One of the most important swing states in the nation, Florida, was hit with election fraud in 2016, harming voters on both sides of the political aisle.
This is the latest example of why election fraud is a nonpartisan issue, and one that must be addressed in a serious and thoughtful manner.
Consider a recent case out of Miami-Dade County. Gladys Coego, an elections official, pleaded guilty to illegally filling out mail-in ballots.
Coego was hired to open ballots, part of the process of sorting and counting them. She went a step further, though: She altered the ballots, resulting in an unknown number of fraudulent votes being cast for Republican mayoral candidate Raquel Regalado.
Coego’s fraud does not appear to have been sufficient to alter the results of the election, but it is nonetheless totally unacceptable. Each one of these illegal votes negated a lawfully cast ballot, meaning Coego, who recently pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing, effectively disenfranchised voters.
Often, discussion of election fraud and efforts to secure against it devolve into partisan shouting matches dominated by hyperbolic rhetoric. Many activists on the left insist that voter fraud is a mirage meant to facilitate passage of laws that suppress voter participation, to the benefit of conservative causes and candidates.
Well, speaking as conservatives, it does not matter that Coego tried to help a Republican candidate over a Democratic one. Fraud is fraud, and it is damaging to the democratic process.
Adopting policies meant to detect and stop fraud is not about tilting the playing field in favor of one side or against the other. It is about ensuring fairness and the integrity of the process.
When those characteristics are missing, the impact is real. Consider another recent Florida election marred by fraud.
In the August primary season, three rising stars in the Florida Democratic Party raised eyebrows after garnering an unusually high number of absentee ballots cast in their favor, resulting in their victories.
Detectives with the state attorney’s office concluded with extremely high confidence that dozens of absentee ballot requests had been forged, including one entered in the name of an employee of the state attorney’s office.
The Palm Beach Post reports that despite assigning 14 detectives to the case, and the existence of clear evidence that fraud took place, not a single suspect was named. Their investigation yielded one person of interest—a legislative aide whom they did not even interview.
All we know is that a significant number of absentee ballot signatures were forged. The citizens of Palm Beach County have to live with the aftermath, knowing that their election was tainted by fraud, and that no one will be held to account.
This is hardly a new phenomenon. In fact, this is the third time in the past two years that investigations in that county have produced evidence of fraud, but no charges.
Think of the signal that sends to future would-be fraudsters, to say nothing of the voters.
Fortunately, there are organizations committed to advancing election integrity. The Public Interest Legal Foundation is presently litigating in court against Broward County, Florida, for failing to adequately maintain its voter rolls as required by law.
According to the foundation, the county had 103 percent of its eligible voter population registered in the 2014 election, and the county’s records indicate that thousands of voters are over the age of 100, with one as old as 130.
Clearly, Broward County’s rolls could stand some maintenance, and it is hard to see how anyone would be against an effort to clean them up and ensure they are accurate. After all, inaccuracies in voter registration records create vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
Brenda Snipes, the Broward County supervisor of elections, evidently disagrees.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation lawsuit was prompted by Snipes’ response to a request for information, filed pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act, seeking her methods of ensuring the accuracy of voter records.
Snipes asserted that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, it was “implausible” that ineligible voters are registered.
As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once put it, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
Applying that timeless wisdom here, it is impossible to have more registered voters than eligible voters—and it is also highly implausible that so many of its registered voters are over 100 years old.
It seems clear that people are on Broward’s voter rolls who, whether because they have moved away, died, or are not citizens, should not be. It is hardly a partisan maneuver to demand that they be removed.
To be clear, this is not a new problem in Florida, as a 1998 report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement attests.
What’s more, the state is not alone in its struggles with election integrity. The Heritage Foundation has documented 1,071 proven instances of election fraud in 47 states.
A recent report by the Government Accountability Institute concluded, based on analysis of voter rolls from 21 states, that perhaps as many as 45,000 duplicate votes were cast in 2016.
Whether it is an illicit decision to alter mail-in ballots, a conspiracy to forge records, or lax procedures that allow ineligible people to register and possibly even vote, threats to our elections exist, and they challenge our collective belief in the integrity of the political process.
That harms us all, conservatives and liberals alike. It is time to come together and embrace commonsense reforms designed to secure the electoral process and bring surety to the outcome.