Voter Fraud Is Major Election Threat Based on Recent Cases, Analyst Says

By Fred Lucas | February 1, 2012 | 5:22 PM EST

David Yarbrough wheels a voting machine into Airport Grocery near Oxford, Miss. (AP Photo/Oxford Eagle, Bruce Newman)

( – Even as one election-fraud case in Lincoln County, W. Va., comes to a close, another case in Troy, N.Y., continues.Still, Attorney General Eric Holder asserts that voter fraud is “uncommon,” in defending the Justice Department’s lawsuit to stamp out voter ID laws in South Carolina and potentially other states.

Election fraud is a greater threat to the right to vote than poll taxes and other Jim Crow restrictions, said Horace Cooper, adjunct fellow with National Center for Public Policy Research.

The legal analyst cited “ghost voting” as the biggest problem.

The term “ghost voter” is used to describe dead people that remain on the voter rolls.

“Far worse, than standing up and being seen blocking the vote, this is the contravening of the vote without even having a record or a shadow of it happening,” Cooper told

Cooper cited voter fraud and election cases in West Virginia, Colorado, New York state, Wisconsin and various localities to make the point that voter ID laws are needed to protect the integrity of the electoral process.

“One of the problems with a ghost voting situation is that it’s very difficult to ascertain when it’s happening,” Cooper said.

Last year, eight states adopted voter ID laws.

Last December, the Justice Department objected to a new South Carolina law that requires voters to show photo IDs to vote and brought suit. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of voter ID laws in Indiana in the decision on Crawford v. Marion County Election Board.

There are more than 3 million dead people still on the voter rolls across America, according to a 2009 study by Aristotle International Inc., a technology firm specializing in political campaigns, while another 12.9 million remain on voter lists in areas where they no longer live. In total about 8.9 percent of all registered voters fall under the category of “deadwood” voters, a term for voters who should not be eligible to vote in a precinct, according to the study.

Holder said in a December speech at the L.B.J. Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, Texas, that his department was opposed to voter ID laws and voter fraud is not a major problem.

“As I learned early in my career – as a prosecutor in the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, where I actually investigated and prosecuted voting-fraud cases – making voter registration easier is simply not likely, by itself, to make our elections more susceptible to fraud,” the attorney general said. “Indeed, those on all sides of this debate have acknowledged that in-person voting fraud is uncommon. We must be honest about this.”

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Cooper is curious about Holder’s definition of “common.”

“If even 1 percent of the vote is fraudulent, he says or implies that’s something we shouldn’t be concerned about,” Cooper said. “We ought to be outraged about it. The point of a system in our republic is you don’t have self determination unless you actually exercise the right to vote and have people who are elected are representative and policies that flow from those. What ghost voting is successfully able to do is change what the actual outcome was going to be, to a different outcome.”

On Jan. 30 in West Virginia, Lincoln County Sheriff Jerry Bowman and Lincoln County Clerk Donald Whitten pleaded guilty to federal charges they attempted to flood the 2010 Democratic primary with fraudulent absentee ballots. Bowman was a candidate for Circuit Clerk. The two admitted to falsifying more than 100 absentee ballot applications for voters who did not have any legal basis to vote absentee.

In the Troy, N.Y., case, out of eight who were charged, four have pleaded guilty. City Councilmen John Brown and Anthony DeFiglio, former Troy City Clerk William McInerney and Democratic operative Anthony Renna all pleaded guilty. The probe was into whether they forged signatures on applications for absentee ballots and on actual ballots in the 2009 primary of the Working Families Party, a third party in New York state that frequently cross-endorses Democratic candidates.

The Albany Times-Union newspaper reported that most of the fraudulent names were of residents of public housing authority apartments. The paper quoted DeFiglio calling it a “normal political tactic.”

Meanwhile, in 2011, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office compared voter data with state Department of Revenue data and found more than 16,000 potential matches of non-citizens on the state’s voter rolls.

Prior to that, a report by the Milwaukee Police Department on the 2004 election found, “there does remain a strong possibility that the discovery of those random staffers voting illegally is the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’ as it relates to an illegal organized attempt to influence the outcome of the election in the state of Wisconsin.”

“What we see in Colorado and in this West Virginia plea agreement is that it’s pretty sinister and there are high-level people that can participate and manipulate the process and they can get away with it,” Cooper said.

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