Elections

Voter fraud in three easy steps

What can be done to correct S.15

by Matthew Strong

In this third and final installment of an investigative series into Vermont election security and the impacts of S.15, we look to Town Clerk feedback, and what simple measures could be included in S.15 to make it work, and another option to mass mailing ballots every election.

As we discovered, Vermont is not one of the 34 states that require some form of identification to vote. Vermont does not have voter signature verification. Vermont voter rolls are difficult to maintain and purge inactive voters, or voters who have moved. While officials boast no fraud has been proven, this fact is just as likely to be the result of a near total inability to detect fraud as the absence of it. S.15 would put Vermont in the unenviable position of having the least secure election process in the country.


Part 1: Voter fraud alleged on WVMT as House studies permanent Vote-By-Mail bill

Part 2: Secretary of State’s office evasive about mailed vote vulnerability


Reached for comment via email, the Legislative Committee Chair for the Vermont Municipal Clerks & Treasurers Association, Carol Dawes (Barre City Clerk/Treasurer) said:

“The bill [S.15] as passed by the Senate includes a number of provisions that will make permanent changes that were put in place during the COVID pandemic including authorizing outdoor polling places and drop boxes, allowing early processing of absentee ballots, establishing protocols around vote-by-mail, and setting up systems for allowing voters to cure defective ballots.  All items included in the bill expand voters’ access to the voting booth and ballot box, and the right to vote, while protecting the integrity of elections state-wide.

“Clerks bring a unique point of view to the table, as the ones who are doing the work “in the field,” stated Dawes. 

It is worth noting that in Dawes’ statement she claims S.15 ‘protects the integrity of elections state-wide,’ but lists no specific measures about how the law actually does this ‘in the field.’ 

While some Vermont clerks might support S.15, this is not universal. Donna Kinville, Clerk for South Burlington, has testified in front of Vermont legislative committees about weaknesses in the system. Reached for comment about the following real-world scenario of a campaign volunteer and the ease of committing fraud, she responded below in bold italics:

Campaign volunteer scenario and town clerk response

1) As a campaign volunteer in the final month of a VT campaign (after ballots have been mailed out), I would be knocking on doors, and asking people if they need help understanding their ballots or if they need assistance getting to the polls on election day (totally legal and ethical). Households who receive ballots for persons no longer living there may ask what to do with them in the natural course of conversation. “I can take care of those for you,” I respond and take them.  

KINVILLE: “That would be completely possible as there is no signature verification process for early voting in Vermont.  However, a family member can request one now for everyone in their house and some of them may be college students voting in another state that has not updated their voter status in Vermont.  They could also vote those early.”

2) I now know two important pieces of information; a) the person is no longer in the area but is still on the voter list, and b) the likelihood of them showing up to vote in person is almost zero. 

KINVILLE: “Pretty much correct, although without being able to ask for identification, someone could vote using their name at the polls on election day.  We are large enough of a city that it would be very easy to do as the election workers can’t know everyone in their district.”

3) I fill out the ballot, and envelope, and do it carefully to make sure all is correct, and the signature is vague but neat. It is mailed in, and if nothing is wrong with the information on the envelope, the name is marked as “already voted” on the voter rolls, but the ballot is not counted until election day. When the intended person doesn’t show up to vote in person, the ballot is removed from the envelope and commingled with the in-person ballots and counted. 

KINVILLE: “The early ballots are never held until the end of election day to see if someone shows up to vote or not.  An early ballot can be processed 2 ways.  First if we are allowed to do early processing of ballots.  If we do early pre-processing that ballot has already been marked off on the checklist and opened and put through the tabulator.  No way to know which ballot it was and pull it out.  Secondly, if we don’t do early preprocessing of ballots, then the ballot inside the envelope is brought to the polls and through the course of the day processed by the front check-in table and handed to the election officials to open and put through the tabulator.  So, it would depend on numerous variables when it would be processed but usually done by 11:00 a.m. and no way to retrieve that ballot once it is voted.”

As confirmed, the lack of security and difficulty in keeping voter rolls efficiently accurate could lead to great uncertainty and ease of committing fraud in a multitude of formats. Emails to the VMCTA concerning the security issues listed above were not returned prior to publication. Further emails to the Secretary of State’s office were not returned prior to publication. 

To recap:

  • Anyone can collect unclaimed or unwanted ballots and not be caught.
  • Anyone could fill out and send in those ballots and, if the real voter does not show up to vote, the fraudulent votes would go undetected and be reflected in the final vote count. The fraudster could not be caught.
  • If someone fills out an errant ballot for someone else and the valid voter does show up at the polls to vote, the fraudulent vote could not be removed and would still be reflected in the final vote count, and it is not likely the fraudster would be caught.
  • If a voter moves away and is legally no longer eligible to vote in Vermont, but remains on the checklist, and that person’s ballot is stolen and fraudulently cast, it means the no-longer-eligible voter remains on the voter checklist as an “active voter” and will continue to receive live absentee ballots, which can again be stolen, creating a cycle of fraud.

However, there are many solutions, and most of them are relatively easy given the low population in Vermont. 

At its very first hearing, a special Pennsylvania Senate committee, formed in the wake of the 2020 election cycle controversy and Supreme Court cases, turned to Utah for advice. The Vermont legislature could gain valuable insight from them as well. 

How Utah makes mailed ballots secure

Utah, a long-term conservative state, has been using Vote-by-Mail for their elections since 2012. 

Justin Lee, Utah elections director, shared valuable information with the committee on how they achieve a high degree of security, while also increasing convenience and massive voter participation, in the following excerpt from the Deseret News:

“During the hearing, Pennsylvania lawmakers questioned Lee about election security, voter rolls, voter identification, ballot drop boxes, ballot curing and fraud.

Lee told the committee Utah hasn’t seen widespread voter fraud, but there have been instances where voters have signed a ballot on behalf of someone else, such as a spouse, partner or child who might be away at school. County officials catch those cases because they verify every signature against the voter’s signature in the state’s database, he said.

If that happens, voters are informed that they are committing a crime.

“We don’t see a lot of repeat offenders when we reach out and let them know that,” Lee said.

Over the years, the larger concern among Utah voters has been to make sure election officials don’t discount their ballot because the signature on the envelope doesn’t match the one in the database due to age, injury or “neat or messy” handwriting on any given day, he said.

Counties have a system in place that allows voters to “cure” an issue with a signature. County clerks reach out through email, letter, phone call or text message to have them verify whether they signed the ballot, which also provides an opportunity for a county to collect a more up-to-date signature.

Utah also has a tracking system on its elections website that allows voters to see if a county clerk has received their ballot and if it was counted. Going forward the state will add text and emails notifications to let voters know the status of their ballot, Lee said.”

According to the article, “in 2020, about 90% of Utah voters voted by mail in the March presidential primary, 99% in the June state primary, and about 93% in the November general election.” Clearly the idea that higher integrity leads to lower turnout is not realistic. 

Messages to the Utah Lt. Governor’s office (Utah has no Secretary of State) to inquire about the specifics of how county clerks maintain clean voter rolls were not returned prior to publication time. However, their website lists several ways, and it is constant process, meaning the clerks have much more control and efficiency in Utah than here in Vermont. 

Voting by mobile phone

Another alternative to mass-mailing ballots for absentee voting is blockchain system voting. If the goal is extreme accessibility and ease of voting, then why not contract with a New England company to do absentee voting via smartphone or tablet? “Blockchain” is an open-source distributed ledger or database system in which an updated copy of the records is available to all stakeholders at all times. Due to this distributed nature, it is almost impossible for a single person or company to hack everybody’s ledger, ensuring security against cyberattacks. This has led to the rise of several companies using the security aspects to create mobile voting systems for absentee voting. Several elections have already used the technology with more adaptation on the way. 

A common misconception among opponents of mobile voting, is the “lack of mobile device ownership.” However, a 2019 Pew Research Center study shows the opposite. “The vast majority of Americans – 96% – now own a cellphone of some kind. The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 81%, up from just 35% in Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011. Along with mobile phones, Americans own a range of other information devices. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults now own desktop or laptop computers, while roughly half now own tablet computers and roughly half own e-reader devices,” the survey concluded. 

The process is simple. You would contact your town clerk for an electronic absentee ballot. The clerk would send a secured link to download the app, verify your identity, fill out the ballot in your district, and submit it. The app removes your identity from the vote, while giving you a receipt of your vote to print if you wish, and then giving the town clerk a completed ballot to add to their other ballots to tabulate, securely and efficiently. Engaging the youth vote would be much easier if a simple email to the town clerk, and less than 5 minutes on your phone would finish your voting experience, without leaving the couch. 

As evidenced by other state’s work and success, high degrees of voting integrity and voter turnout and accessibility are possible. Our election integrity is at stake. Without it, Vermont has the likely future of being the next Florida “hanging chad” internet joke. 

22 replies »

  1. How to STEAL an Election easily. At Present, There is NO POSITIOVE Way to track voting. Mail in Voting with NO verification of who is Voting Leaves the Election OPEN TO FRAUD !!!

  2. It appears that the House Committee on Government Operations is now discussing S.15 and will likely vote on it soon. Respectful emails to committee members might help; they are…
    Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, Chair
    Rep. John Gannon, Vice Chair
    Rep. Robert LaClair, Ranking Member
    Rep. Peter Anthony
    Rep. Harold “Hal” Colston, Clerk
    Rep. Mark Higley
    Rep. Robert Hooper
    Rep. Samantha Lefebvre
    Rep. Michael McCarthy
    Rep. Michael Mrowicki
    Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky

  3. It’s BS !! You need ID to do anything in this world you should be required to have it to vote and if you are not voting in person then it should have signature verification at least ! Someone I know has an apt complex and was telling me about all of the ballots that were on the floor in the mailbox area ! I wonder how many of those made it to the proper person?? It used to be that you had to have a pretty good reason to vote absentee and it should go back to that ! Hell my 92 yr old aunt went out and voted in person ! We need to clean up our voter rolls and we need to get rid of machines!

  4. Of course the Socialist/Communist argument is no fraud has been proven and ignore the fact that no legitimacy has been proven. They want citizens to prove a negative. wonder why?

    • Richard, I wish that some of you people would spend enough time researching the differences between “socialism” and what is referred to as “communism”. Social ism as it is applied simply means that corporations, etc. should not be allowed to claim an inordinate share of the resources of a country. E.g.: Amazon should pay the taxes owed. It doesn’t mean that the govt. should tell you what you may or may not legally own.

      • It’s hard to believe the ploy of ‘alternative facts’ has reached so far into our society.

        Definition of socialism (according to Merriam-Webster)
        1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
        2a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
        b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
        3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.

        ‘War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Ignorance Is Strength.’ George Orwell, 1984

      • Under the 1st definition a government action forbidding the ecologically unsound pollution of an area of ground which would toxify a water source or leave behind hazardous waste is “socialism”.

      • You don’t seem to understand the difference between ‘socialism’ and free market economies regulated under the rule of law (i.e. The U. S. and State Constitutions).

        Under ‘socialism’, the pollution is caused by the government because it owns and controls the means of production. Who is ‘the government’? It’s taxpayers and elected officials.

        Under constitutional free markets, any private person or private organization that pollutes the water is held responsible through the rule of law. Those who are harmed redress their grievances through due process in a court of law. The responsible party pays damages, fines and/or goes to jail.

        Take the Flint, Michigan water crisis. While the city, the owner of the municipal water system, has been successfully sued for its mismanagement, only a couple of individuals have been held accountable. And any financial settlement, paradoxically, will come from the municipality, which means its taxpayers, including those damaged by the pollution in the first place, will pay the bill.

        The most important negative aspect of socialism is the disincentive it creates for anyone to accept personal accountability for what they do. When we’re ‘all in this together’, no one is ever individually responsible.

      • You’re simply ignorant. “Socialism” comes in various forms. Not merely those that feed your elitist fantasies. You won’t acknowledge that both Israel and Sweden consider themselves to be socialist. You’ve never answered that point.
        I never brought up much of what you imply. As it is, there should and must be stricter laws to restrain corporate excesses.

      • What you have been taught is incorrect. Do the research. Again, here is some actual history.

        Neither Sweden nor Israel describe their country as ‘socialist’. Nor are they. Their governments don’t own the means of production and private property is an established right. Those are not the tenants of what ‘socialism’ is, despite your conjured up perspective.

        https://fee.org/articles/is-sweden-socialist-no-but/
        https://fee.org/articles/israel-the-road-from-socialism/

        Sweden is the bastion of capitalism. Israel, on the other hand, like the Pilgrims in Plymouth Plantation, began as a ‘collective’ (i.e. socialism), but learned what William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Plantation, finally figured out.

        ________

        Civics in America:
        The unique experiment of American Constitutionalism

        There is a truth not universally acknowledged today. But it should be.

        Despite Plymouth Colony’s three newly learned skills from Native Americans – how to grow corn, catch fish, gather nuts and berries – in 1623 the colony was barely producing enough food to survive.

        “The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.”
        William Bradford, Governor, Plymouth Plantation
        http://historyofmassachusetts.org/plymouth-colony-economy/

        While at first it was an experiment, an innovation necessitated by a ‘starving time’ – little did these colonists realize at the outset of their decision to establish ‘private property’ (the innovative convention that saved their individual and collective souls) that it would, 150 years later, fertilize seeds of Independence in a New World with the recognition that…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

        ___________

        I suspect you’re confusing a government’s right to raise taxes as being a form of socialism. It is not. That you believe Amazon, for example, “should pay the taxes owed”, is not a tenet of socialism. What you continue to fail to consider is how much tax should Amazon pay… and why. I know you have your opinion on the matter, as do I. But that is NOT socialism!

  5. When grasping for examples of “systemic racism”, I can think of no better instance than the pervasive claim by the left that Black people are too lazy, too stupid or have financial priorities that preclude them from obtaining an ID. Anyone who drives to the polls is required to carry on their person a government-issued ID and must present it upon demand during a traffic stop. But when arriving at the polls, it is deemed racial discrimination to demand ID for purposes of preventing voter fraud. Anytime someone casts a fraudulent ballot, it disenfranchises a legitimate voter, and that is a CIVIL RIGHTS INFRINGEMENT.

  6. H. Jay Eshelman; Check with their embassies. You are obsessed with the lie that the phrase “socialism” means only what you insist. It simply doesn’t. Nicaragua is an example. Big landholders stole large sections of land from peasants. The Sandinista govt. restored land. Small businesses thrived. I myself was acquainted with a woman whose father owned a construction business in Nicaragua.

  7. H. Jay. Eshelman; I’m well aware of the paradoxes and implausibility of utopias of any kind. Marx’s vision that the presence of, the need for, govt. would wither away if people simply co-operated is just that: A vision that would be good, but won’t ever happen. People will always have rivalries, greed, struggles to achieve authority. Unions are necessary, but so is management. There are businesses which have thrived when genuine understandings have been reached. There are also countless situations where union leaders have become concerned more with there own power and authority.

    • I’m not insisting on what socialism means. I quoted Merriam-Webster. I checked the websites for the Israeli and Swedish embassies and found nothing to support your contention.

      Nicaragua is another story entirely. It’s best described as a ‘fascist’ state… again, as defined by Merriam-Webster. And soon we’ll all know someone from Nicaragua because so many of its citizens are trying to get out of the country… at least so many of its citizens who aren’t in bed with its government.

      If you have something other than opinion to state, please, do so.

      • Fascist? Because you say so? A person connected with B’nai B’rith described Israel as a socialism.
        “Fascism” is govt. in partnership with corporations. That better describes the U.S.

      • To bring us back to the point I originally made, ‘Socialism’ is a clearly defined governance construct and you continue to try to revise its definition through obfuscation.

        That you, or some ‘person connected with B’nai B’rith’, claims Israel is ‘socialism’ doesn’t make it so. Again, consider the accepted definition of ‘socialism’ and show us how Israel and Sweden conform to that definition. Don’t just make the claim over and again.

        Re: Facism. Well now… we can agree on something. “Fascism” is govt. in partnership with corporations.

        That description can certainly be assigned to Nicaragua and, unfortunately, more and more to the U.S. these days. It’s also called ‘crony capitalism’. It’s one of the greatest problems facing us because, on many other forums for example, this post might be censored for offending the corporate/government point of view.

        ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’. W.S.

        Caveat emptor.

      • You avoid the issue through a dictionary quote. Indeed the first definition is more nebulous.
        Research Sweden and Israel in an encyclopedia, why don’t you.
        Socialism has always had a far broader definition than ignorant people like to admit.
        As far as Nicaragua, where are the droves of immigrants? Far more are from other countries. Furthermore, the U.S. destroyed their economy by supporting the “Contras”, who murderous actions were loathed in most parts of the Free World.
        People want to come to the U.S. because we’ve always been more advanced in terms of standard of living. The danger is that overabundance of immigration will damage our economy to the point that we’ll be reduced to a 3rd World level.

  8. We need Valid Identification and Voter Signature Verification to cast a legal Vote, otherwise there will be fraud. I could not find either in S.15. Am I mistaken, is it in the Bill? If not, what is the logical explanation as to why the Vermont Senators will not institute this easy, secure method for Vermont Voters? What about the drive-up drop boxes that are mentioned in the Bill, I guess someone can just drive up and dump a whole load of ballots in the box if they wanted too, all marked for the candidate they want to win? How will that be managed? Too many loose variables creates a great pathway to FRAUD.

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