Missouri, 2006

November 10, 2007

The 2006 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 absolutely no substantiated cases of individuals knowingly casting invalid votes that counted. Accordingly, 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 2006 general election, in which 2,128,459 votes were cast in Missouri.
There were no substantiated cases of individuals knowingly casting invalid votes that counted. Accordingly, none of these problems could have been resolved by requiring photo ID at the polls.

  • There was one substantiated case of invalid votes cast -- two absentee ballots cast by one voter. This amounts to a rate of 0.00009%. This problem could not have been resolved by requiring photo ID at the polls.

The allegations:

  • 1,492 allegedly invalid voter registration applications – including duplicate registrations, registrations in the names of underage voters, registrations in the names of deceased individuals, and forged registration cards – were submitted in St. Louis.
  • 1 voter allegedly voted twice.

Additional allegations of irregularities unconnected to individual voter fraud:

  • In two counties, optical scan ballots were rejected by machines (but counted on human review) because voters had allegedly marked the ballots clearly, but incorrectly. In other counties, the ballot precinct counters were reported as broken.
  • In an apparent programming error, the titles for two elections had been swapped on electronic machines in one county. In St. Louis, voters reported that their votes on some of the electronic machines were misrecorded as entered for the candidate of the opposing party.
  • Several counties reported serious ballot shortages, causing long lines.
  • In several polling places, poll books were allegedly faulty or incomplete. In other polling places, pollworkers were using the poll books incorrectly, failing to find listed voters.
  • Individuals were allegedly asked for improperly restrictive proof of identification, and either turned away or told to vote provisional ballots.
  • Two weeks before the election, the St. Louis City Election Board sent a letter to approximately 5,000 newly registered voters allegedly suggesting that the registrants had to complete additional steps in order to become fully registered and eligible to vote.

Questioning the allegations: Although duplicate registrations – two registration cards submitted in the name of the same individual, with the same information -- are often cited as evidence of fraud, there is nothing either illegal or improper about them. Given the rate at which forms are improperly rejected or questioned, an individual may simply seek to increase the chances that a valid form is validly registered. Or an individual may forget that he or she has already registered to vote. In any event, two (or more) registration cards with the same information lead to one and only one opportunity to vote.

The facts:

  • Voter registration applications: After review by the organizers of a voter registration drive, four individuals were turned over to prosecutors in Kansas City for submitting fraudulent registration forms. All four were indicted on the eve of the 2006 election (the original indictment papers incorrectly stated the name of one of the individuals), and all four pled guilty. No invalid votes were alleged to have been cast under these registrations.
  • Double votes: One elderly election judge voted two absentee ballots, apparently unintentionally.

Coverage by existing law: Existing law addressed these allegations. Absentee ballots should have been canvassed for duplicates in order to catch any double votes. Moreover, the false voter registration forms were caught: the voter registration groups reviewed their applications, submitted potentially fraudulent forms to prosecutors, and invalid registrations were eliminated. Missouri now prohibits compensation based on the number of voters registered or registration forms collected, which further reduces the potential for wrongdoing. Moreover, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires 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 2001, but now that it does, the database should allow the state to sharply reduce even the small number of allegedly improper registrations.

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Sources:
Office of Secretary of State, Election Night Reporting: November 7, 2006 General Election.
Tony Rizzo, ACORN Worker Enters Guilty Plea, Kansas City Star, June 6, 2007.
Kansas City Legal Briefs, Kansas City Daily Record, May 18, 2007.
Tom Herrmann, Missouri Votter Fraud Cases Make Way Into Prosecutor Investigations, Kansas City Daily Record, May 15, 2007.
Greg Gordon, 2006 Missouri’s Election Was Ground Zero for GOP, McClatchy Newspapers, May 2, 2007.
Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, Voters First: An Examination of the 2006 Midterm Election in Missouri (Winter 2007).
David Martin, With Friends Like These…, Pitch Weekly, Nov. 23, 2006.
Charges Dropped in Voter Fraud Case, Kansas City Star, Nov. 21, 2006.
Some Voting Problems Reported in Missouri, Springfield News-Leader, Nov. 7, 2006.
Jo Mannies, Election Judge Cast 2 Absentee Ballots, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Oct. 21, 2006, at A11.
Group Accused of Voter Fraud, Columbia Daily Tribune, Oct. 12, 2006.
Jo Mannies, Suspect Voter Cards Found, Oct. 11, 2006, at A1.

Other resources:
Greg Gordon, Questions Arise Over Voter Fraud Case, Miami Herald, June 9, 2007.
Philip Dine, Political Storm Brews Over Testimony, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 6, 2007.
Richard Serrano, Indictments May Have Bent Justice's Rules, Los Angeles Times, June 6, 2007.