You are hereTalking Points Memo: Election Law Experts Say James O’Keefe Allies Could Face Charges Over Voter Fraud Stunt
Talking Points Memo: Election Law Experts Say James O’Keefe Allies Could Face Charges Over Voter Fraud Stunt
-by Ryan J. Reilly
January 11, 2012- It was one of the few — if not the only — coordinated efforts to attempt in-person voter fraud, and it was pulled off by affiliates of conservative activist James O’Keefe at polling places in New Hampshire Tuesday night. All of it part of an attempt to prove the need for voter ID laws that voting rights experts say have a unfair impact on minority voters.
Now election law experts tell TPM that O’Keefe’s allies could face criminal charges on both the federal and state level for procuring ballots under false names, and that his undercover sting doesn’t demonstrate a need for voter ID laws at all.
Federal law bans not only the casting of, but the “procurement” of ballots “that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent under the laws of the State in which the election is held.”
Hamline University law professor David Schultz told TPM that there’s “no doubt” that O’Keefe’s investigators violated the law.
“In either case, if they were intentionally going in and trying to fraudulently obtain a ballot, they violated the law,” Schultz said. “So right off the bat, what they did violated the law.”
Election law expert Rick Hasen, who writes the Election Law Blog, joked in an email to TPM that O’Keefe’s team should “next show how easy it is to rob a bank with a plastic gun.”
“Who in their right mind would risk a felony conviction for this? And who would be able to do this in large enough numbers to (1) affect the outcome of the election and (2) remain undetected?” Hasen wrote.
Other election experts agreed that the video doesn’t change the substance of the debate over whether the minimal threat of in-person voter fraud is worth the impact that such laws can have on minority and poor voters.
“The fact that activists can engage in a stunt is not a reason for reform,” Samuel Issacharoff, a professor of constitutional law at New York University Law School, told TPM. “It means nothing. Why would anybody want to do this? It proves that they don’t update their dead voter information as quickly as they might, but so what? To pull this off on a large scale, you’d need coordination, and presumably somebody would have heard about it.”