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County checking vote fraud claims

Double-voting cases 'extremely rare,' official says

By Ryan Morgan, Boulder Daily Camera Staff Writer
March 25, 2005

Boulder County is one of 12 counties statewide in which officials are investigating the possibility of voter fraud, officials said Thursday.

"At present, we are in the process of investigating three people who are suspected of voting twice in the last general election," said county spokesman Jim Burrus. 
Burrus said it appears that three people voted by mail and then showed up on Election Day to vote again. He said election officials are checking to make sure that's what happened before passing those voters' names on to the District Attorney's Office.

"We want to make sure it's not just a clerical error on our part," he said.

If the three voters did manage to cast two ballots each, it would have been because workers on Election Day didn't check to see if they had voted by mail before issuing them second ballots, Burrus said.

Burrus said instances of voters trying to double-vote are "extremely rare." In 2002, he said, election officials turned over the names of two voters suspected of casting their ballots twice, and it's unclear whether those cases were pursued

Before 2002, Burrus said, the last case of double-voting was in the late 1970s.

The Boulder investigations are mirrored on a larger scale statewide. Prosecutors in 47 of Colorado's 64 counties investigated suspect ballots and 12 counties reported finding problems, Colorado Secretary of State Donetta Davidson said Thursday, confirming a report in the Denver Post.

At least 122 voters statewide apparently cast absentee ballots through the mail, then voted again on Election Day, according to the newspaper. At least 120 people in prison or on parole for felony violations ? making them ineligible to vote under state law ? face possible prosecution for casting ballots.

Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, said proposed legislation will address some of the problems involving absentee ballots, and a blue-ribbon investigative panel will continue to study ways to prevent felons from casting votes.

The panel, appointed by the state's top elections official after problems surfaced in the run-up to the November vote, is asking lawmakers to make it illegal for workers in voter-registration drives to throw away registration forms. The panel also recommended that all new electronic voting machines be required to have a paper trail to avoid disputes and uncertainty about the results.

White said there is little the state can do if people are determined to vote twice.

"If someone is willing to break the law, there is little we can do about it," he said.

Secretary of State Davidson said some of the reported cases may have involved mistakes by voters. She said the state also never tracked felons before to try to determine whether they were casting illegal ballots.

"They will be tracked from now on," she said.

The state had procedures in place to catch some types of voter fraud. The law requires elections officials to verify the signatures of mail-in ballots, for example.

"Colorado has substantially more security measures than federal law requires and more in combination than virtually any other state," said Mary Wickersham, who analyzes state election laws.

In the 18th Judicial District, based in Arapahoe County, officials said several voters mistakenly filled out and signed their spouses' ballots. Others submitted ballots sent to voters who previously lived at the same address.

In one case, a husband and wife in Douglas County each cast absentee ballots, then cast provisional ballots for fear their mail-in votes wouldn't count, district attorney spokesman Mike Knight said.

"They were not trying to intentionally vote twice," Knight said. "Those aren't the kind of cases we'd be likely to prosecute,"

El Paso County election officials reported 23 cases of prisoners or parolees who voted.

"They don't make really good criminal cases because it's difficult to prove criminal intent, that there was a knowing violation of election law," said District Attorney John Newsome.

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