A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Ballot fraud just about impossible

Written October 23rd, 2014 by Hasso Hering
The ballot box at the Albany Public Library on Wednesday.

The ballot box at the Albany Public Library on Wednesday.

Colorado has adopted vote-by-mail balloting of the kind pioneered in Oregon. Now a video circulating online intends to raise suspicions of voter fraud in Colorado and, by implication, other states where voting is done mostly by mail. But all the video shows is that some left-leaning activists in Colorado were dumb, naive or crooked enough to be interested in trying to exploit the new system in nefarious ways, not that it could actually happen, let alone that it was taking place.

The video was made by James O’Keefe, the activist who poses as someone else and, with a hidden camera, tries to induce people to implicate themselves. On his latest product, at least a couple of campaign volunteers or workers for Colorado Democrats appear to be interested when O’Keefe offers to collect discarded ballots and cast them fraudulently.

The same sort of thing — collecting ballots of citizens who threw them away — has been wondered about in Oregon. But how could that possibly work?

When ballots get to the county elections office, the signatures on the mailing envelope are compared with the registrations. If they don’t match, the ballots are set aside. An official will contact the voter: “We have a ballot that purports to be yours, but the signature is different from yours. If you want to vote, please come in the cast a new ballot.”

“What do you mean?” the citizen says. “I didn’t cast my ballot; I’m not interested in politics, so I threw it in the trash. And no, I’m not coming in.”

So where’s the fraud possibility in casting discarded ballots?

100_1812On a related front, a reader of hh-today questioned ballot security because at the Albany Public Library’s main branch on 14th Avenue, a ballot drop box sits unguarded by the front door. The staff says a county worker comes by every few days and empties it, though during presidential elections, when more ballots are cast, pickups happen daily. The box can be seen from the library’s front desk, but it is not closely watched. Is that a chink in the armor of the voting system?

I can’t see how. Yes, a strong-arm robber could grab the bag and make a break for it, out the door. But how would he know who would benefit from such a heist, the crooks paying him or their opponents?

As Linn County’s Steve Druckenmiller and other Oregon election officials have said many times, the possbility of fraud or error is much less with voting by mail than with casting ballots at polling places. Mail ballots are inspected, and the names of voters who cast them are checked off as ballots come in either in the mail or from drop boxes. Another ballot comes in with the same name, the system knows right away something is wrong.

When ballots are returned as undeliverable, after some checking the voters’ names are scratched from the rolls: No more possibility of dead people voting.

I’m not fond of voting by mail because I liked the symbolism and the action of going to a polling place on the appointed day, along with other citizens who care enough to vote, maybe even braving bad weather, signing the register, punching my choices and dropping the ballot in the box. I’d go back to the old system in a minute, but not because I believe balloting by mail is vulnerable to fraud. (hh)

11 responses to “Ballot fraud just about impossible”

  1. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “I’m not fond of voting by mail because I liked the symbolism the action of going to a polling place on the appointed day, along with other citizens who care enough to vote, maybe even braving bad weather, signing the register, punching my choices and dropping the ballot in the box. I’d go back to the old system in a minute, but not because I believe balloting by mail is vulnerable to fraud. (hh)”

    It shows you respect the process because you are willing to make a minimal effort to actually go vote. I would relish the opportunity to do that again…

  2. James Carrick says:

    I got an email just this morning with a link to this website that purports to show voter fraud taking place in Arizona. I have no idea if it is genuine, staged, legitimate or a pile of dung. It is being distributed by a Tea Party website. Decide for yourself:


    The article describes an encounter between a “ballot stuffer” and a Republican Party official. The article also explains how some of this fraud occurs, if it does.

    I do not see how what is shown in this video could work in Oregon, given our voting laws that seem to have a pretty tightly controlled process. However, the laws in other states, or their procedures may not be the same as here, and may allow room for the methods described.

    I have never understood how proving one’s citizenship to register to vote is”disenfranchising” to anyone. Liberals often claim that some people who want to and are able to vote, somehow lack the wherewithal to prove their citizenship to register. I find that argument specious at best. The far greater harm would occur if ILLEGAL ALIENS are somehow able to work the system and cast ballots in our elections. That is totally unacceptable and the far greater threat to our constitutional republic.

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Ballot fraud is just about impossible? Well, in our one-party state your assertion may be more true than false. But if the political culture gets more diverse and contentious, the risk of bad behavior will increase.

    And I’ve never been comfortable with vote-by-mail’s signature verification process. Election workers are not handwriting experts. The process is inherently error prone. When ballots are rejected for having a signature that doesn’t “match” the voter is effectively disenfranchised, i.e., the voter is deemed guilty before proven innocent. My scrawl has changed over the years. And if my cell phone is off at verification time, I need to trust that the clerk will still count my ballot.

    The library ballot bag is a joke in terms of security. If James O’Keefe came to the library and video taped how easy it would be to steal the ballots, the city and county clerk would have some explaining to do. The question isn’t “who would benefit by the theft?” The question is, “is the process trustworthy?” Your photo reinforces a conclusion that the integrity of the process is highly suspect.

    Do I want to go back to polling places? No. I like the convenience of VBM. But here in Albany embarrassing things happen all the time to local government. It’s just a matter of time given the current process in place.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      But why would anyone want to steal a bag of ballots? As long as you can’t exchange used ballots for booze or weed, what would be the motivation? (hh)

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        Your question reminds me of the situation where a fraudster leaves fingerprints on his own death certificate. What motivates a person to act so stupidly? I dunno. People kill to steal a buck. Taking a bag of ballots doesn’t seem that crazy in comparison.

  4. Bob Woods says:

    There are so few instances of documented voter fraud in the United States that’s it’s one thing we can be VERY proud of.

    Whether at the polls or by mail there have always been check built into the systems to try to prevent fraud.

    Nevertheless, some states seem to be hell bent on making it harder for people to vote. If it’s not because of real fraud, is it merely attempts at voter suppression for political reasons? Maybe that’s the true voter fraud these days.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Different kind of concern involved in voter ID. If you have to show ID to check into a motel, as you do most places now, what’s wrong with making sure voters are who they say they are? (hh)

  5. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Here is an article describing one incident of stealing ballots in San Francisco.


    What motivated this person? Again, I dunno. But this stuff happens.

    The challenge is to create a process that reduces the probability of stupid behavior. Placing an unsecured ballot bag at the front door of the library and emptying it every couple of days invites stupid behavior. We can do better.

  6. Bill Kapaun says:

    We did have a case of attempted fraud by an election worker up in PDX the last election (or 2?) ago.
    She was filling in ballots that were unmarked for one of the races or referendums.


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