Concord, NH - The Concord Monitor editorial board joined the Nashua Telegraph editorial board, Keene Sentinel editorial board, and the Portsmouth Herald's executive editor in calling for James O'Keefe and his vote fraud team to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. In a sharp contrast, GOP House Leadership applauded the potential criminals who used the identities of recently deceased New Hampshire residents at primary day polling locations without their permission. House Republican leader DJ Bettencourt went so far as to commend their "guts."
Concord Monitor: Give O'Keefe, vote fraud team the max
The best way to prevent voter fraud would be to prosecute the conservative propagandists from Project Veritas to the fullest extent of the law - not to enact a photo identification law whose real purpose is to disenfranchise predominantly elderly and low-income citizens.
The group, led by right-wing activist James O'Keefe III, videotaped 10 instances of men posing as recently deceased voters as they requested a ballot from election officials. In nine of 10 cases, they succeeded; one ballot official personally knew the departed voter, whose name had not yet been removed from the rolls.
Federal law excludes isolated acts of fraud by individuals and applies only to organized efforts like that conducted by O'Keefe's group. It is a crime to obtain a ballot, even when the impersonator does not actually cast a vote, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 under New Hampshire law and up to $10,000 plus five years in prison under federal law. Our recommendation? Ten counts of fraud, 10 maximum fines for the men who requested ballots and, in addition to a fine, a little time behind bars for O'Keefe, if it can be proved that he organized, funded or approved the plot.
House Speaker William O'Brien wasted no time in claiming that the orchestrated fraud by the out-of-state group demonstrated the need for a law requiring a photo ID to vote. O'Brien went on to express the Chicken Little fear that O'Keefe's prank could lead to challenges to New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary position.
Though no one can say with certainty whether voter fraud has occurred and gone unnoticed, there has been just one documented instance in New Hampshire in recent decades. Similarly, a study of federal cases of voter fraud found that between 2002 and 2005 only 24 people were convicted or pleaded guilty to voting illegally. The low count was not due to inattention. During that period the Department of Justice made a concerted effort to determine whether voter fraud was a serious concern. It isn't.
O'Keefe's outfit has carried out a number of stings employing hidden cameras. In this case, the use of them was likely legal, since the people filmed were public officials captured in the act of performing their official duties. Securing ballots by posing as dead people is a different story - but it's also something that, in the real world of elections, happens rarely if at all. The call by Republican lawmakers for ever tougher voting requirements is nothing more than an attempt to deny the vote to people who might oppose their positions or candidates.
It is important that no one not entitled to cast a ballot do so. But it is equally important that no citizen legally entitled to vote be denied that right by the erection of unnecessary barriers. Requiring photo identification would disproportionately disenfranchise the young, the old, minorities and the poor. But since counterfeit identification is easily obtained, it would do little or nothing to safeguard elections.
The best way to ensure the sanctity of the vote is to make the penalty for daring to obstruct, defraud or otherwise game the system so onerous that only a fool would risk it.