The Difficulties of Prosecuting Vote Fraud
Andi Pringle, deputy chief of staff
to D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, voted in September’s D.C. primary even though
she lived in Maryland for eighteen months.
After only taking office a week prior, Pringle resigned,
calling her voting in the September 2010 D.C. primary a “distraction” from
her residency in Maryland was temporary and that she would be moving back to
the District. Pringle issued
a statement that: “In September 2010, I
voted in the D.C. primary with the understanding that since I had not severed
ties with my community nor established residency in Maryland, I should vote at
the precinct where I had voted for the past eight years. If this was in error,
Community activist Dorothy Brizill discovered
Pringle cast a ballot in D.C. and filed a formal complaint
with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.
“Anyone who has been in the District for a long time is concerned about people
voting from outside the city.”
Pringle’s case emphasizes the
difficulty of pursuing vote fraud prosecutions.
First of all, election officials
did not uncover these voting irregularities, but a community activist did. Vote fraud investigations, while important,
are unfortunately not high on priorities of law enforcement. Second, what evidence would a prosecutor have
in this case? Despite the evidence of
her voting, Pringle claims that she was really a resident of D.C. and that she
did not intentionally break the law.
Last Thursday, Congressman Todd Rokita testified to the
Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing that few prosecutions does not mean
that there is not vote fraud. Moreover,
A Milwaukee Police Department Report
of the November 2004 election recognized that there were few prosecutions
despite the likelihood of fraud. The
report found that despite the fact the Police Department believe there was vote
fraud, the prosecutors could not proceed forward with a case because of the
poor record keeping by election administration officials and even an admission by
those who committed vote fraud was not enough. As the Joint Task Force in that
investigation concluded: “Simply put: it is hard to prove a bank embezzlement
if the bank cannot tell how much money was there in the first place.”
The U.S. Attorney has discretion
whether to prosecute. Vote fraud is a felony
punishable by 10 years in prison or a $20,000 fine.