Missouri, 2004

November 10, 2007

The 2004 election was hotly contested in Missouri, and various irregularities led to inflated claims of widespread fraud. At the same time, Missouri citizens were debating a proposal to require restrictive identification of each voter at the polls, and the fraud claims were used to support the call for ID. We examined each of the allegations of fraud by individual voters -- the only sort that ID could possibly address -- to uncover the truth behind the assertions.

The allegations yielded only two substantiated cases of individuals knowingly casting invalid votes that counted -- two voters, each voting twice. This amounts to a rate of 0.0001%. None of these problems could have been resolved by requiring photo ID at the polls.

The analysis below examines the allegations of fraud in more detail.

The rate of substantiated fraud:

  • The allegations of fraud related to the 2004 general election, in which 2,731,364 votes were cast in Missouri.
There were two substantiated cases of individuals knowingly casting invalid votes that counted -- two voters voting twice each. This amounts to a rate of 0.0001%. None of these problems could have been resolved by requiring photo ID at the polls.

The allegations:

  • 3 people allegedly voted twice.
  • More than 1,000 allegedly fraudulent voter registration applications were submitted in St. Louis, with allegedly invalid addresses, fictitious names, or in the names of valid voters without their permission.

Additional allegations of irregularities unconnected to individual voter fraud:

  • In at least one county, individuals were allegedly asked for improperly restrictive proof of identification, and either turned away or told to vote provisional ballots.

Questioning the allegations:

  • Double voters: The fact that the same name is listed as voting on two different voting rolls does not necessarily mean that one person voted twice: often, what looks like the same person listed twice turns out to be two different individuals with the same name and/or birthday. In other cases, clerical errors may be responsible for the double listing.
  • Improper addresses: For several reasons, allegedly improper addresses on registration forms may not show fraud. Apartment numbers may be incorrectly read as part of a street address by computerized matching systems, causing the system to reject an accurate address. A typographical or other data entry error may make a legitimate address appear fictitious (or appear to be located outside of the relevant precinct). A voter may be registered as living in a building that has been demolished since the registration was processed; if the voter moved within the same precinct, she may not be required to re-register. In addition, an individual (e.g., a site manager of a business) may actually live at what appears to be an invalid business address.

The facts:

  • Double voters: 2 individuals pled guilty to double voting within Missouri.
  • Voter registration applications: Voter registration groups submitted many forms, some of which were duplicates; the overall number of duplicates was neither unusual nor suggested any illegal activity. Four temporary workers from one organization found to have submitted fraudulent forms were fired, and their information was turned over to prosecutors. No allegations that votes were cast under any unlawful registration forms were reported.

Coverage by existing law:
Proper implementation of existing law would have addressed these allegations -- and in the case of the faulty registrations, it did so, as the counties carefully reviewed registration forms for evidence of ineligibility or illegality. Furthermore, the Help America Vote Act required states to create statewide electronic voter registration lists with each eligible voter listed uniquely to remove duplicate registrations, and to coordinate those computerized lists with agency records on death and conviction in order to remove ineligible voters. Although the obligation to maintain these cleaned lists predated HAVA, the computerized registration rolls -- if implemented with suitable controls for accuracy -- offer a new and efficient means to do so statewide. Like most states, Missouri did not have a HAVA-ready statewide database up and running in 2004, but now that it does, the database should allow the state to evaluate and address even the small number of allegedly improper registrations.

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Sources:
Office of Secretary of State, Election Night Reporting: November 2, 2004 General Election.
Mark Follman, Alex Koppelman & Jonathan Vanian, How U.S. Attorneys Were Used to Spread Voter-Fraud Fears, Slate, Mar. 21, 2007.
Michael Kelly & Kathryn Buckstaff, Bill Would Require Picture ID to Vote, Springfield News-Leader, Feb. 8, 2006.
U.S. Dept. of Justice, Criminal Division, Public Integrity Section, Federal Election Fraud Prosecutions and Convictions, Ballot Access And Voting Integrity Initiative, October 2002 to September 2005 (Nov. 7, 2005).
Jo Mannies & Lorraine Kee, Voting Goes Well in City, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 3, 2004.
Stephanie V. Siek, Allegations of Voter Registration Fraud Rankle Nonprofit Voter Groups, Associated Press, Oct. 12, 2004.
Jo Mannies, Voter Registration Fraud Dogs City, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sept. 19, 2003.

Other resources:
Ken Silverstein, The Question of Balance: Revisiting the Missouri Election Scandal of 2004, Harper’s Magazine, May 8, 2007.