Retail Fraud – A Stitch In Time Could Save Democracy

Update:  Looks like the changes will be difficult to confirm and maybe there is nothing behind them <read>

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There is no agreement on the demarcation between retail vote fraud and wholesale vote fraud.  In general retail fraud represents fraud that involves individual voters and individual votes, while wholesale fraud would represent fraud an a large scale by insiders or hackers.  Everyone would agree that forging a handful of ballots would be retail fraud and that misprogramming voting machines would be wholesale fraud.  The middle ground comes when in a statewide election an official in a single town substitutes or votes a few dozen ballots, or in a Presidential election one hacker changes the results on a single polling place machine.

Sometimes the existence of retail fraud is denied, ignored, or almost dismissed.  We tend to think it dosen’t happen, accept it as part of the system, or believe that it does not matter.  Two stories in Connecticut this week seem to conform to these views:

New Haven Register: Alderman alleges voter fraud <read>

In a complaint filed this week with the state Elections Enforcement Commission, Alderman Greg Morehead, D-22 accuses write-in opponent Lisa Hopkins of applying for and filling out absentee ballots against the wishes of voters, allegations Hopkins says are not true.

Hopkins lost to Morehead by eight votes in a hotly contested Democratic primary in September. She returned in the general election as a write-in candidate, securing 194 votes to Morehead’s 237. More than half of Hopkins’ votes, 107, came from absentee ballots. Morehead received 24 absentee ballot votes, records show.

In his complaint, Morehead alleges Hopkins told an elderly voter to hand Hopkins a signed absentee ballot before selecting a candidate. Morehead claims Hopkins told the voter she would complete the form.

In a close race with a margin of eight votes two alleged cases of fraud.  If true, that could cut the margin to four.  And this would be just the fraud discovered by this one candidate – if true, what are the odds there was more fraud?

To vote by absentee ballot, voters must show they are unable to make it to the polls on Election Day. “We don’t have ‘no excuse’ absentee ballot voting,” said Av Harris, spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of the State.

To be eligible, voters must show they will be out of state on Election Day, have an illness or physical disability that prevents them from getting to a polling place, or have a religious reason why they cannot vote on Election Day.

Voters must swear in an affidavit that they personally filled out the ballot. There may be rare circumstances in which a voter’s disability requires that someone fill out their ballot for them, but “it has to be a pretty compelling reason,” Harris said.

Absentee ballot fraud is not common, he said.

We agree that you need to have an excuse or lie to vote absentee ballot in Connecticut.  We are not so sure that absentee ballot fraud is uncommon – maybe, maybe not – here is a recent story on three instances of absentee very retail voting fraud <read>  And another from a while back <read page 1>

Here is another story this week showing how little we regard the seriousness of absentee ballot fraud.  The Hartford Courant: Tax Troubles At City Hall <read>

Four years ago, Hartford Democratic operative Prenzina Holloway was fined $10,000 for absentee ballot fraud. But state officials allowed her to pay only $2,000 of the fine because she demonstrated financial hardship.

Yet a year and a half later, the apparently financially strapped Ms. Holloway bought a used Hummer for $31,727, state motor vehicle records show. According to city records, she never paid city taxes on the Hummer. She owes Hartford $3,500.

But she did draw a city paycheck recently for a one-week stint in the registrar of voters’ office — a temporary job she shouldn’t have been given because of her unsavory ballot-fraud past.

And the delinquent taxes? That seems to present no problem to Ms. Holloway’s daughter, rJo Winch, who just happens to be Democratic majority leader of the Hartford city council. “A lot of people in city hall owe the city money,” sniffed Ms. Winch.

So, in Hartford, it seems that nothing is wrong with a little tax evasion a “lot of people” do it.  It seems that voting fraud is regarded as almost in that same category except we don’t really know if a “lot of people” and officials do it or not.  Maybe it is treated casually elsewhere in Connecticut and around the country.  This is one of the two reasonse we are against expanded mail-in voting which includes no-excuse absentee voting – at a minimum it will mean more retail fraud and more voters unknowingly disenfranchised.

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