TV-6 Investigates: Voter fraud and rigged elections

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DAVENPORT, Iowa. (KWQC) — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has repeatedly said the U.S. election is rigged against him. Those comments drew criticism from elections officials across the country including the Iowa Secretary of State.

The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York School of Law published an in-depth study of voter fraud. One state it profiled is New Jersey in 2004. At the time, there were claims of thousands of people double voting. The majority of claims were debunked. The Brennan Center documented eight cases. It says that amounts to a fraud rate of .0002 percent, one out of every 500,000 votes.

By comparison, TV-6 Investigates bought a $2 Illinois lottery scratch ticket. It has an overall chance of winning anything at 1 out of every 4.55 tickets. (Correction: The original story said 1 in 2,000. This was a math error. I regret the mistake.)

“There was a bad old days in elections in America but this isn’t the bad old days anymore,” said Illinois State Board of Elections General Counsel Ken Menzel. He’s the top lawyer for the non-partisan agency. (It’s headed by a bi-partisan board.) Menzel has helped run elections for the last 30 years in multiple positions. He said fraud is not a widespread problem.

“If you look through the history, all across the nation voter fraud is astonishingly rare,” said Menzel.

He said part of the defense against fraud is the way our elections are structured. They’re carried out locally. In Illinois, that means 109 election authorities with 10,000 precincts, and 50,000 poll workers.

“You’d need an army of mystical ninja burglars to try to do something on a wide scale,” said Menzel.

Iowa has 100 election commissioners. And both states compare their voter lists. Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker said that cross check caught a person double voting in 2012. An Iowa Criminal Complaint said Robert Everly the third submitted an absentee ballot in Clinton County and in Elkhart Indiana.

Van Lancker said, “That’s why it’s so important that when we do find this, we prosecute to let people know not to do it on the front end because we’re going to find you and we’re going to prosecute you.”

Court records show Everly plead guilty and was fined $1,000. He got away with the double vote for three years before getting caught. Van Lancker said if people tried to sway an election, the numbers would stack up against them.

“You’re talking about a lot of time effort and more than one person, you’re talking about a lot of people,” said Van Lancker.

Menzel said, “There’s an old saying that once you get a second person in a conspiracy the secrecy is going to go away fairly soon.”

He said physical security also plays an important role. Electronic voting machines are not connected to the Internet. They’re publicly tested before the election. Both states keep a paper record of your vote.

Menzel said, “In a very large-scale operation, maybe one or two will slip through but getting the kind of structure and organization and resources to do it on a large-scale is just not really practicable.”

Mistakes occur. Some voters are caught after the fact. But election authorities say the number of fraudulent votes compared to legitimate votes is so low, it won’t impact the election.

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