Prosecutions in Philadelphia, West Virginia Show Voter Fraud Is Bipartisan

COMMENTARY Election Integrity

Prosecutions in Philadelphia, West Virginia Show Voter Fraud Is Bipartisan

Jun 2nd, 2020 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

A voter fills out a ballot on April 28, 2020. Tom Williams / Contributor / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

These two cases demonstrate the bipartisan nature of election fraud.

The Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database provides a sampling of cases that demonstrate the vulnerabilities in the electoral process.

It’s important that voters and election officials come together to take reasonable steps to protect the integrity of elections.

As the 2020 election cycle continues to unfold despite the coronavirus pandemic, it appears that election fraud also continues to be uncovered and prosecuted, even though Twitter apparently thinks no such fraud occurs.

Two cases—one out of Philadelphia, the other out of West Virginia—highlight the problem of election fraud and the immense amount of responsibility placed on public officials tasked with securing the integrity of the voting process.

Take the latest conviction of an election official in the City of Brotherly Love.

Domenick DeMuro formerly served as the “judge of elections”—a local precinct election official—for the 39th Ward, 36th Division in South Philadelphia. DeMuro was responsible for ensuring the sanctity and security of the election process in his ward. 

Instead, he accepted bribes and cheated, allowing the integrity of the elections under his supervision to be corrupted by a political consultant. 

DeMuro was charged by the U.S. Justice Department and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to deprive voters of their civil rights after he was found to have stuffed ballot boxes in multiple primary elections for multiple candidates.

He was also charged with, and pleaded guilty to, a violation of the federal Travel Act for using a cellphone to solicit bribes.

According to U.S. Attorney William McSwain, “DeMuro fraudulently stuffed the ballot box by literally standing in a voting booth and voting over and over, as fast as he could, while he thought the coast was clear.”

The scheme between DeMuro and the unidentified political consultant occurred during the 2014, 2015, and 2016 primary elections. Each time, DeMuro was paid from $300 to $5,000 to add the extra votes and authenticate the fraudulent results in his official capacity. 

This practice in Philly is known as “ringing up votes.”

The bribes paid to DeMuro ensured not only extra votes for the consultant’s clients—Democratic judicial candidates—but also other Democratic candidates for local, state, and federal office.

In the May 2014 primary election, DeMuro cast 27 bogus ballots out of a total of 118 votes cast at his polling place, 22% of the votes cast there. In the 2015 primary election, he cast 40 fraudulent ballots (15% of the total vote), and in the May 2016 election, he cast 46 fraudulent ballots (17% of the total).

DeMuro is scheduled to be sentenced on June 30. Given that he was bribed by an unidentified political consultant with numerous clients, there are probably more indictments to come. 

In this type of conspiracy, the Justice Department usually starts with indictments of the individuals at the bottom of the criminal chain, who are often given plea deals in exchange for testifying against their fellow co-conspirators higher up the chain.

Unfortunately, Philadelphia has a long and notorious history of election fraud—which, sadly, seems to be continuing today.

During a press conference, McSwain stated that the political consultant made payments to other election officials, also unidentified, besides DeMuro, and, of course, we don’t know yet whether the candidates—the clients of the political consultant—knew what the consultant was doing or in any way facilitated the commission of those crimes.

There will obviously be more to this story in the days and weeks ahead.

The Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database provides a sampling of cases that demonstrate the vulnerabilities in the electoral process. Currently, the database has 1,285 documented cases of fraud.

While the Philadelphia case involves Democrats, another case out of West Virginia showcases the bipartisan nature of voter fraud.

Although he’s presumed to be innocent at this stage, Thomas Cooper, a postal worker, is currently being prosecuted in state court by the West Virginia attorney general for defrauding the residents of the state out of a fair election by altering absentee ballot requests for a primary election.

According to an affidavit filed May 26 from an investigator in the office of the state attorney general, Cooper obscured, crossed out, or changed at least five absentee ballot requests from Democrat to Republican, which meant they would have been sent a Republican ballot instead of a Democratic ballot for the primary.

The county clerk of Pendleton County became suspicious that the forms were altered because she knew that some of the voters did not affiliate as Republicans.

The clerk alerted the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office after calling one of the voters and confirming he did request a Democratic ballot using blue ink, and neither he nor anyone else in his family requested a Republican absentee ballot.

The clerk detailed how Cooper tampered with the absentee ballot requests: “The word ‘Republican’ was circled in black ink in such a way as to also mark-out a blue-ink line under the word ‘Democrat,’ and the box beside the word ‘Republican’ was also checked in black ink.”

Cooper admitted to changing the party affiliations on the ballot requests, but claims he only did it as a joke.

The affidavit provides a picture of one of the forms marked up by Cooper, and it’s easy to see why West Virginia officials are treating Cooper’s actions as no laughing matter.

Cooper easily gained access to these absentee ballot requests because of his employment with the U.S. Postal Service.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome in the Cooper case, with the growing push for vote by mail, the public needs to understand the vulnerabilities of absentee ballots and the problems caused by their being handled by those who aren’t election officials in an unsupervised setting.

These two cases demonstrate the bipartisan nature of election fraud. As the introduction to The Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database states, “Winning elections leads to political power, and the incentives to take advantage of security vulnerabilities are great.” 

That applies to both parties.

As such, it’s important that voters and election officials come together to take reasonable steps to protect the integrity of the elections that are fundamental to self-government.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal