Lots of People Vote Twice, But Mostly By Accident…
How can people make sure their vote is counted? One way is to vote both in person and via absentee ballot. Many send in their absentee ballots at the last minute, and some apparently are not sure their ballot was received on time. So to be sure, they vote in person as well as by mail. When they are registered in two states, both votes are counted.
Should people be penalized for being so enthusiastic about voting that they
make the extra effort to vote, even if sometimes their votes are counted twice? (Maybe the hammer should fall only when a person votes three or more times.)
This 2004 Slate article, “People Who Vote Twice” reports 46,000 New Yorkers registered to vote in both New York and Florida.
The article notes that in the 2000 election, “between 400 and 1,000 of these double-registrants voted in both states.” And checking other states: “68,000 Florida voters are also registered in Georgia or North Carolina (the only two states it checked), 1,650 of whom voted twice in 2000 or 2002.”
Not a lot of votes maybe, but sometimes elections are won and lost by fewer. The Slate article reports the double voting as “entertaining”:
Few people get convicted of the offense, and their stories tend to be pretty entertaining. Adell Hardiman, a 51-year-old Missouri plumbing contractor, was convicted of voting in both Kansas City and nearby Blue Springs, where he owns a home. He registered openly in both places, using the same name and Social Security number. He got a suspended jail sentence. “If it was wrong to vote twice, why didn’t they tell me that?” he asked the Star, pricelessly.
Turns out voting twice in a federal election is against federal law, and the penalties are stiff if a double-voter happens to be prosecuted and convicted.
But apart from funny stories, are there systematic abuses of the voting system that could push a national election one way or another? What if, for example, supporters of a candidate or party gathered lists of registered voters and arranged to have these votes somehow cast by party supporters.
John Fund in National Review Online notes that organized voter fraud does happen. The infrastructure to promote voter fraud was caught on camera. A separate NRO article includes the James O’Keefe video of an election worker seeming to encourage or at least facilitate voter fraud. And the election worker happened to be the son of the long-time Congressman he was working for.
Voter fraud has occurred in the past. The Kennedy-Nixon Presidential election is often cited as an example. Here is a list of Texas and Illinois problems, from a sidebar in a 2000 Slate article, “Was Nixon Robbed?” The claims are from New York Herald Tribune reporter Earl Mazo (described as a Nixon friend and later biographer):
In Texas, Mazo alleged that:
• Democratic leaders bought hundreds of poll-tax certificates and gave them to poor Mexican-Americans who might not otherwise vote.
• Voting machines were fixed. In one San Antonio precinct, a machine didn’t record votes for Nixon.
• People voted illegally. One young girl said her father was sick and voted for him.
• In Republican districts, officials strictly enforced rules about how ballots must be marked, voiding many of them. In nearby Democratic districts, officials were more lax.
• Tabulators were guilty of what we might call “fuzzy math.” In Fannin County, for example, 6,138 votes were cast when only 4,895 people were on the rolls.
In Cook County Ill., Mazo alleged that:
• “Ghosting” occurred. A man who had died, and his son who had moved away, both voted in Ward 4, Precinct 31.
• A doctor claimed that he was told his parents had voted, even though one was deceased and the other hadn’t voted in 10 years.
• More fuzzy math. In Ward 27, Precinct 27, 397 votes were recorded from 376 voters.
• Interpreters who accompanied Spanish-speaking voters instructed them, “Vote straight Democratic, that’s all.”
• A precinct captain in Ward 4, Precinct 47 voted twice.
• After someone left a voting booth without voting, an election judge entered the booth and pulled the lever for the Democratic ticket.
• In Ward 5, Precinct 22, a voter stuffed six ballots in the ballot box.
• In later years, journalists such as Seymour Hersh and Anthony Summers would also claim that mobster Sam Giancana and his syndicate played a role. Those charges have always remained murky and unsubstantiated.
So… stuff happens at election time. Advocates of voter identification laws argue that it isn’t so complicated to bring photo identification to register and vote. In fact, voter ID requirements are the norm in countries around the world.
Also, this 2012 Washington Post article looks at voter ID laws in other countries (and says that while other countries do have voter ID laws, most are more flexible than those passed by U.S. states).
John Fund argues in more detail on the reality and dangers of voter fraud in his book Stealing Elections, which you can “look inside” or buy on Amazon.