Convicting a voter of ballot fraud is not the easiest thing. But several of Washington’s county prosecutors may get a shot at it.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office recently turned over 74 cases of suspected voter fraud to local auditors who can investigate further and refer the cases for prosecution. Most cases dealt with double-voting — either in more than one county or in more than one state.
Wyman said her agency became aware of the possible fraud as a result of a pilot study in Washington and four other states after the November 2016 election. The project, initiated more than a year ago, relied on help from the Electronic Registration Information Center, a nonprofit organization that helped states check voter registrations across jurisdictions.
Three of the suspect votes were cast in Thurston County and two in Pierce County, but most occurred in the most populous county, King.
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Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall said her office is working with the county prosecutor on what steps to take. Though she thinks a formal investigation is likely to be launched, Hall said one of the voter’s two ballots might never have been counted.
Past efforts to prosecute voting fraud have not gone far in this state. Wyman’s office counted just 11 cases of voter registration or voter fraud that made it to state courts in the past decade.
In Thurston County, Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim could not recall his agency ever prosecuting a voting fraud case. Under state law, attempting to vote twice or intentionally voting more than once is a class C felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
This year, more attention is on alleged “illegal” votes, especially after President Trump’s false claim that 3-5 million illegal votes were cast.
Wyman, a Republican, has said Trump’s claim of widespread fraud or voting by illegal immigrants is bogus. In a press release, Wyman said the five-state analysis that brought these cases to light in Washington and the other states are evidence that voter fraud is not widespread here.
Washington had the most cases identified in the five states, but Wyman’s office says the total represented just 0.002 percent of the 3.36 million ballots cast statewide here in the presidential election. None dealt with illegal immigrants voting, which Trump claimed was rampant.
The post-mortem on Washington’s voting was a very good idea. We applaud Washington’s participation and hope ERIC can repeat its project to help even more states tighten up voter rolls.
Meantime, county auditors should look carefully and make referrals for prosecution where appropriate.