Double Trouble? MD, VA Investigate Allegations of Double Voting in 2012

woodrow_wilson_bridge.jpg

[Image courtesy of deviantart]

Pictured above is the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which connects Virginia and Maryland south of Washington, DC … according to some new evidence currently under investigation, as many as 164 voters may have used that bridge or another connecting the two states to vote twice in 2012. The Baltimore Sun has more:

The State Board of Elections has alerted the Office of the State Prosecutor to a report that 164 people voted in both Maryland and Virginia in the November 2012 presidential election, in violation of the law.

Election officials confirmed Thursday that the referral included 17 cases in which the Fairfax County, Va., elections board investigated the report by outside advocacy groups and said they found that ballots had been cast in that county and in Maryland in the same voters’ names. Fairfax officials have referred that finding to four federal and Virginia criminal investigation agencies …

Brian Schoeneman, secretary of the Fairfax County board, said the agency looked at all 17 cases brought to it by the Virginia Voters Alliance and worked with elections officials in Montgomery County to check them against Maryland voting records.

He said the board matched up names, dates of birth and the last four digits of Social Security numbers and found matches indicating double votes in each case.

Ten of the 17 voters were found to have cast double votes in more than one election, Schoeneman said. He said two voters apparently cast double votes in four elections and one in five. He said most of the cases involved votes cast in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, but at least five were from the Baltimore area.

In 14 of the cases, Schoeneman said, the voters apparently went to polling places in both states. In three cases, the voter cast a ballot in person in one state and submitted an absentee ballot in the other, he said.

At first blush, this case looks a lot like other allegations of double voting or other election irregularities: an outside advocacy group uses two voter lists to generate a large number of matches based on name and birthdate and then submits the results with great fanfare to election officials for resolution. In the past, that resolution has, more often than not, been to find that most if not all of the matches did not in fact represent fraud.

For that reason, many critics – who believe that these investigations (which generally come from conservative groups) are actually aimed at discouraging Democratic voters – think that election offices should treat these matches with a healthy dose of skepticism. Moreover, they argue that publicizing such investigations is itself irresponsible since it perpetuates the myth that voter fraud is widespread.

But in this case it appears that Fairfax County, at least, has already done the first winnowing from an initial list of 15,000 and identified a small handful of cases that appear to justify further review. While it may turn out that even those cases don’t pan out, I believe that it is important for election officials to disclose such investigations as a way to remain transparent and demonstrate that even if fraud is rare, they take it seriously.

Also worthy of note: voter ID (now the law in Virginia) wouldn’t have prevented this – what will is the growing effort to link voter rolls in a way to make sure that voters can bring their registrations with them when they move, without leaving old registrations behind.

It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out, especially since Virginia (where double voting is a felony) is leading the way on prosecution.

Stay tuned …

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