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54 suspected vote fraud cases emerge in Oregon

Dennis Richardson, the Oregon Republican Secretary of state candidate, waves Nov. 8, 2016, to the crowd during an election night event at the Salem Convention Center in Salem, Ore. (Timothy J. Gonzalez / Associated Press)
By Andrew Selsky Associated Press

SALEM – A study of the November 2016 election in Oregon has revealed 54 cases of suspected voter fraud, representing only .002 percent of votes cast, Oregon’s secretary of state announced Friday.

Of the total, 46 people apparently voted in Oregon and in some other state, six ballots were turned in under the names of people listed as dead, and two people appeared to have voted more than once, Dennis Richardson said in a videotaped announcement. Richardson said the evidence has been turned over to the Oregon attorney general’s office for criminal investigation and prosecution.

President Donald Trump has claimed that “millions of people” voted illegally in the election that he lost in the popular vote but won in the Electoral College. Presidential adviser Stephen Miller has said an “astonishing” number of noncitizens were registered to vote.

But Richardson, the state’s highest-ranking Republican, did not mention any noncitizens voting, and he made a point of saying the number of suspicious cases amounted to only one out of every 38,000 ballots.

“These are very low numbers compared to the amount of ballots that have been turned in,” he said. He also said in a statement that “there is no evidence that these fraudulent ballots impacted the outcome of any contest.”

His office recently handed over a statewide list of voters to Trump’s commission investigating allegations of voter fraud, after it paid the $500 fee required of anyone seeking the information for noncommercial purposes. Made available were names, addresses, registration dates and status, birth year, precinct name and political party affiliation. But information that was not disclosed included Social Security and driver’s license numbers or how a person voted.

Kristina Edmunson, spokeswoman for Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s office, said in an email to the Associated Press the office is reviewing the new materials provided by Richardson.

Oregon’s Elections Division consulted with other states and used Oregon county data; the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, which is governed by a board of directors made up of member states, including Oregon; U.S. Postal Service change of address information; and Social Security death records, Debra Royal, Richardson’s chief of staff, told AP in an email.

“This is the most comprehensive check we have ever done with more data and a better data matching engine,” she quoted Elections Director Steve Trout as saying.

Intentionally voting twice is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a $125,000 fine, Richardson said.

While there have been isolated cases of voter fraud in the U.S., there is no evidence of it being a widespread problem. Experts also say this would be an inefficient way to rig an election, given the fraud would have to be conducted one voter at a time, and would only be effective in places where the race is close enough that the outcome could be swayed.

Studies have shown voter impersonation to be quite rare. In one analysis, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles found 31 instances involving allegations of voter impersonation out of 1 billion votes cast in U.S. elections between 2000 and 2014.

Another study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School found that many reports of people voting twice or ballots being cast on behalf of dead people were largely the result of clerical errors that suggested wrongdoing when none had occurred.

“In these kinds of circumstances, I suspect the numbers tend to be a bit inflated,” Myrna Perez, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s democracy program, said in a telephone interview. “At the outset, comparing large lists of names produces false positives of matches. The person they think is Myrna Perez in Jersey City is not the same Myrna Perez in Texas voting. That’s one thing that happens when you look at double voting.”

“It’ll be very interesting to see how many convictions they actually end up getting,” she said.