Allegation of Actual Impersonation Voter Fraud Attempt in Texas…and An Illustration of Why Such Fraud is Rare and Stupid

Fort Worth Star Telegram: “A Democratic precinct chairwoman candidate has been indicted on suspicion of conspiring to arrange an illegal vote last year. Hazel Woodard James, 40, is accused of arranging for her son — who was not a registered voter — to vote on behalf of his father. The incident reportedly came to light when the father showed up later in the day to vote in the same precinct, 1211, for which James is now running to be chairwoman. Prosecutor David Lobingier said the indictment is the first case of election fraud in recent memory in Tarrant County.

Impersonation voter fraud is about the dumbest way I could think of to swing an election. That’s why almost all the cases of real fraud with the potential to affect elections involves absentee ballot fraud or election official misconduct: in both ways you could actually verify the fraudulent votes and cast them in sufficient enough numbers to affect elections. (More about the extreme rarity of impersonation voter fraud here.)

Note that the fraudulent scheme did not work—it was detected. Nonetheless, look for this allegation to become the new “1984 grand jury report“–supposed evidence of a massive problem with impersonation voter fraud.

UPDATE: That didn’t take long (and nice analogy of people accused of voter fraud to cockroaches!).  So we have here an alleged single case.  How does that stack up against other claims of voter fraud?  Here’s a brief excerpt from the Fraudulent Fraud Squad chapter of The Voting Wars:

Let’s consider first what the Department of Justice found in its extensive investigation of voter fraud. The department cannot possibly focus on every federal crime, and a change in administrations brings new priorities. Under George W. Bush, the Department of Justice put unprecedented emphasis on finding and prosecuting cases of voter fraud. The Fraudulent Fraud Squad had previously argued that the reason so few cases of voter fraud were discovered was that prosecutors had other priorities. The Justice Department’s new focus on fraud put this contention to the test.

The result is well summarized by a New York Times story, headlined “In 5-Year Effort, Scant Evidence of Voter Fraud”:

“Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews   Although Republican activists have repeatedly said fraud is so widespread that it has corrupted the political process and, possibly, cost the party election victories, about 120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year. Most of those charged have been Democrats, voting records show. Many of those charged by the Justice Department appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers show.”

The Times based its data on analysis done by Minnite and others. A Department of Justice report of voting fraud prosecutions had been posted first, perhaps inadvertently, on Representative Ney’s committee website, and Minnite spent weeks tracking down what happened in each of these cases.31

As Minnite’s meticulous research revealed, federal prosecutors dug diligently, but what they found was paltry and unimpressive. Few voters were committing election crimes. Thirty-one of the seventy federal convictions for election crimes between 2002 to 2005 were not against voters at all but against party and campaign workers; ten were against government officials; and three were against election workers. That left, out of hundreds of millions of votes cast nationwide, a mere thirty-five convictions against voters. Some of those prosecutions were for inadvertent mistakes or for registration fraud that did not affecting voting. It did not appear that any of the convictions described in the Times report would have been stopped by a voter identification law. Not one.

In a 2010 follow-up story, the Times explained that of the 55 people convicted from the 95 federal prosecutions during the period covered in the article, “fewer than 20 people were convicted of casting fraudulent ballots, and only 5 were convicted of registration fraud. Most of the rest were charged with other voting violations, including a scheme meant to help Republicans by blocking the phone lines used by two voting groups that were arranging rides to get voters to the polls.”32

The results were the same in Texas. A Dallas Morning News headline in 2008 read: “Texas AG Fails to Unravel Large-Scale Voter Fraud Schemes in His Two Year Campaign.” Similarly, a Democratic and Republican consultant were paired up by the United States Election Assistance Commission to investigate voter fraud and suppression (in a report the EAC later tried to bury, as we’ll see in chapter 5), and they reached the same conclusion. Only isolated cases of real fraud, and most of it registration fraud.33 No systematic voter fraud.

Further update:  I have more information about the allegations, and the case, here.

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