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"Voter Fraud Charges Collapse":

In October 2004, I posted some about some allegations of voter fraud, under the title "Pretty Appalling, If True." An update cited a Florida Today story, which read (in part), "A field director for one of the many national partisan organizations trying to drum up votes in Florida admits to routine efforts to rig the outcome. They include submitting thousands of invalid voter registration cards, as well as failing to turn in boxes of cards filled out to register Republicans. 'There was a lot of fraud committed,' said Mac Stuart, former Miami-Dade field director for ACORN. Among his allegations — that ACORN "quality control" workers routinely kicked back Republican voter registrations while paying for Democratic ones. 'They said they had enough,' he said."

Well, it seems that the charges in the update were in fact not true. According to the St. Petersburg Times (Dec. 15, 2005),

Fourteen months after a campaign to increase Florida's minimum wage drew allegations of voter fraud, a federal judge in South Florida has ruled at least some of those accusations against grass roots political group ACORN were so baseless they amount to defamation.

U.S. District Judge James King has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Mac Stuart, a former ACORN employee, saying Stuart never provided evidence to support his claim that he was fired because he uncovered voter fraud. . . .

The judge upheld ACORN's counterclaim that Stuart's lack of evidence made his allegations libel and slander. The group has always claimed it fired Stuart for insubordination. . . .

An investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement also found no evidence of criminal activity at ACORN, department officials confirmed Wednesday. . . .

I'm sorry to have inadvertently passed along the erroneous accusations, but glad to be able to report this latest development.

Defending the Indefensible:
It's much harder to tamper with elections using paper ballots than it is with proprietary closed-source electronic voting machines.
2.8.2006 12:25pm
AF:
Prof. Volokh,

Thank you for this post. It's a prime example of the non-hackdom that makes the VC a great site.
2.8.2006 1:02pm
Houston Lawyer:
Until I worked one election as a poll watcher, I had no idea that in Texas if you have a voter registration certificate you are not obligated to provide any evidence that you are the person who the registration certificate was issued to. If you do not have the voter registration certificate, all you need to provide is a utility bill containing the name and address of the person you are claiming to be. You would think that in order to vote, you would need to provide the kind of ID that someone would accept if you were writing a check.
2.8.2006 1:28pm
farmer56 (mail):
So?

A judge tossed a claim because of no evidence.

And the Florida Supreme Court ordered a state wide recount with no evidence? Hum? Interesting...Verrry iinteresting.
2.8.2006 1:47pm
Mr Diablo:
Thanks for updating.

I worked a poll watch once too... never believed the stories of seeing two big fat white guys with ear pieces sitting in a Crown Vic across the street from a minority polling place on election day, getting out of the car and walking about with puffed-up chests every time a group of black voters approached the entrance.... until I saw it on Nov. 2, 2004. Who they were, I'll never know, I don't think a political party would stoop so low, but then again, Ohio Sec. of State Ken Blackwell did reject hundreds of voter registration cards because they were printed on the wrong weight of paper. Why can't both parties work on encouraging turnout rather than resort to dirty tricks?

I don't agree with requiring ID cards to vote, because we never seem to have any actual evidence of widespread voter fraud (though I do remember in college election where there were 500 more ballots than voters -- that one was easy to tell). We always have stories and anecdotes like mine, but it seems that for every blowhard who insists he has a cousin of a friend of an uncle who helped rig a precinct in 1960 Texas or Illinois or 2004 Ohio or 2000 Florida, we have a case like this that gets laughed out of court many months later, and never reported by the press.
2.8.2006 2:41pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"You would think that in order to vote, you would need to provide the kind of ID that someone would accept if you were writing a check."

That's what the Administration's REAL ID Act RFID spy chipped NSA surveillance 'smart cards' required as of May 2008 are for. And everyone is wondering what the "other programs" AG Gonzales is referring to he won't talk about!!

And while this determination out of South Florida may be true, it is also true Florida disenfranchised thoousands of the disabled who use voice-recognition by refusing to make the State's voting machines and absentee ballots accessible to such reasonable accomodations devices (used by autistics, developmentally disabled, people missing arms, paraplegics/quadrapelgics, etc).

And THAT well may have been outcome determinative and caused the Presidential election to go the other way.

Ahhh, but it isn't too late ... Title II of the ADA in Florida has a 4 year statute of limitations.
2.8.2006 4:07pm
Houston Lawyer:
Allowing ineligible people to vote is every bit as bad and a lot more prevalent than interference with an eligible person's right to vote. Much has been made of alleged voter suppression, with almost zero evidence to back it up. In the last Washington governor's election, the number of ineligible voters who voted far exceeded the polling margin. That constitutes an election stolen.
2.8.2006 4:10pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"Allowing ineligible people to vote is every bit as bad and a lot more prevalent than interference with an eligible person's right to vote."

Thgis rates right up there with "no mentally disabled people should be allowed to be lawyers," unless you are referring to felons instead?
2.8.2006 4:20pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Same problem here in Wisconsin, Houston Lawyer. State legislature has tried three times to require a state issued photo ID to vote (including paying for them if you don't have one) but our governor has vetoed it three times.

When I worked as a poll watcher in 2004 (through election protection) I was told that the Help America Vote Act lets people cast a provisional ballot even if they can't provide an address. You could load a bus full of people and go from ward to ward if you like, casting provisional ballots at each one, and no one would be the wiser. And when they can't be verified afterwards? That's when the "count every vote" chanting starts...
2.8.2006 5:24pm
Jon Black (mail):
Mary

I think he is referring to people who have already voted. Such people are "ineligible to vote" and if they vote again, it is fraud. Further, as noted above, the number of fraudulent votes is often sufficient to swing an election. This should concern people who are interested in free, fair elections.
2.8.2006 5:33pm
John Lederer (mail):
I have often thought that if a picture id were required (driver's license or state issued id card for no charge) it would be fairly simple to do the last steps to limit voter fraud.

This would consist of either marking the card when the voter voted or recording, in a statewide computer system the number. If the card is heavy plastic it could be marked by a needle punch along the periphery --as the Reading Railroad marked monthly commuter cards in ~1958. The card could also avoid the necessity of voter registration if we could work out something to handle the few voters who moved within a few days of the election.

Combine that with something along the lines of http://www.openvotingconsortium.org/our_solution
which is a computer that fills out a ballot which is then examined by the voter before being scanned, and we would have a good system. The computer allows the application of rules ("vote for only one of the following") and makes a uniform mark, while voter examination protects against computer fraud, and scanning (highly accurate with a computer made mark) and retention of the paper ballot allows accounting checks.

The remaining problem is that of absentee ballots. These, in my opinion, should be minimized to necessity because of the potential for abuse (the "helpful" person who goes into a nursing home and assists 50 elderly peoplke to vote the samwe way as they wish).
2.8.2006 6:27pm
The NJ Annuitant (mail):
Not directly on point, perhaps, but very interesting:
let me recommend WINNING FLORIDA, by Robert Zelnick. You can get at amazon.com or on Ebay.
2.8.2006 8:01pm
Dustin R. Ridgeway (mail):

In the last Washington governor's election, the number of ineligible voters who voted far exceeded the polling margin.


Why were their votes counted then?
2.8.2006 9:42pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
Jon Black, thank you for clarifying.

"Further, as noted above, the number of fraudulent votes is often sufficient to swing an election. " I agree.

Disenfranchising thousands of disabled people is also sufficient to swing an election.
2.8.2006 11:10pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I don't agree with requiring ID cards to vote, because we never seem to have any actual evidence of widespread voter fraud
How are you going to obtain "actual evidence" if you discard the requirement that people identify themselves?
2.9.2006 1:22am
MikeWDC (mail):
A second to AF's sentiment.
Prof. Volokh,

Thank you for this post. It's a prime example of the non-hackdom that makes the VC a great site.
VC often makes my blood boil, but it's even from the other side it's refreshingly intellectually honest. Thanks.
2.9.2006 2:54am
karrde (mail) (www):
A thought about the related "Mark the ID Card used" idea above.

I worked as a poll-inspector in the State of MI in the 2000 and 2004 general elections. Each registered voter can vote only at one location. Their claimed name/address are compared to a name/address in a registered voter list. If it is valid, their name is highlighted in yellow.

In Michigan, there is also no requirement to show photo ID. However, implementing a requirement to show photo ID would be very easy.

Also, the requirement that voters vote in their precinct office would make marking the ID card unnecessary.
2.9.2006 12:12pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
This was a big thing recently reported in Florida newspapers; Georgia is now requiring IDs to vote in the elections in Georgia. With the REAL ID Ac becoming effective in May 2008, I would expect all States to go this way.
2.9.2006 1:13pm
gr (www):
"However, implementing a requirement to show photo ID would be very easy. "

Because its easy to train poll people to analyse IDs.
2.9.2006 1:20pm
Sigivald (mail):
Mary: RealID requires certain machine-readable information on ID cards.

It does not, last I read, require "RFID spy chipped NSA surveillance 'smart cards'", or any sort of RFID chip at all. A barcode (or one of the 2d variants now in use) would suffice.

If the law was sneakily changed to required "RFID spy chip[s]", please provide a reference so we can share the enlightenment.


gr: Think of it in terms of barriers to entry, and marginal costs. Vote fraud with a fake ID is a lot more difficult than vote fraud with a utility bill or a registration card, which is just printed cardstock. (And when the above RealID machine-readable stuff comes in, it becomes trivial for the poll station people to swipe the card through a reader and get the State to say "yes, this is real ID card issued to such and such a person at such and such an address" and even show the State's copy of the photo from the front.

No training required, and while nothing implementable at this scale can prevent fraud entirely, it can make it much, much harder and more expensive.
2.9.2006 1:32pm
gr (www):
"gr: Think of it in terms of barriers to entry, and marginal costs. Vote fraud with a fake ID is a lot more difficult than vote fraud with a utility bill or a registration card, which is just printed cardstock."

Think the other way too: preventing voters because you don't like their ID is easier with an ID check.


"And when the above RealID machine-readable stuff comes in, it becomes trivial for the poll station people to swipe the card through a reader and get the State to say "yes, this is real ID card issued to such and such a person at such and such an address" and even show the State's copy of the photo from the front. "

I don't think that adding more machinery is 'trivial.'
2.9.2006 2:53pm
Deoxy (mail):
Back to the topic of the post, what "evidence" could he have produced? Barring unbelievable stupidity on the part of ACORN, IF they did this, there IS no evidence.

What, is he supposed to have held onto a box of discarded Republican registration cards? Of course, that would make him personally responsible for them not being turned in...

I'm not saying they are "guilty until proven innocent", I'm just asking what "evidence" there could reasonably expected to be. Without evidence, it's a very hard case, either way.
2.9.2006 5:46pm
Jeremy Pierce (mail) (www):
I'm trying to figure out how not providing evidence constitutes being shown to be wrong. Doesn't libel entail that the person was saying something false? His not having proven his charges true does not mean they've been established to be false, and thus it hasn't been shown to be libel. It may well be that ACORN is innocent until proven guilty, and no evidence against them protects them from conviction, but doesn't the same apply to Stuart? I don't see how he has been proven guilty unless the charges are shown false rather than just not shown to be true. That means charging him with libel is treating him as guilty unless he can prove his innocence.
2.9.2006 7:13pm
Deoxy (mail):
Yeah, that too.
2.10.2006 11:00am