Election Irregularities Persist in Palm Beach County 20 Years After Bush-Gore Standoff

COMMENTARY Election Integrity

Election Irregularities Persist in Palm Beach County 20 Years After Bush-Gore Standoff

Dec 16th, 2019 4 min read

Commentary By

Hans A. von Spakovsky @HvonSpakovsky

Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow

Kaitlynn Samalis-Aldrich

Administrative and Research Assistant, Meese Center

Florida election officials from Palm Beach County conduct a manual recount of presidential votes November 11, 2000 in Palm Beach, Florida. Robert King / Staff / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Palm Beach County still is not properly supervising the election process or maintaining accurate voter registration rolls.

Palm Beach County’s failure to prioritize removal of the deceased from voter rolls constitutes a huge flaw in the system and a threat to the integrity of elections. 

Unfortunately, Palm Beach County isn’t an isolated problem. 

You would think that after being one of the centers of the election storm in 2000 when the hotly contested Florida recount determined whether George Bush or Al Gore would be president of the United States, Palm Beach County would have gotten its act together.

But as is evident from a recent report from the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which shows problems such as the dead rising from their graves to vote, Palm Beach County still is not properly supervising the election process or maintaining accurate voter registration rolls.

This latest revelation comes on top of the decision last January by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to remove Susan Bucher, the county’s election supervisor, for incompetence and neglect of duty in the 2018 election. The news also follows the recent arrest and removal of the information technology manager of the elections office for shoving a police officer who was investigating child pornography.   

The report from the Public Interest Legal Foundation, titled “Calm Before the Storm,” is based on a three-month review of Palm Beach County’s records, practices, and procedures. Unfortunately, that review found numerous problems, ranging from clerical errors in voter records to evidence of double voting and ballots cast by the deceased. 

The report found 68 voters who were not registered at their home addresses as required by law, but at businesses and even government addresses. 

At least 10 used the address of the Boca Raton police station in their registration. Others used addresses of fire stations, city halls, and UPS stores. Using improper addresses on registration forms is another loophole that fraudsters use to erode the safety of elections.

The report found 225 individuals who double-voted across state lines in the 2016 and/or 2018 elections. In other words, 225 voters illegally cast ballots in Palm Beach County and elsewhere in the same election, which is almost half of Bush’s margin of victory in 2000 of 537 votes in the county. More than 400 persons also registered more than once in Palm Beach County.  

The names of more than 2,200 deceased voters were still on the rolls, 139 of whom somehow cast ballots after they were dead, a remarkable achievement that obviously is not limited to Chicago. So while dead men may tell no tales, they do cast votes in Palm Beach County.

Perhaps most alarming, the Public Interest Legal Foundation found noncitizens illegally registered to vote, in some cases despite the fact that the county knew these persons were not citizens. Almost 70 noncitizens were still registered to vote after they contacted election officials and asked to be removed from the voter rolls.  

The report found that county election officials registered some aliens to vote even when they checked the “No” box regarding U.S. citizenship on the application form, showing a fundamental problem in administrative procedures.  

The report illustrates some specific examples, including a Venezuelan who twice admitted on the form to not being a citizen, yet was registered to vote anyway. He voted in the 2012, 2014, and 2016 elections.  

Similarly, a Guatemalan citizen was registered to vote in 2015 despite admitting on her registration form that she was not a citizen. She voted in the 2016 presidential preference primary, likely in the Democratic contest, since she identified herself as a Democrat.

Palm Beach County’s failure to prioritize removal of the deceased from voter rolls constitutes a huge flaw in the system and a threat to the integrity of elections. 

Absentee ballot fraud also has been such a problem in Florida that in 1998 the state’s Department of Law Enforcement issued a report on the numerous cases that had been prosecuted. In 2012, the “Final Report of the Miami-Dade Grand Jury” found serious problems with the absentee ballot process. Things have not improved much since then.

Unfortunately, Palm Beach County isn’t an isolated problem. 

The Public Interest Legal Foundation just filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Detroit for failing to properly maintain its voter registration rolls. 

The organization found thousands of deceased voters who remained registered, multiple registrations by the same individuals, and some registered voters who obviously are trying to compete with Methuselah to be the longest living humans in history. That includes the oldest, active registered voter who, according to city records, was born in 1823, before Michigan was admitted to the union. 

The Public Interest Legal Foundation also just obtained a decision from a federal judge in Pennsylvania ordering the state to turn over the records of tens of thousands of noncitizens who have registered to vote in the state over the past 20 years. Pennsylvania has been fighting to keep these records secret, to avoid having to disclose the extent of this problem to the public.  

The Election Fraud Database maintained by The Heritage Foundation highlights a sampling of cases that demonstrate the flaws in the security of elections across the country. The total number of proven cases stands at 1,241.  

Heritage’s database does not yet include other important examples, such as the almost 300 noncitizens who Ohio’s secretary of state recently found were registered illegally to vote in the state, 77 of whom voted in the 2018 election. 

The Public Interest Legal Foundation’s report on Palm Beach County calls attention to disturbing vulnerabilities in the election process. State and local officials must do more to prevent these problems. 

The citizens of Palm Beach County and other places such as Detroit need to know that local election officials are doing everything they can to ensure that their votes are protected from administrative errors and fraud that could dilute or steal their votes and affect the outcome of future elections.

Democracy deserves no less. 

Editor’s note: Hans von Spakovsky is on the board of the Public Interest Legal Foundation.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal

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