Before he was the chief election officer for his state, Wayne Williams was the El Paso County, Colorado, clerk and saw firsthand how even a small amount of voter fraud can thwart the public will.
“Voter fraud is like bank robbery,” @ColoSecofState says.
“As clerk, I saw two school board races decided by a single vote,” Williams told The Daily Signal. “I oversaw a municipal tax question that failed on a tie vote. So, yes, a single vote can make a difference. If someone is saying, well, it doesn’t happen a lot so it doesn’t matter, they’re just wrong, because it can make a difference. Even a single instance of an illegal vote causes an undermining in the confidence and diminishes turnout.”
Williams, now the Colorado secretary of state, was in the District of Columbia, for the winter meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State, which included a panel on election integrity.
The panel discussed the pending voter fraud commission that President Donald Trump has said he would appoint, to be headed by Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump has alleged that 3 million to 5 million illegal votes could have been cast in the November 2016 election, which he previously said might have cost him the popular vote against Hillary Clinton. In his pre-Super Bowl interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump said he would appoint Pence to head the probe.
Trump administration officials have cited an Old Dominion University study about noncitizens voting, and a Pew Research Center study that found millions of people listed on voter rolls across the country are listed in the wrong address, live in a different state, or in some cases are dead.
Williams, a Republican, thinks state and local election officials will play a major role in assisting in the probe.
“I welcome a process that’s designed to look at how we make the system better,” Williams said. “That’s true as a clerk, as secretary. I believe we ought to have that dialogue and explore ways we can clean up the process.”
Even as several speakers at the conference said that voter fraud doesn’t happen on a massive scale, Williams stressed that’s no reason to ignore it.
“Voter fraud is like bank robbery. It doesn’t happen most of the time, but it’s absolutely critical to take precautions against it,” Williams told The Daily Signal. “So, even though someone doesn’t rob a bank every day, they don’t put the money out in a pile and say, ‘Just take however much you like.’ It’s the same sense for we as elections officials. Most people who are voting accurately. They are eligible. But we have to have processes in place to protect against it. I know most people vote appropriately, but they need to have confidence their vote counts.”
During a panel on election integrity, Miles Rapoport, a senior fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, warned secretaries of state to be ready to answer questions from the Trump administration.
“We don’t know what will happen, but it’s entirely possible there will be a major commission on the subject of voter fraud,” Rapoport, a former head of liberal groups such as Demos and Common Cause, told the assembled secretaries.
Jesse Richman, a political science professor at Old Dominion University, did research extrapolating on a previous study that found 800,000 people may have voted in the 2016 presidential election. That’s significant, though well short of Trump’s alleged 3 million to 5 million illegal votes.
Because voter fraud is such a volatile issue, Richman said the commission must be transparent.
“Any result they find of significant or substantial levels of fraud will almost certainly be attacked,” Richman told The Daily Signal after speaking at a Judicial Watch forum on voter fraud.
I think they should use the full range of data the federal government already has, as well as soliciting cooperation and collaboration with states, to try to address various aspects of election integrity and try to get a sense of magnitudes because magnitudes are really important. If we are trying to get a sense of a few thousand illegal votes cast by noncitizens across the country, that’s still potentially politically significant in a close race, but it’s not as big a problem as if we are talking about 100,000 or 200,000 or more. So I think it is important to get a sense of magnitude because stopping voter fraud is very costly and we want to figure out the least costly ways in terms of various kinds of cost to go about addressing the challenges.
The nation’s secretaries of state reached out to the administration, but haven’t received any response on details of the commission probe, said Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill, chairwoman of the National Association of Secretaries of State.
“We have very little indication of exactly what they’re going to be doing thus far. I gather it will focus perhaps on lists, the accuracy of lists, the integrity of the eligibility of voters. It’s kind of hard to tell where they are going at this point,” Merrill, a Democrat, told The Daily Signal.