The Ghost Who Votes

My house has a ghost, a former resident that moved out in 2009 but still receives mail from unions, political campaigns and the government.  On a sneaking suspicion, I contacted my state representative about my ghost.  Voting records are not freely shared in Illinois, but sure enough, my ghost has been voting.  My state representative won by 34 votes in 2018, now by 35 votes.  Spurred on growing numbers of confirmed reports, he will present a bill to the Illinois General Assembly to clean up the voter rolls, but would such a cleanup be enough?

My ghost is the afterimage of someone who moved out, not the specter of a deceased person.  In election jargon, a stale voter, a stale voter registration that votes.  They were never the registered owner, and while records of their former habitation exist, there is no definitive record of their departure.  Even if my ghost was the owner, although unusual, there is nothing that requires their residence to change just because the ownership changed.  My state representative tried to track them down using other resources but came up with several possibilities.  There is no automated means to cleanup stale voters without risking the removal of current residents, or to know how many stale voters exist on the rolls, even using other data, such as social security or tax or financial records, which are generally not accessible.

Are 1%, 10% or 50% of registered voters actually stale registrations?  Most anyone telling you a number based on data analysis is certainly wrong, probably on the low end.  Every year about 10% of people move, and about 16% of those move to another state, so playing the averages, about 3.2% of last elections' voters will have moved to another state and are likely still registered, and it accumulates.

In-person inspection of suspicious records is the most effective, least erroneous method to estimate the magnitude of the problem or clean the rolls.  For those who have never worked a political campaign or party, every state makes the voting history available to the politicians and candidates.  They know your name, age, sex, address, phone number and which primaries and general elections you voted in the last 4 to 10 years at your current address.  This data is sometimes combined with information from other resources and filtered to create walk sheets to obtain maximum effect from door knocking and mailings and phone banking.

I usually door knock for the Republican Party, for the purpose of getting out the base.  My walk sheets contained people who voted in three or four of the last four Republican primaries.  On rare occasion, the voter I was to contact had moved out, but I never encountered stale voters because they didn't vote Republican primaries and so had been filtered off the list.

This changed in 2014, when I knocked doors for Bruce Rauner.  His data analysis team incorporated other resources to identify Democratic and routine and infrequent non-partisan voters (general elections only) who might be sympathetic to his message.  The stale registrations were numerous, and so were the stale voters.  I visited one home that had three different family names listed on the walk sheet, all with recent voting records.  From the ages and sexes, it was clear that these were different middle-aged couples.  The current residents had lived there for a year and had not yet registered to vote, but one of their ghosts voted in the Democratic primary that Spring.  At one strong Republican house, which I had knocked many times before, their daughter appeared on the sheet as a strong and routine Democratic voter.  She moved out-of-state 10 years prior.

From the number of similar experiences at other houses, I estimated that 2.0% of the voters in my precincts were stale, with 7/8 of it going Democratic, meaning that Democrats received +1.5% from stale voters in my 75% Republican precincts.  Many races are won and lost by less.  If these statistics hold, that 0.33% of Republican votes and 7% of Democratic votes are from stale voters, then stale voters make up about 3.67% of the total vote in swing states, giving Democrats a 3.33% margin of fraud.  In most "blue" states, Democrats would gain a 4.5% margin of fraud from stale voters.

It is not necessarily the stale registrants who are voting, but persons impersonating them.  I knew my ghost.  I would like to think that he was not of the character to request and submit fraudulent mail-in ballots, which is how he voted in 2014 and 2016.  I would also like to think that he did not travel from any of the distant locations in which he might now reside to vote here in person in 2018.  I am aware of one other incident of verified in-person voting fraud in 2018.  One of our Republicans, a party member, had moved away.  On election day, a man claiming her identity appeared at the polling place and the Republican judge was a Republican who knew her.  In this case, challenging for ID is lawful (it normally isn't).  The man claimed he left it in his car and vanished.  Who was he, and who told him or paid him to impersonate our friend?  Stale registrations are difficult to identify without some political connection, and this fraudster was probably working off a list that someone gave him.

It is not just people that moved out, but also people who never existed.  In Arizona, volunteers checked the properties of a filtered list of questionable registrations and found that 53% of them were false.  Thirty percent of the addresses were not even residences.  If 53% of the lower end of the data analysis, 160,000 falsely registered voters, are truly falsely registered voters, then about 3% of Arizona's votes were from people who never existed, compounded with 3% from stale records.  That's a +6% margin of fraud for Democrats in a "swing" state!

Screening the voter rolls for suspicious patterns would aid the door-to-door effort, but will only catch some.  This method also requires the cooperation of the current residents, who might support election fraud.  There are always people moving out and there are always people falsely registering others.  The rolls could be dirtied faster than they could be cleaned.

This burdensome effort could be eased by making records accessible, turning every interested party into a stale record sleuth, but cleaning the rolls in this manner presents another significant problem: the cooperation of the local election authorities.  Long before the Democrats began their preparations to end democracy in 2020, I contacted the county about my ghost.  I marked and returned the county's and state's mail as undeliverable, just as instructed.  Although the Secretary of State stopped sending mail, true to form, the Democrat infested Clerk's office has left the ghost's registration active, lest they suppress its vote.

Cleaning rolls in the current system is a fool's errand.  The fraud is jaw-dropping, significant and widespread, and my experience is that most politicians are unaware.  No more mail-in fraud, early fraud or in-person fraud.  We need in-person voting with ID, advanced and verified in-person registration at civil offices, and we need to watch the vote counters like hawks and establish penalties and consequences for their shenanigans.  This should be the one and only issue of the next election, because our democracy is already being stolen, and who wants to be ruled by thieves who don't need to care about voters or issues?

Image: kalhh via Pixabay, Pixabay License.