Absentee ballots are particularly susceptible to fraud.
We recently added nine new cases to the Heritage Election Fraud Database, bringing the total number of entries of proven instances of voter fraud in the database to 1,374. The mounting collection of cases continue to disprove the narrative that voter fraud is not real and that further election integrity measures are not needed.
The database does not purport to be comprehensive. Rather, it contains a sampling from across the country of proven cases, each one demonstrating how election fraud occurs. It shows the vulnerabilities within our current electoral system and provides measures state legislators can take to ensure integrity in every vote cast. To assist state legislatures in that task, Heritage has also produced its Election Integrity Scorecard.
Here is a summary of the recent entries:
In Louisiana, two public officials orchestrated a vote-buying scheme during the Tangipahoa Parish 2016 and 2020 open primary and general elections. Jerry Trabona, who served as Amite City chief of police from 2005-2020, and Kris Hart, an Amite City councilmember, solicited individuals to buy votes for them and other candidates they supported during both the 2016 primary and general elections in Tangipahoa Parish. Hart also solicited vote buyers during his reelection in the 2020 primary and general elections as well.
Hart and Trabona provided sample ballots with names and candidate numbers to vote buyers to ensure voters being paid were voting for Hart and Trabona as well as the other candidates they supported. Hart also employed vote buyers to identify individuals who had not yet voted, take them to the polls (and back home, if necessary), and then pay them for their vote.
In an effort to cover his tracks and conceal the scheme, Trabona had the vote buyers sign contracts stating they would not “make any overture of any kind to any voter or other person of financial award or benefit in exchange for a vote.”
To ensure their vote-buying scheme was getting a return on investment, Hart and Trabona made the vote buyers provide a list of the voters paid. The vote buyers would be paid up to $20 for each vote they had procured.
Trabona pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit vote buying. Hart pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit vote buying and three counts of vote buying and to aiding and abetting vote buying. They are both awaiting sentencing.
But they weren’t the only candidates for public office added to the database in this most recent batch.
In New Jersey, Frederick Gattuso, a former Carteret Republican mayoral candidate, was charged with one count of fraudulent voting for voting twice during the November 2020 presidential election as different people with similar names. Gattuso pleaded guilty to one count of tampering with public records and was sentenced to one year of probation.
As Heritage scholars have often said, no one disputes the need for absentee or mail-in ballots for people who cannot make it to their neighborhood polling places on Election Day because they are sick, physically disabled, or serving the country abroad, or because they cannot make it to the polls for some other legitimate reason. However, absentee ballots are particularly susceptible to fraud.
Some argue that such instances of fraud are rare and could never alter the results of an election.
Four cases in this most recent batch of entries involve fraud using an absentee ballot.
Muse Mohamed of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was charged with lying to a federal grand jury about trafficking absentee ballots during the 2020 primary election in Minneapolis for a state senate position. He requested and filled out absentee ballots on behalf of three individuals whom he did not know. His crime was first detected when one of the people Mohamed defrauded went and voted in person. Mohamed was convicted following a jury trial of two counts of making false statements to a grand jury. He will be sentenced later this year.
Melissa Fisher of Quakertown, Pennsylvania, submitted a mail-in ballot on behalf of her deceased mother during the 2020 election. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating absentee and mail-in ballot provisions and two unrelated theft charges and was sentenced to three to 23 months in prison and three years’ probation.
Elizabeth Gale of San Diego, California, was charged with four felony offenses after casting an absentee ballot on behalf of her deceased mother during the 2021 California gubernatorial recall election. After absentee ballots were sent to all registered Madera County voters, Gale filled out the ballot, forged her mother’s signature, and falsely swore as a witness to her mother signing the ballot. Gale pleaded nolo contendere (accepting the conviction without admitting guilt) to one felony count of fraudulently casting a vote. She was sentenced to two years’ probation.
In Colorado, Barry Morphew was charged with one count of forgery and a mail-in ballot offense after submitting an absentee ballot on behalf of his missing wife during the 2020 general election. He told the FBI he submitted the ballot because he “wanted Trump to win.” Although murder charges against him related to his wife’s disappearance were recently dropped, Morphew recently pled guilty to the forgery charge and was sentenced to one year of probation and fined $600.
Another way people defraud the system is by using commercial addresses as residential addresses when registering to vote, which shows them as registered in another state or voting district and allows them to vote for candidates they are not eligible to vote for or allows them to vote more than once.
Lawrence Klug used the address of a UPS Store in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, as his residential address to vote in a town in which he did not live during the 2020 general election. He was convicted of one misdemeanor charge of falsifying voter registration and fined $500.
Some argue, of course, that such instances of fraud are rare and could never alter the results of an election. There are cases in our database, though, that prove otherwise.
Take, for example, the case out of Texas where the results of an election for the board of directors of a road utility district were overturned because three individuals used a hotel address to register to vote, even though none of them were residents of the district.
And in another case out of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Donald Holz, who was not eligible to vote after having been previously convicted of a felony DUI charge, voted in the 2020 general election. He served 10 days in jail and was fined $500.
Vulnerabilities to fair and free elections will continue, and perhaps even get worse, if states don’t prioritize efforts to secure the integrity of their elections. These cases demonstrate some of the myriad ways fraudsters can take advantage of vulnerabilities that occur within the electoral process. Since maintaining election integrity is an issue that affects all citizens, state legislatures should respond by taking reasonable steps to protect the votes of the American people.
As we say in the introduction to the Election Fraud Database:
Preventing, deterring, and prosecuting election fraud is essential to protecting the integrity of our voting process.
Winning elections leads to political power and the incentives to take advantage of security vulnerabilities are great, so it is important that we take reasonable, common-sense steps to make it hard to cheat, while making it easy for legitimate voters to vote.
Americans deserve to have an electoral process that they can trust.