballot. And then, I assume, once they got that absentee ballot, if they were successful, they would try to vote it."
- The Franklin County Board of Elections said in October 2009 that it was investigating questionable absentee ballot applications that it discovered in a raid on an office of the Ohio Jobs and Growth Committee in Cincinnati.
- See also: Vote fraud in Texas
A Dallas County election administrator said that his election office had received a voice message from a Lois Parrott asking for "two applications" for absentee ballots. Lois Parrott, however, did not request any such ballots, according to her husband, who is a candidate for the Dallas Independent School District.
The state Attorney General's office in Texas has charged a number of people over the last few years with mail-in ballot fraud, sending some to jail and taking plea bargains on others. Most of this activity has been occurring in South Texas, where generations of legal get-out-the-vote activity has turned into illegal vote harvesting. 
Laws governing absentee voting
No-fault absentee voting
A majority of states across the nation have no-fault absentee voting meaning that there is no excuse needed in order to be granted an absentee ballot. This practice has been criticized widely by organizations including the Heritage Foundation who has been adamant on this issue since the late 1990's when there was massive absentee balloting fraud in Alabama. The Heritage Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit conservative think tank, has argued that absentee ballots should be reserved for individuals who cannot vote in person at their assigned polling place on Election Day or at early voting sites prior to the election.
Absentee ballots are appropriate for individuals who are too ill or disabled to vote in person, as well as voters who have legitimate reasons why they cannot vote in person, such as soldiers stationed overseas, but they should not be available just for convenience's sake, because the risk of fraud is too high. As an alternative, many states have early voting statutes that allow in-person voting at government-run polling places for a certain amount of time prior to Election Day. From an election integrity standpoint, early voting has been argued by Heritage as a much safer alternative to expanded absentee balloting.
A growing source of absentee voting fraud complaints have been over absentee ballot applications being distributed by third party organizations such as Presidential Campaigns, political parties, etc. During the 2008 elections, there has been increased complaints against both Presidential Campaigns over the legitmacy of absentee ballot applications being distributed by third party organizations. Organizations such as the as The Heritage Foundation and the National Campaign for Fair Elections argue that state laws should allow only voters, their immediate family members, or their caregivers to deliver absentee ballots either to the post office or directly to election officials.
Signature and witness verification
Since the 2000 electoral chaos in Florida, more states have had requirements for voters that vote absentee to have a witness sign off on the certification on the envelope and or also submit a photocopy of photo ID when submitting an absentee ballot. This measure has been long argued by organizations like the National Campaign for Fair Elections and the Heritage Foundation.
Trends in absentee voting
Who votes absentee?
A Commission on National Electoral Reform hosted by former US Presidents Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter revealed that types of people are very prone to vote absentee out of sheer necessity are students, retirees, persons with permanent disabilities, and members of the armed forces are all several times more likely to vote absentee than other Americans.
The 2001 study also argued that the use of absentee ballots also has a class bias. People with better educations, higher incomes, and more prestigious jobs are more likely to vote absentee. The highest rates of absentee usage are among holders of graduate and professional degrees and among persons with the very highest family incomes. Also, the report has cited with other independent reports that people in managerial and professional occupations are the most likely to use absentee voting. Citizens of higher social and economic status are not only more likely to need to vote absentee—because they are traveling on business, for instance—but also more likely to know that they will have to plan ahead to obtain an absentee ballot.
Liberalization of laws
Since the 1970's according to the Ford-Carter commission report that California started the trend in which many states now today offer no-fault absentee balloting. California in 1978 liberalized access to absentee ballots in which paved the way for 22 states now make an absentee ballot available to any registered voter who requests one, without need to show cause. Thirty-two percent of the voting age citizen population lives in a state that provides an absentee ballot automatically upon request according to the Ford-Carter Commission Report. Many states in the South have stricter laws requiring an verifiable excuse such as traveling on business, disablity, illness, or a college student living out of state as how they can grant an absentee ballot at fault.
The Ford-Carter commission report also cited that no-fault absentee balloting increased voter turnout. The Ford-Carter Commission report stated that in 1980, just as the movement toward liberalization of access to absentee ballots was begun, five percent of voters nationwide cast their votes by absentee ballot. In 1996, 10 percent nationwide voted prior to Election Day, either by mail (8 percent), mostly by absentee voting, or in-person before Election Day (3 percent), mostly by early voting. In states with liberal access to voting before Election Day, the percentages are still higher. Thirty-nine percent of the 2000 presidential vote in Texas was cast early, and 24.6 percent of the 2000 vote in California was by absentee.
Still, there has not been any evidence that tougher absentee ballot laws are turning away voters as this year in 2008, states like Ohio and Wisconsin are seeing record amounts of requests for absentee ballots and early voting keeping municipal clerks busy.
State-by-state laws about absentee voting
No-fault absentee voting states
Thirty-three states do not require a reason (no fault) in order to be granted an absentee ballot:.
States where a reason must be given
Sixteen states require a verifiable excuse before they will grant an absentee ballot..
The only state exempt from the two categories is Oregon as Oregon does all elections by mail.
- U.S. Department of Defense Federal Voting Assistance Program (With links to military and civilian absentee voting information for US citizens)
- Long Distance Voter absentee voter guides for every state (includes forms and directions]
- GoVoteAbsentee (ZIP code matched absentee ballot forms for every state & municipality with detailed instructions)
- "Voting is Easy" by Rock the Vote includes absentee information geared toward college students
- Archived list of states' rules on the timing of absentee ballot counting, and who does the counting
- Historical Absentee Ballot Use in California
- U.S. overseas absentee voter registration website (by Democrats Abroad)
- Astronaut Casts Vote from Space
- No Vote By Mail, Problems with Absentee, Postal, and Vote-by-mail systems
- Fraud and abuse
- ↑ US Election Commission Assistance, Election Crimes: An Initial Review and Recommendations for Future Study, December 2006
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 620 WTMJ News, MPD: "More Ballots Cast Than Voters Recorded" in '04 Election, Feb. 26, 2008
- ↑ Ohio Daily Blog, "Brunner announces absentee ballot numbers"
- ↑ WHNT-19 News, "Ex-councilwoman convicted in Greensboro voter fraud, had forged affidavit of absentee voter", September 14, 2009
- ↑ Green Valley News, "GV couple plead guilty in vote-fraud case", September 14, 2009
- ↑ Campaign Watch
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 New Jersey Newsroom, "Marty Small campaign worker pleads guilty to ballot fraud", October 13, 2009
- ↑ WTEN-TV, "Voter fraud alleged in City of Troy", September 28, 2009
- ↑ WCPO-TV, "Officials: Voting Ballots Had False Information", October 7, 2009
- ↑ NBC 4, "Possible Voter Registration Fraud"
- ↑ Dallas ISD, "Voter fraud allegation alleged in District 3 race", September 14, 2009
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, "Voter fraud persists in South Texas as enforcement efforts fail", April 7, 2010
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 13.2 Heritage Blog, Absentee Ballot Fraud: A Stolen Election in Greene County, Alabama, Sept. 5, 2008
- ↑ Gazette Extra, Absentee voting expected to increase in Wisconsin, Sept. 19, 2008
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 PEW's Center on States, "Election Preview 2008"