Category Archives: voter registration fraud

Let’s not forget the voters

Recently my colleague and co-blogger, Charles Stewart, wrote a very interesting post, “Voters Think about Voting Machines.” His piece reminds me of something a point that Charles and I have been making for a long time — that election officials should focus attention on the opinions of voters in their jurisdictions. After all, those voters are one of the primary customers for the administrative services that election officials provide.

Of course, there are lots of ways that election officials can get feedback about the quality of their administrative services, ranging from keeping data on interactions with voters to doing voter satisfaction and confidence surveys.

But as election officials throughout the nation think about upcoming technological and administrative changes to the services they provide voters, they might consider conducting proactive research, to determine in advance of administrative or technological change what voters think about their current service, to understand what changes voters might want, and to see what might be causing their voters to desire changes in administrative services or voting technologies.

This is the sort of question that drove Ines Levin, Yimeng Li, and I to look at what might drive voter opinions about the deployment of new voting technologies in our recent paper, “Fraud, convenience, and e-voting: How voting experience shapes opinions about voting technology.” This paper was recently published in American Politics Research, and we use survey experiments to try to determine what factors seem to drive voters to prefer certain types of voting technologies over others. (For readers who cannot access the published version at APR, here is a pre-publication version at the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project’s website.)

Here’s the abstract, summarizing the paper:

In this article, we study previous experiences with voting technologies, support for e-voting, and perceptions of voter fraud, using data from the 2015 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. We find that voters prefer systems they have used in the past, and that priming voters with voting fraud considerations causes them to support lower-tech alternatives to touch-screen voting machines — particularly among voters with previous experience using e-voting technologies to cast their votes. Our results suggest that as policy makers consider the adoption of new voting systems in their states and counties, they would be well-served to pay close attention to how the case for new voting technology is framed.

This type of research is quite valuable for election officials and policy makers, as we argue in the paper. How administrative or technological change is framed to voters — who are the primary consumers of these services and technologies — can really help to facilitate the transition to new policies, procedures, and technologies.

New Mexico SOS Turns Over 64,000 Registered Voters for Potential Fraud Investigation

The New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran has provided 64,000 registered voter names to the New Mexico State Police for fraud examination. This represents about 5.3% of all registered voters and about 7.7% of voters in the 2010 election.  No details were given on how these voters were identified, but that represents an enormous number of records to work through.  No process was identified for how the New Mexico State Police would examine the records or how long it would take to review them.  More information about this story can be found here.

The article mentions the possibility of administrative errors.  This is very likely.  My own experience with working with voter registration files is that they are somewhat dirty.  By that I mean the file consists of missing data, incorrect data, duplicate entries, etc (also see an excellent report on the quality of voter registration files by Stephen Ansolabehere and Eitan Hersh).

What is the problem? A major part of the problem is that the data collection and entry process leads to data entry errors.  Individuals register to vote in their own handwriting and then administrative staff interpret and enter the information into the electronic system. Obviously this is a process rife with numerous points for potential error.

One possible solution to this is to move to some sort of electronic registration, perhaps self-registration on-line and/or augmenting information in voter registration files with information from other state and federal databases to obtain more correct information.  See for example the op ed piece by Mike and Dean Logan.

As the investigation progresses, it is worthwhile for us to understand the process.  One thing we can learn from the process is where the problems exist and how to fix them.  This is an opportunity for us to collect important data on administrative problems with the voter registration process.

NPR Coverage of Voter Registration Issues

I am listening to my old friend and colleague, Charles Franklin of the University of Wisconsin and pollster.com, on an NPR story right now about a voter registration lawsuit brought by the attorney general of Wisconsin.  The program is Day to Day.

A tag line announced that my dear friend  Tova Wang, Vice President for Research at Common Cause, and David Iglesias, the ex attorney general in New Mexico, are going to be on Fresh Air.  The link takes you directly to today’s show.

Mass House appears to have failed to take up EDR bill

The Boston Globe is reporting this morning that the Mass House did not take up the EDR bill that the Mass Senate had passed:

Major items that lawmakers neglected to take up included whether to allow residents to register to vote on election days, whether the state should ban trans fat oils in restaurants, and whether Massachusetts should join a movement to decide presidential elections using a national popular vote instead of the Electoral College.

Controversy of Voter Registration law in New Mexico

This story in Politico just came across the wire, courtesy of Project Vote.

In brief, a law passed in 2005 meant to manage third party voter registration efforts is being challenged as overly restrictive and unconstitutional.

I am not sure about the constitutional arguments, but the defenders of the law are having a hard time defending some of its provisions, such as the requirement that voter registration forms be turned in in bundles of 50 and that all forms must be turned in within 48 hours of being collected. When asked where these requirements came from, one defender cited a single instance of 90 voter registration forms being stolen from an ACORN office in 2004. As to the bundling, no one seems to have a good reason for that requirement.

Violating the law does not only void the registration forms, but the individual or organization that collected the forms is subject to legal sanction.

Two additional reports of voter fraud

In addition to the reports of fraud that I wrote about in the past few days, there are two additional ones that I ran across this morning.

The first comes from New York, from a report in the Daily News:

An aide to former Queens Assemblyman Jimmy Meng was charged yesterday with rigging voter addresses during a primary battle in 2004.

Simon Ting, 42, who was registering voters for the Flushing Democrat, whited out the addresses of Asian-American voters who lived outside the district and replaced them with addresses inside the district, according to Queens prosecutors.

The fraud wasn’t hard to detect: dozens of legitimate addresses were replaced with one of two addresses – either Ting’s former home or a bookstore Meng owns in Flushing, prosecutors said.

The second comes from Virginia, as reported in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

A former Gate City mayor who used absentee ballots as if they were marked cards to deal himself a 2004 re-election victory will spend 196 days in jail.

Charles Dougherty, convicted of 29 felony counts of vote fraud in two separate trials last year, was also ordered by the court yesterday to pay $51,500 in fines.

The sentence, handed down in Scott County Circuit Court, brings to an end an election scandal that rocked the town of 2,300, upset the political order and exposed an election process that may have been corrupt for years. During one of Dougherty’s trials, one woman testified she had always been paid a bottle of liquor for her vote.

A panel of judges agreed the election results were suspicious, threw out the votes and appointed a new Town Council. The council then appointed Jenkins mayor, and a judge appointed Botetourt County Commonwealth’s Attorney Joel Branscom as special prosecutor.

Branscom charged Dougherty with more than three-dozen counts of election fraud. In two trials, jurors agreed with Branscom that Dougherty had duped voters, many of them elderly and residents of an assisted-living complex, into applying for absentee ballots even though they didn’t qualify for them.

Woman working for voter registration drive in Missouri accused of fraud and identity theft

This has circulated the past few days, here’s an AP report on the allegations:

She worked in August and September as a voter registration recruiter for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as ACORN. She is accused of using another woman’s Social Security number to get hired by ACORN and Project Vote.

Davis also is charged with causing three voter registration applications with false addresses to be filed with the Kansas City Board of Elections Commissioners.