What is the greatest threat to free and fair elections in America? Here’s a hint: it’s not Russia or any other foreign power. It’s not a person, either. It’s something much more subtle, and much more dangerous. Investigative reporter Eric Eggers has the answer.
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While the major media fixates on the influence of foreign powers on American elections, a much more serious attack has been taking place right under our noses: Good old-fashioned, home-grown voter fraud. Let’s look at three of the worst offenses.
Example number one: bloated voter rolls.
In 244 counties across the United States, there are more registered voters than there are
people legally eligible to vote. Twenty-nine states have counties with more registered voters than legal residents. And eight states have more registered voters than actual voting-age people.
When the Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s efforts to clean up its own voter rolls in 2018, the majority opinion cited Pew Center statistics: 24 million voter registrations in the United States are either “invalid or significantly inaccurate.” And nearly 3 million people are believed to be registered to vote in more than one state.
These numbers have a shocking implication: It’s very easy to exploit our voting system. During an undercover investigation, New York City detectives made 63 attempts to cast illegal ballots based on flawed voter rolls. They were successful 61 times. Similar investigations in other cities and other states produce the same dismal results. But phony voters on the rolls is just one threat to election integrity.
Here’s example number two: ballot harvesting.
In 2016, the state of California—one of the states with more registered voters than citizens—became the first state to legalize the practice of ballot solicitation; that is, the collection and delivery of ballots by third parties. With no trace of irony, this is called “ballot harvesting.”
It works like this: In California, organizations with a clear political agenda are legally permitted to go to a location—say, a nursing home or a church, and collect—literally harvest—ballots. The third party then transports these ballots to a polling place or an election office.
This raises an obvious question: Once this third party collects the ballots, what’s to stop them from changing them—or from just throwing out the ones they don’t like? A guilty conscience? How do we know ballot harvesters from Democratic organizations aren’t destroying Republican ballots? Or Republican harvesters aren’t destroying Democratic ballots? We don’t. We have no way of knowing.
Let’s look at one specific example. On Election Night 2018, California Central Valley Republican Congressman David Valadao held a 5,000-vote lead over his challenger, Democrat T.J. Cox. The margin was wide enough that the networks even called the race for Valadao, the Republican incumbent.
There were late ballots still to be delivered by the third-party vote harvesters. When those votes came in, they broke so overwhelmingly for Cox (in a historically conservative district, no less) that Valadao’s 5,000-vote victory became an 862-vote loss.
Maybe that was just a coincidence. Or maybe not.
In the first major election after ballot harvesting was allowed in California, Democrats won every single congressional seat in Orange County, which had been a Republican stronghold for decades. A year earlier, no sober person would have thought tha