As Election Day approaches and Republican electoral prospects get bleaker for a host of reasons that have nothing to do with the mechanics of voting, a significant number of (generally) conservative voters have sought consolation in speculation about the possibility of widespread vote fraud that might taint the results. These theories have been greatly boosted by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s oft-repeated claims that the election is “rigged,” and his refusal to promise to accept the results even if they’re adverse to him.
In Colorado, we’ve been dealing with allegations of “widespread election fraud” from Republican politicos for many years, particularly since former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler made nationwide headlines with his subsequently debunked claims that “tens of thousands” of people had voted illegally in Colorado. In truth only a small number of cases were ever referred to prosecutors, and of those the vast majority were explainable by mundane circumstances.
In late September, CBS4 Denver’s Brian Maass reported that he had found a handful of cases in which registered voters who were deceased had ballots turned in after their deaths. The story spread rapidly in conservative media, and quickly lost any realistic sense of the scope of the problem–which was, again, maybe half a dozen cases in a state with 3.7 million registered voters.
To be clear, nobody should be happy about any case of vote fraud, but if the remedy for the problem uncovered would prevent more people from voting than what we’re seeing in cases of alleged fraud, the cure would be worse than the disease. And the debate isn’t occurring in a vacuum, because one side has consistently worked to roll back all kinds of voting reforms from early voting to mail ballots–not to prevent fraud, but to make it harder for voters demographically opposed to them to vote.
With all of this in mind, Maass ran another story last night, with a dozen (that’s twelve) anecdotal cases of Colorado voters allegedly voting twice:
An ongoing CBS4 voter fraud investigation has uncovered a dozen cases where Coloradans are suspected of voting twice. Previous CBS4 Investigations revealed ballots cast in the names of Coloradans who had been dead for months– sometimes years- before votes were cast in their names.
In six of the new cases, voting records show the same people voting twice in Colorado elections. In another six cases, people are suspected of voting in Colorado and another state during the same election cycle.
The cases of Colorado voters voting both in our state and another state appear to originate with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach is almost as notorious as Scott Gessler for making sweeping statements about supposed vote fraud that don’t hold up under scrutiny. But in these instances, there do appear to be a few individuals who tried to vote in his state and in Colorado.
And in most cases they’re being prosecuted. Colorado and Kansas both participate in a voter verification system that checks the rolls in participating states for duplicates–in most cases, completely uncontroversial duplicates resulting from people moving without updating their registration. As Maas reports, some states don’t participate in that system, and CBS4 found a few Colorado voters also registered in other states who may have voted twice. The cases CBS4 disclosed details on are not exclusively with any one party–both Republicans and Democrats apparently did it.
As we said, no one is going to argue that such cases should be ignored. Especially in close elections, it doesn’t take much of this kind of shenanigans to potentially affect the result. But there is no rational way to aggregate these few cases of individuals attempting to beat the system into anything that could be considered a threat to our elections. There are safeguards against this kind of criminal behavior, and reforms that would make it harder to cheat need not make it harder to vote.
And no matter how deep your denial may be, this isn’t why Donald Trump is going to lose.