A Closer Look at Voter Fraud, San Francisco Style!

Commentary

Voter fraud is the cancer that is eroding the very heart and soul of the American democratic system. It is one of the most serious problems facing America today.

I am sure that there are those who choose to believe that it does not exist in our country, and they are certainly entitled to their beliefs. I am also sure that there are many others, on both sides of the issue, who know exactly what I am writing about. There might be some people who don’t even know what voter fraud is. However, no one has the right to engage in any type of voter fraud as it is a serious and destructive crime that ultimately deprives all law-abiding citizens of their freedom of expression.

To illustrate my point, I will share with you my own experience with voter fraud.

Contested Election for District 7 Supervisor

In the election for San Francisco Supervisor of District 7 in 2000, I was in involved in what many consider one of the closest and most contentious races in this city’s modern history.

After the poll votes were counted by the San Francisco Department of Elections (DOE) in the run-off election of December 2000, I was declared the winner of that seat by a margin of some 1,250 to 1,300 votes over the sitting member of the Board of Supervisors, Mabel Teng.

Needless to say, my campaign workers and I were elated with the outcome and looked forward to the opportunity of engaging in the city’s business. Within a week, we were informed that my election was to be the subject of a recount. My opponent, who was very popular with the “establishment lobbyists and special interests,” had secured financing for an election recount to the tune of some $86,000 from a Mr. Warren Hellman, a well-known Wall Street investor and philanthropist.

In the ensuing weeks, my election was the target of not just one, or two, but three public recounts of all the votes cast. This included all of the Election Day walk-in polling place votes, the absentee votes, and the provisional votes. Provisional ballots are those ballots that are not clearly marked, or where the voter had changed his or her mind and had altered the face of the ballot, and thus are subject to review and determination by an employee in the DOE.

With some 20,000-plus votes to be reexamined in three recount processes, it was indeed a very daunting and revealing undertaking. I was represented by only one very knowledgeable attorney, Mr. Peter Bagatelos, who was assisted by a loyal friend and campaign volunteer, Mr. Mike Kopec. The two labored daily to counter the challenges of my opponent’s legal staff of six attorneys.

During a challenged public recount process, each individual ballot is publicly displayed for only seconds before a final determination is declared by the DOE after each side voices their opinion. Needless to say, an alert mind and fresh eyes are invaluable as potential protests must be momentarily lodged on a ballot-by-ballot basis. Bear in mind that before any public recount is conducted, the DOE has already counted each vote behind closed doors and has also made their own determination regarding any questionable absentee and provisional ballots, and that’s what my original total margin of victory was based on.

As the recount weeks drew on, we held our lead in the Election Day poll votes cast, even though the DOE could not explain the disappearance of seven precincts that were not accounted for in the initial tally. San Franciscans will long remember the famous “Ballot Boxes in the Bay Scandal” that thoroughly embarrassed the city in the following months! Conveniently, the precincts that were missing in my election were the ones closest to my residential neighborhood. It appeared that the outfit contracted by the city controller to deliver the ballots from the precincts to the DOE staging area somehow lost their way, and the ballots and boxes of those missing precincts all wound up floating in the bay! (See reference articles one, two, and three.)

The director of the DOE, and the controller of the city and county were both mayoral appointees and high-ranking civil servants at that time. In reality, both of these department heads were nothing more than political hacks and operatives for the Democratic Party “establishment” that had been controlling City Hall for 40 years. The controller pulled rank and inserted himself as the director of the entire recount process. (The controller’s responsibility has to do with oversight of the city’s financial systems, not the DOE).

It was during the third public recount of the provisional ballots, and especially the absentee ballots, where we started to lose substantial numerical ground. My 1250-vote lead had dwindled to less than 100 votes in my favor, and I could see the writing on the wall. We were going to lose this election unless something drastic changed the course of this charade. The majority of absentee ballots that were now being presented as votes to be recounted greatly favored my opponent by about 80 percent and were all included in the process at the last minute. When we questioned the legitimacy and number of absentee ballots, we were told that we would have to pay for the man-hours that the DOE would have to undertake to verify the votes and cross reference them to the voter rolls. The cost for the DOE to perform such a procedure was estimated at about $80,000, an amount that neither I nor my campaign supporters could hardly afford. It was a grueling campaign, and we spent every penny we could raise to try and unseat an entrenched incumbent who had absolutely no problem raising money from special interests. As it was, her campaign had already outspent us by about ten to one when all of the “hard” and “soft” (legitimate donations vs. independent expenditures) were factored in. The DOE also stated that the reason for this late infusion of absentee ballots was that they did not receive all of them by the closing of the polls on Election Night!

The handling of the provisional ballots was also questioned by us as there was a definite increase in the number of ballots that had been physically altered by markings, etc.

It is extremely important to realize that at this point, we had no recourse to address the obvious shortcomings in the electoral process as it became blatantly clear that the cheaters were in charge of the cheating!

There was no way we could verify if all of the ballots we were now seeing in the recount were actually legitimate votes cast by registered voters! We didn’t have the money or resources at hand to pay for any type of a review. The best we could hope for was to somehow win the recounts.

Insider Exposes Vote Count Discrepancies

It was during the third recount that fate interjected. A “friendly” DOE employee handed me a slip of paper that clearly indicated that the end-of-day official recount tallies as prepared by the DOE did not coincide with the count that the city controller was recording. The controller’s figures were being presented as the official tallies being released to the public and the press, and they were off in favor of my opponent.

Armed with this physical evidence of insider cheating, I immediately marched up to Mayor Willie Brown’s office and rather aggressively suggested that he might want to intervene before I went to the press. I instinctively knew that once I blew the whistle, I would not be declared the winner as the city attorney, another political hack, was standing by ready to litigate the situation into forever-land. Appearing astonished, Mayor Willie Brown denied any knowledge of DOE or controller irregularities or wrongdoing. Within an hour of my return to the DOE office downstairs, I was informed that I won the election by 40 votes and that there was only one vote left to count. As the last questionable provisional vote was held up in the air, I proclaimed that it be given to Mabel Teng because she certainly paid for it! I was declared the winner of the election by 39 votes. My victory must have really upset the controller, as some five years later at the behest of Mayor Newsom, his office was responsible for distributing anonymous letters to the S.F. Chronicle newspaper falsely alleging that my budget as director of Treasure Island was being mishandled, even though he himself was in charge of the budget! This was just another chapter in “San Francisco politics.”

I relate this particular story to you as just one of the many first-hand examples of voter fraud that I have personally witnessed. This took place 21 years ago, and the cheating was quite obvious if you were involved. In today’s world, technology has really changed the game. Counting systems, voting machines, and campaign tactics are ever-evolving due to technology, and as such continually present new ways and methods that voter fraud and vote manipulation is used to thwart the will of the voters. But the practice of manipulating, falsifying, and using the absentee and provisional ballot processes to sway election outcomes continues to this day.

Again, the reality is that there is no recourse when challenging an election. Who do you turn to, when the people doing the cheating are very active members of the political party in charge of the process? In my case, as an Independent and not a party affiliate, I had even less recourse, as the mayor, city attorney, controller, DOE director, Ethics Commission, and any other agency I could turn to were all members of the same party machine. Going to the state was even more futile with the former speaker of the California Assembly now the mayor of San Francisco!

Is it illegal? Not always, according to legal analysts, as it is very hard to prove specific intent by those manipulating votes. Is it unethical? Yes, always, and we should demand several “easy to improve” protections to eliminate obvious cheating opportunities by either individuals or political parties.

In the vote fraud world, there are basically two types of ballots that are utilized by cheaters. Those that are completely fake, such as ballots not connected at all to a live, registered, or legitimate voter, but somehow are counted in the final election tally. Then there are those ballots that are also counted, but not cast by the registered legitimate voter as listed in the voter rolls.

I offer the following suggestions for those of you who are concerned enough to want to do something about this problem that is increasingly eroding your freedom.

(1) Voter Registration: As you may have witnessed in the last federal and state election, many people are registered to vote right on the street by campaign workers seeking to identify potential voters. The information is then delivered to the department of elections with no accompanying identification or proof of citizenship required of the person who is being registered and placed in the system. One can also register online. If they request an absentee ballot, chances are that their ballot will not be scrutinized by any election authority. There exists very little, if any at all, cross referencing for verification of signature, residence, citizenship, or other voter requirements because of the lack of manpower, or so we are told. It is very hard to believe that technology cannot fix that problem today!

Solution: Create and maintain voter lists and voter rolls of qualified registered voters in the jurisdiction where they live.

(2) Voter Verification or Authentication: With no ID required to vote at the polls on Election Day, anybody can vote as someone else without too much of a problem unless someone at the precinct recognizes them. During my election in 2000, there were several groups of individuals from the rival campaign observed roving from polling place to polling place just before closing time and casting votes under other people’s names. For whatever reason, poll workers would regularly post the names of people who have voted throughout the day on a list visible to the public at the polling place. These enterprising frauds would check the names listed late in the day and decipher who had not voted yet and would be unlikely to do so by closing time. A call to the residence of that potential voter as listed on their campaign lists would reveal if that person was even home. If no answer, bingo, into the poll they would waltz at the last moment to cast a vote under that person’s name.

Also, there is no process in place to address signature verification. Falsifying a signature is a crime, but who is checking?

As any campaign manager readily knows, campaign voter lists with names, addresses, phone numbers, and even party affiliation are readily available for purchase from most election offices. It is inconceivable that in today’s world that such lists cannot be expanded to somehow include voter verification. Is it technology or just politics?

Solution: Require and review voter verification and authentication by cross referencing ballots to voter rolls to assure that the ballots being cast are from legitimate, registered voters.

(3) Purging of Voter Rolls: Voter rolls maintained by any department of elections containing the lists of voters in that county are almost never purged, or certainly not on a regular basis. They include as active voters people who have either died, moved out of the county, or have not voted in decades. With absentee voting now compromising 85–90 percent of the total votes cast, the department of elections automatically mails out absentee ballots to those who have requested such. The pressure is on now to expand absentee voting to all voters. Herein lies the problem. If the status of these tens of thousands of departed and inactive voters is not duly and properly purged in a timely fashion, then there exists a tremendous opportunity for fraudulent ballots to be cast by those who engage in voter fraud. Why are the rolls not continually purged? There is an estimated 8–15 percent advantage should the votes of those nonexistent voters be counted in favor of one candidate. In San Francisco alone, I have met many political “consultants” who are paid a handsome sum because of their ability to control a significant portion of the absentee ballots in circulation. The insiders call it the “ACE” factor, and it has been instrumental in affecting the outcomes of several mayoral races, most notably in the Newsom-Gonzalez cliffhanger of 2003. In that race, despite a historically high election day turnout, an estimated 25,000 to 35,000 absentee ballots were mysteriously cast at the last moment in Newsom’s favor.

Solution: Purge all voter rolls annually.

(4) Voter Identification:

In California, if people choose to vote at the polling place on Election Day, they are not even required to show ID to vote. If they choose to give their ballot to a vote harvester (one who collects batches of votes and who in many cases actually fills out the ballot for the voter), who is going to stop them? Do you see the opportunity for fraud here?

In my opinion, there is absolutely no argument that holds up against the requirement that all voters should show some form of identification. Voting is one of the privileges that come with citizenship as guaranteed by our constitution. The hue and cry that the requirement of ID in order to vote will discriminate against those who do not possess identification is pure bunk, and the exploiters of the “no-ID” position know it better than everyone else. They are laughing at how easy it is for them to keep their “license to steal” by claiming racism and discrimination to the latte set. Virtually anyone who desires a form of ID can easily get one in today’s society, especially those who are receiving any form of assistance.

The sad reality here is that the less fortunate people of all colors are the very ones who are most victimized by a no-ID requirement, because the weight and influence of their own vote is diminished in proportion to the number of false votes cast. When voter fraud exists, they become even more marginalized and exploited by those who are manipulating the system, resulting in a situation where the most powerless become even more so. Most countries in the world require some form of voter ID.

Solution: Require voter ID before someone is allowed to vote at a polling station.

(5) Vote-by-Mail or Absentee Balloting: It is in the practice of using absentee ballots or voting by mail where the largest degree of fraud takes place. As mentioned above, there is almost no effort made by most election departments to cross check or match voter signatures with that on the voter rolls, so the likelihood of a fraudulently cast mail-in vote being discovered is quite rare.

Solution: We must develop and require a new additional method or form of proof that authenticates that the actual ballot being mailed in is from that particular registered voter, if we are to tackle this problem. (I don’t know what that additional method or form of proof could be at this time). Signatures must be required, and they should be on the actual ballot itself as opposed to accompanying paperwork. Signatures proving to be false must carry severe penalties for the perpetrators.

(6) Ballot Harvesting: Ballot harvesting is the practice of allowing political operatives and others to collect voters’ ballots and turn them in en masse to polling stations.

Solution: Ballot harvesting should be disallowed except in those rare cases where it is a hardship for the voter to lodge his or her ballot. In those cases, the third-party collector or harvester should be registered as such with the department of elections and all of those ballots delivered should be cross referenced with the rolls before being counted.

In closing, may I say thank you for taking the time to read this because it is important. There are many more ways to cheat if people are intent on doing so, and the above are just a few examples that I’ve had experience with. I know many of the solutions that I am proposing can be complicated and maybe even costly to implement, but the end result is well worth it. We must constantly fight back against the erosion of one of our most precious privileges as a citizen. The stark reality is that unless we address the existence of voter fraud, all of us, regardless of race, color, creed, or social status, will lose our freedom and become losers to those who are exploiting us.

For those of you who are interested, here is a good article (link) on ballot harvesting and absentee ballots.

Tony Hall is a former supervisor in the city and county of San Francisco.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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