In recent years there have been far too many cases in which elections in America have been rigged. As a result of court involvement, the guilty parties have in some cases spent time in prison, in some cases been released on parole, and in some cases paid fines for their involvement. You might assume that new safeguards have been put in place to restore public confidence in the fairness of elections in America. Unfortunately, however, many proposed safeguards have been politicized in ways that have prohibited their use.
In a recent sampling of voting fraud in America, the Heritage Foundation reported on almost 300 documented cases from 43 states. In each and every one of these cases, either the individuals were convicted of fraud, or the results of the election were overturned.
In 267 of these cases, the judicial decisions came down in the last 16 years, beginning in 2000. The types of fraud included ineligible voters, impersonation of registered voters, duplicate voting, buying votes, bribery, false registrations, and the fraudulent use of absentee ballots. The latter two charges were most frequent, with false registrations involved in 83 of these cases and the fraudulent use of absentee ballots in 69 of these cases.
I began pondering the potential for absentee ballot fraud during the 2008 presidential election cycle. My mother was in her last few months of life, living in a nursing home, and I worked to make sure she had the opportunity to vote, if she chose to do so.
During her final months, she had some clear lucid moments, but many times of foggy confusion. One day when I visited her, she told me about the newly invented food called potato chips. She had lost all memory of eating potato chips during her adult years, and had reverted to her childhood depression-era years, when she had no memory of potato chips. She was so excited about this recent invention. Opening a bag of potato chips was so delightful for her, yet so symbolic for us, as we recognized her serious dementia.
Yet, at other times, mental clarity returned. During these times she would talk about her desire to vote for her long-serving senator. She had lived for two decades in Arizona and wanted to cast her presidential ballot for Senator McCain.
My siblings and I were regulars at the nursing home. There was rarely a day when Mom was not visited. Getting her to complete her absentee ballot simply required waiting for a clear lucid moment, showing her the options, and getting her signature. It took several tries, but eventually Mom completed her absentee ballot, proud to vote for her senator.
On one of my visits to the nursing home that fall, the social worker had encouraged me to allow him to handle Mom’s absentee ballot. I guess that procedure might help seniors who have been forgotten by their families, but I saw no reason to seek such assistance, given our regular visits to Mom. We as her kids were more confident that she would be able to cast her desired vote if we handled her ballot, rather than turning it over to the social worker. Is there some way to assure that senior citizens are in fact casting their ballots for their preferred candidates?
In the United Kingdom, they have passed some legislation to reduce the ability of social workers to commandeer a pile of absentee ballots, a procedure they have called “granny farming.” The recent legislation prevents a single voter from acting as a proxy for more than two non-family members, therefore requiring more people to be involved in any fraud. It is not clear, however, that this has reduced the overall problem.
When states have tried to pass voter fraud legislation, they have often been accused of trying to disenfranchise minority voters. The failure to develop reasonable laws to protect the sanctity of voting in America, will, however, eventually disenfranchise all voters, and the entire electoral process. It is time for American politicians to protect the votes of all Americans.
Let’s hope the 2016 primary and general election is free from voter fraud.
Dr. Gary L. Welton is assistant dean for institutional assessment, professor of psychology at Grove City College, and a contributor to The Center for Vision & Values. He is a recipient of a major research grant from the Templeton Foundation to investigate positive youth development.