Voter fraud is real.
And while officials work to refine strategies to make sure all elections are fair and legal, Colorado’s move to an all-mail voting system mean illegal ballots can slip through the cracks.
“It happens on occasion, but it’s rare,” said Secretary of State Wayne Williams.
“We work hard to keep it in the rare category and prosecute those that do (commit fraud).”
A report by a Denver television station put voter fraud into the spotlight when it revealed Thursday that the names of at least four dead people had been used in multiple elections.
Among those cases were ballots cast in the name of Sara Sosa of Colorado Springs in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 elections, El Paso County Clerk & Recorder Chuck Broerman confirmed to The Gazette on Friday. Sosa died Oct. 14, 2009.
In 2015, the state released a list of 1.6 million registered voters who had died to help fight fraud, and Broerman said his office used that list to remove 448 names from the county’s voter roll.
“There are still holes,” Broerman said, using the example of “snowbirds” who live part time in two states, die elsewhere and remain registered in one state.
Mail-in voting has sometimes led to intentional and unintentional fraud, officials say.
Those wishing to commit voter fraud may intercept a mailed ballot and cast an extra vote, Broerman said. And Colorado voters don’t need to show photo ID cards when registering in person.
“That’s the biggest vulnerability,” Williams said. “There have been bills before the State Legislature pretty much every year (to amend that rule), but it has always been a party-line vote.”
Williams said about 8,000 out of 2 million ballots cast in the November 2014 election were rejected because signatures didn’t match voter registration records. Some of those were simply spouses or other family members who realized their loved ones had not signed the ballot envelope. He said they would sign the ballot — without realizing the illegality of the move — before dropping it in the mail.
Others were more malicious, Williams said, noting that intentional fraud can occur when criminals find extra ballot envelopes and “submit a bunch.”
The mail-in system can also lead to high costs.
El Paso County had 13,097 ballots deemed “undeliverable” during the November 2014 election. Clerk’s office spokesman Ryan Parsell said it costs the county $1.35 to mail each ballot packet, and his office is charged at least 70 cents more per ballot for return postage. The result is a cost of almost $27,000 for the ballots that will never be cast.
While the voting system is not perfect, election officials work hard to get their staffs nationally certified and be sure every vote counts.
“It’s not right and it’s not tolerable here,” Broerman said of fraud. “There are people in the military who spill their blood to protect the sanctity of everyone’s vote.”
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