WASHINGTON -- Voters in the District of Columbia went to the polls last week to choose presidential and local candidates in party primaries.
But at one Northwest D.C. polling precinct, a man from the conservative activist group Project Veritas came armed with a hidden camera as part of an effort to "lampoon the mostly Democratic opposition to 'voter ID' laws" around the country, according to The Washington Post.
In a video, a man is shown checking into a polling station as "Eric Holder" and asked whether he needed to show identification. When the poll worker tells the man he doesn't need ID, he says he would feel more comfortable checking in with ID. The man leaves without checking in, saying he's going to his car to get it.
Holder is 61 years old and an African-American; he bears no resemblance to the young white man who was able to obtain his ballot.
The group produced a similar video during January's New Hampshire primary as a way to show how vulnerable elections can be without voter verification.
Holder has been skewered by conservative activists for downplaying the risk of voter fraud.
The Justice Department issued a statement about the new Project Veritas video stunt, according to TPM.
"It's no coincidence that these so-called examples of rampant voter fraud consistently turn out to be manufactured ones," according to the department.
The question is whether anyone should really care. Yes, if you wanted to, you could risk five years in prison and a $10,000 fine to vote for someone else, but we're not sure why you would, since a single vote, or even a few votes, will never make a difference. (Okay, almost never.) Could a group of hundreds or thousands of fraudsters be mobilized to go around to different polling stations on election day and vote for one particular candidate or issue, possibly altering the outcome of an election? It would be difficult to organize surreptitiously, but sure, it's probably doable. But it has never happened.
According to the New Yorker, "it shows just how limited O’Keefe’s talents are, and how un-ambitious is the vision espoused by the right’s new investigative journalists and those who publish them."
According to the Post:
Under D.C. law, persons found guilty of making “any false representations” as to their eligibility to vote are subject to fines up to $10,000 and up to five years in prison. If the fraud is committed during an election where the presidency or congressional offices are on the ballot, it can also be prosecuted under federal law, which contains the same penalties.
UPDATE, 2:03 p.m., Tuesday: Elections officials in the District of Columbia have condemned the Project Veritas video. According to a D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics media advisory, "evidence of potentially criminal activity will be referred to federal and District law enforcement authorities."
Read the complete DCBOEE statement:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The District of Columbia Board of Elections today condemned a video circulating on the Internet that shows a person misrepresenting his identity at District polling places on Election Day. The Board confirmed that it is investigating multiple incidents that occurred on Tuesday, April 3.
“I have directed our attorneys to conduct a thorough investigation and refer all evidence to law enforcement authorities for appropriate action,” said Board chairwoman Deborah Nichols. “Our polling places are open to the media and observers who want to legally document our procedures for checking in voters. There is never any justification for disrupting the voting process with fraudulent activity. We will take any and all appropriate actions to ensure the integrity of our voting process and we will vigorously seek to hold anyone and everyone accountable for interference with that process to the fullest extent permitted by law.”
“In our democracy, the voting booth and its immediate surrounds are sacrosanct and to be kept free from politics and electioneering. The voter identification issue is a policy question for lawmakers to decide and the proper forum for influencing that debate is not in the inner sanctum of the polling place,” said Board member Stephen Danzansky. “We will protect the integrity of that space from political pranksters and advocates who attempt to usurp that ground for their own political positions or causes. This Board of Elections will grant zero tolerance to anyone tampering with the vital processes and standards by which District of Columbia voters exercise their franchise, including identifying themselves as a registered voter, affirming their qualifications to vote, and receiving and casting a ballot. The falsification or attempted falsification of any of the above is a criminal offense.”
“What is troubling is that someone who purports to be concerned about the integrity of the voting system would in fact perpetrate a fraud,” said Board member Devarieste Curry. “Whether that fraud is prosecutable remains to be seen, but it was a fraud nevertheless. We want every voter to know that no vote was cast in any of the incidents depicted in this video, that we condemn this stunt, and that we will thoroughly investigate it, as we customarily investigate all reports of irregularities before we certify the outcome of an election.”
Executive Director Cliff Tatum noted that none of the pollworkers depicted on the hidden camera had any knowledge that they were being recorded. “Our pollworkers followed proper procedure by requiring the voter to either sign the pollbook or vote a Special Ballot,” said Tatum. Any person whose eligibility to vote is in question can cast a Special Ballot, also known as a provisional ballot, but it is only counted if the Board determines that the voter is qualified to cast the ballot.
The Board will refer all evidence that it obtains in its investigation to District and federal law enforcement authorities. A final count of ballots, including absentee and provisional ballots, will occur on Friday, April 13. The Board is scheduled to certify the outcome of the election at a public meeting on Wednesday, April 18.