A KSAL survey shows a large percentage of area respondents think there is widespread voter fraud.
Where would “fraud” be occurring? Are candidates and their campaigns the main source? In previous years, there were massive efforts to reform campaign finances and charge offenders with improprieties. Are voters themselves a significant source of fraud themselves? Is fraud widespread here in Saline County? In Kansas? Or wherever “the media” chooses to do a story?
I had the privilege of working in the Saline County Clerk’s office for a month before the election. Day after day, I saw friends, neighbors and strangers provide their identification and vote. They were polite, focused and efficient. Initially, senior citizens voted early; younger people voted closer to November 3rd.
Voters opting to use mail-in ballots began requesting ballots in earnest in April, after County Clerk Jamie Doss sent a mailer to all registered voters explaining this option. Other organizations sent out several rounds of “advance voting by mail” forms. A significant number of voters requested multiple mail-in ballots . . . some requested five or six. The Clerk’s staff logged, “worked” and filed all those requests. Some trends emerged:
- Many requests lacked the voter’s complete name and address, id number (typically a driver’s license), and birthdate. Or the information provided did not match information on the individual’s existing voter registration form. This necessitated further staff contact to resolve the discrepancy.
- One volunteer, “working to get out the vote”, submitted ten mailed ballot requests an hour before the State’s deadline; all ten forms contained four seemingly random digits in the identification space. The Clerk’s staff immediately scrambled to contact these voters. If they could not reach them and resolve the discrepancy, no ballot was mailed out. When I hear a potential voter complain that they “never got their mailed-out ballot”, I wonder if the voter provided all of the required information on their request.
- When voters said that they personally had not requested a mailed ballot, staff retrieved that individual’s request form(s). In all the cases I am aware of, once voters saw their forms, they admitted they’d signed the form(s).
- With all the media attention on the postal service and mailed ballots, some early voters said they “threw away” their mailed-out ballots. In Saline County, over 200 voters went to the polling place and requested a second ballot that they would vote “in person”. This set up the possibility that one person potentially could “vote twice”, ignoring the “one person, one vote” dictum. When told of the requirements, some went home and retrieved the mailed-out ballots and voted these. 230 voted provisionally, meaning they received paper ballots at the polls; after these were voted, ballots were sealed in special envelopes. Then, the Clerk’s staff determined if a second ballot had been returned by mail by each of the 230 provisional voters. Twice, the provisional ballot was not counted because a mailed-out ballot had been received. Then the provisional ballot went before the canvassing board; they decided these ballots should be counted.
Of course, there were other oddities. One of the mailed back envelopes contained two ballots (from two different precincts). At one precinct, one young man’s id had a bar code that produced the image of a middle-aged woman. When he was asked to sign the provisional ballot’s statement about the penalties associated with voter fraud, his mother hustled him out of the polling place.
There were also wonderful moments. Over seventy residents who serve in the armed forces voted in local elections. Paper ballots were mailed in early October by the Clerk’s staff. Spouses appeared at the office saying their loved one had been deployed with minimal notice. Because the military has secure internet, staff could literally e-mail ballots that could be printed where soldiers were located. Some soldiers faxed ballots back; others took photos of their completed ballots and uploaded the images back to the Clerk’s office. Other soldiers used an almost blank form that asked how they wanted to vote for federal, state and local offices. All of these ballots had to be counted by hand, where a counting board looked at “voter intent”. A soldier in Hungary or Hong Kong may not know who the specific candidates are who are running for US Senate or House of Representatives, but they may know the party affiliation they want to vote for. Potentially, they might know how they feel about retaining or not retaining judges or voting in some local contest. (For the record, there are additional security measures in place that I don’t understand about military voting options. But, if these measures prove successful, then maybe they will be adopted for additional use by the general public in future elections.)
Several people were tearful as they cast their first ballots. Several older men said they were voting for the first time. One black man, in his sixties, complained about all the campaign literature he had received since he registered to vote. He demanded the County Clerk take him off the mailing list. Technically, it is public information who is registered to vote, their party affiliation, and if they vote in certain elections. So, this fellow – who may have been disenfranchised from voting for years – has joined the weary ranks of enfranchised voters—who complain bitterly that they too receive way too much election-related junk mail.
So, did some people intentionally try to vote or succeed in voting fraudulently? Yes, and I hope they are prosecuted. In the past, this amounted to just a few prosecutions in Kansas.
Have those working with elections created circumstances where fraud can occur? A few years ago, Kansans voted to elect Kris Kobach as Secretary of State; he instituted many “reforms” to keep elections “safe”. One media source reported Kansas had one of the highest percentages of voters voting provisionally in the August primary. That means a canvassing board might decide not to count certain votes. In observing the general election’s canvassing board, four Saline County Commissioners agreed with the County Clerk’s recommendations that followed state statutes; future canvassing boards could take different approaches.
Sheldon Kopff had it right when he said “All solutions create new problems. Yet it is necessary to struggle toward solution.” I never anticipated there would be so many issues tied with the postal service. Daily, we all need to be vigilant to safeguarding voting security. However, relatively few people really know enough civics to ask meaningful questions. We rely on the media; sensational sources can create confusion.
One Saline County voter refused to vote the mailed ballot she requested; she’d thrown it away. She’d heard on the news that mailed-back ballots would only be counted on the day of the election and those results would not be announced at the end of election night. This was true in over 20 states. But in Saline County, mailed-back ballots were counted daily in the two weeks prior to the election. Because she’d have had two ballots, she had to vote provisionally. And those results weren’t included in the final counts until the canvassing board met on November 16th. She did not achieve her goal of having her votes reflected on the night-of-election count; she was too stubborn to listen to staff explain what would happen locally.
Sensationalism harms our republic. And if you think we live in a democracy, go back and read a copy of the US Constitution. It promises us a representational republic. The Pledge of Allegiance uses the word “republic” and not “democracy.
Thomas Jefferson said, “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think they are not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”
So, if you made it to the end of this article, thank you. I hope you’ll have a better idea about what might be “voter fraud” in Saline County Kansas. In the next few months, lawmakers will be acting on changes they think need to be made in local, state and federal election laws. Let’s be vigilant and speak up now to rectify the concerns we noticed. And a huge part of this is to learn more about how the process works. The closer I got to the actual process, the better I felt about it. If you feel the way I do, thank your County Clerk and her staff, as well as the County Commissioners, who fund that office’s budget requests and made canvassing decisions that aligned with State law.
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Opinion piece written by Karen Shade of Salina