James O’Keefe Helps Debunk Mail Ballot Fraud Myths

James OKeefe, wearing a Mark Udall sticker.

James OKeefe, wearing a Mark Udall sticker.

Conservative media lit up yesterday after conservative provocateur James O'Keefe released a video from his recent "vote fraud" sting attempts in Colorado. Last weekend, we got reports that O'Keefe was in the state attempting to bait Democratic field campaign workers into endorsing fraudulent acts involving mail ballots. Word spread fast from there, but evidently O'Keefe had been on the ground for some time before his presence was publicized.

In the end, it does appear that O'Keefe got what he wanted: out of presumably dozens of attempts where he was informed that his proposal would be felony vote fraud, it looks like he found two people willing to follow his bait into a very, very bad idea: collecting unused mail ballots from students who have moved or transferred, completing them, and turning them in.

Before we go any further, everyone does realize that is a serious crime, right? Good. Let's be very clear about what happened here: O'Keefe was able to lead a couple of low-level table staffers into saying some eye-poppingly stupid things. One agreed with him that turning in other people's ballots would be morally okay, the other actually volunteered "ghetto Aurora" as a good place to collect unused ballots. In both cases, what these staffers for nonprofits Work for Progress and Greenpeace respectively said was absolutely termination-offense unacceptable. We'll go a step further and say the one who got all racial about helping out O'Keefe with his fraud designs must, for the common good, never work in politics again. But in neither case is there any suggestion that these staff would have come up with the idea to do this were it not for O'Keefe's prompting. There's no actual plan by anyone to do what he suggests.

And there's a good reason for that: as our local media has done a good job explaining since O'Keefe's video broke yesterday, the ballot fraud O'Keefe is proposing simply would not work. 9NEWS reports that even GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler can't defend O'Keefe's allegations:

"I can't promise people that it will happen," Sec. of State Scott Gessler said. "I can't promise people that it can't happen. But what I can say is we've got a pretty good system and we're always trying to make it better." [Pols emphasis]

County clerks are required by law to verify signatures on ballots. Gessler says there is a loophole in that law allowing signatures to go unverified if a witness signs the ballot.

But clerks contend witness signatures are rare, and they still have the power to scrutinize those ballots if they seem suspicious.

Witness-signed ballots are indeed rare–and as the Denver clerk's office explains, you can't just fish a ballot out of somebody else's mailbox and send it in. It will be caught:

"That check of signature verification is really the stopgap to prevent ballots that are being filled out by people who are not the voter," said Amber McReynolds, the director of Denver's elections division.

About 1.5% of the ballots turned into the Denver clerk's office so far have been flagged for signature verification according to this story. That doesn't mean they're fraudulent, of course, it just means that the signature on file with the Denver clerk didn't match the signature on the ballot envelope closely enough to mass automatic muster–or weren't signed at all. Affected voters are notified and given the opportunity to "cure" their ballot by verifying their signature. That's how the system has always worked for absentee and mail-in ballots, and it actually works well. Without anything to go on, what's a fraudster supposed to do to fake someone's signature?

Yes, there's probably some elaborate scheme that could be concocted to obtain examples of signatures of voters to believably forge on mail ballots. If we were to think about all the ways we could violate, you know, just about any law, there are elaborate Rube Goldberg machine ideas we could come up with to pull it off.

But nobody's doing these crazy things to commit vote fraud. It's much cheaper to get out the vote in legal ways.

In a sense, it's good that O'Keefe gave our county clerks a chance to explain how voting by mail actually works in Colorado. It won't mean much to the right wing media breathlessly reporting on O'Keefe's "proven vote fraud" video, or the consumers of said media who aren't really interested in facts that might render them less agitated. But the people who matter–Colorado voters–can be assured that our system does work.

When even Scott Gessler grudgingly admits it, you can feel pretty confident.

33 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DawnPatrol says:

    I'm so pleased to see this filthy, slimy, wormy little GOTP ratfucker exposed and called out on his despicable bullshit.

    You know, one day this scurvy little punk is going to cross the wrong person(s) at the wrong time, and, well, let's just say it ain't gonna be pretty…

  2. Don't assume that O'keefe really found what he wanted. He's been fined in the past for editing video to make it seem like he got what he wanted. Assuming without investigating his claims falls in the same trap that got ACORN banned by a law in Congress based on his heavily edited videos, the same reuptation smearing crap that ousted Shirley Sherrod from her position at the USDA.

    I can't believe we're blindly believing ANYTHING that James O'Keefe puts out – even when the ultimate result is a (probably painful) clarification from our Republican SoS that this can't really happen.

    • It also wouldn't surprise me if these two example volunteers were plants – though so far O'Keefe seems to have overlooked this easiest way of making an organization look bad. The "ghetto Aurora" comment smacks of either a plant or someone that was playing along (as several of O'Keefe's past victims have…).

      • Zappatero says:


        And if what O'Keefe did was not "inducement to fraud" or "subornation of fraud" or something of the sort then Colorado should update the law to prevent Convicts like Republican/Fox News Flunky and Voter Fraud Advocate James O'Keefe from doing it.

      • mamajama55 says:

        +20 Phoenix

        I agree that the most likely scenario is that these "volunteers" were plants – after O'Keefe flunked out at finding people to entrap, he went with "I'll just hire some people and get it over with."

        Or, as Phoenix suggests, the video has been so heavily edited and captioned that it has no resemblance to the actual conversation. This is what happened both with tO'Keefe's Shirley Sherrod statement, and with the "pimp at Planned Parenthood" video.

        It won't stop the rightie blogosphere from running with this story up until the election.  I would like to see criminal charges of entrapment and conspiracy to make election fraud pinned on O'Keefe.

  3. Davie says:

    As with Caldara's stunt of questionable legality, even if O'Keefe somehow managed to motivate someone to go through all the effort to find, fill out and forge signatures on a few ballots, in the highly unlikely event they got past the county clerk, the impact on the election outcome would be precisely zero.

    It takes a sick, twisted (i.e. GOP) mind to invent these far out scenarios and then project them as common, everyday occurrences.

  4. DenverMom says:

    This is the ultimate anti-democratic activity.  If you truly believe in democracy, then you believe in honest and fair elections, not pandering or entrapment or subverting the process.  He is despicable.

  5. BlueCat says:

    This just shows that if you try to trick people into doing something stupid long enough and  targeting a large enough number of people you will run into one or two idiots. That's why so many of us still get the occasional e-mail, sent directly to spam, about how somebody in Africa has a bunch of money to transfer to us if we just pay a  little to facilitate. Even though these e-mails usually feature broken English and are obviously fraudulent, occasionally somebody bites.

    In this case, not only did the overwhelming majority not bite but the there's no way the couple of idiots could have been successful because we already have perfectly sufficient safeguards in place. There is no voter fraud problem requiring stricter measures than those we have. Everyone including the Rs pushing new restrictions knows it and everyone with more brains than a your average rock knows the entire effort is aimed entirely at suppressing Dem leaning votes. 

    O'Keefe should be charged with attempting to commit voter fraud via entering into a conspiracy.

    • DawnPatrol says:

      O'Keefe should indeed be charged with conspiracy to commit voter fraud, immediately. In addition, in law enforcement, such behavior as that exhibited by this anti-social misfit is called ENTRAPMENT, and is routinely dismissed by the courts.

      • BlueCat says:

        Outside of law enforcement it's just criminal behavior. Private citizens aren't protected from the consequences of illegal behavior by claiming they were running a sting operation. Try getting out of, say, enlisting fellow workers in an embezzling scheme at the bank you work at by saying, honest, I was just trying to uncover flaws for the greater good. That is if you're just a lowly teller. You can commit pretty much any crimes you want if you're high enough on the food chain.

  6. Sunmusing says:

    Hmmm….I was just looking at the envelope, and it requires full postage if dropped into the mail…Is that a poll tax??? Inquiring minds want to know…

    • DawnPatrol says:

      In essence, yes, it is.

      All election-ballot envelopes should and would, in a just, GOTP-neutered world, be postage-paid.

    • Old Time Dem says:

      Probably not, since ballots can be dropped off without having to spring for postage.  There are also actual polling stations–you don't have to vote by mail if you don't want to.

    • BlueCat says:

      However, since mailing it in is optional, I don't think it qualifies as a poll tax. You can drop it off at your County Clerk's or other center without paying a thing, which is what I always do. If you have no transportation to do so you can get someone who does to drop it off for you as long as they drop off no more than 10 at a time. You can also call your HD or county party and get someone to pick up and deliver your ballot. I'd say it's only a poll tax if you have to pay it in order to vote with no alternatives.

  7. Old Time Dem says:

    Is the woman identified as a Greenpeace staffer actually a Greenpeace employee or is (was?) she one of the charity muggers that patrol the 16th Street Mall?

  8. Moderatus says:

    O'Keefe caught Democrat operatives telling people to get ballots in the trash in "ghetto Aurora."


    • DawnPatrol says:

      Junior Varsity's here! Everybody choke up on your bats!

    • BlueCat says:

      For crying out loud modster.  Even if such a thing were really going on, how do you propose the would be fraudsters could manage to sign those ballots with signatures that would match the signatures of the registered voters to whom those ballots were sent? They do check, you know. You can stop pretending voter fraud is a real problem. Everyone, including the R ols pushing it as a problem in desperate need of a solution, knows it isn't  and is just an excuse for voter suppression and creating hysteria for base GOTV  and fundraising potential.  Give it up, already. The Republicans who would know if voter fraud were a real problem are the R county clerks and almost every single one of them says it's not.

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