Think Talk of Voter Fraud Is Bunk? Read This Confession and Think Again | Opinion

If there is any single thing where enlightened opinion among the chattering classes reaches unanimity, it's that voter fraud is a myth. Outlets like The New York Times and CNN dismiss worries from President Donald Trump and Republicans about the integrity of our elections as brazen lies. Indeed, as far as they are concerned, any discussion of election cheating is just a Trump tactic aimed at delegitimizing an election he is sure to lose.

That assumption is consistently backed up liberal think tanks like the Brennan Center for Justice that provide intellectual backing for the idea that the very notion that large-scale cheating happens, or is even possible, is a figment of Trump's imagination.

But a startling report published by the New York Post this past weekend should give pause to those who take it as a given that any mention of the issue is Republican disinformation. According to what the Post claimed was a veteran Democratic political operative, stealing mail-in ballots and casting large numbers of illegal votes is easy as pie. Worse than that, the source said the practice was widespread and, if carried out with a modicum of caution, hard to detect or stop.

The Post's allegation goes to the heart of the dispute about whether the results of a vote that will largely be determined by mail-in ballots—as this year's presidential election will be—can be entirely trusted. And whether or not you believe any of the confessions of the anonymous source—who is described as a disappointed Bernie Sanders supporter with no stake in the fight between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden—the way the article serves as a practical guide to stealing votes in just a few easy steps makes for sobering reading, no matter your side in our political wars.

The process of stealing mail-in ballots is, apparently, simple. The Post says operatives simply go door-to-door asking citizens for their completed ballots. Since they are told it is a public service and it saves them the trouble of depositing their votes themselves, many comply with the request.

The story has a ring of truth in that we know that the ballots themselves have no security procedure like a distinctive watermark or stamp. And there is no fail-safe measure that would ensure that the person casting the ballot is the one who is entitled to vote. So coming up with counterfeit ballots is relatively easy.

The trick is the self-addressed envelope in which the ballot is placed. There is no convincing manner of faking the envelopes, so cheaters must steam open the mail-in ballots they accumulate and then reseal them once they've placed inside the fake ballots with votes cast the way they want.

It sounds labor-intensive, but also not terribly difficult. And so long as the false ballots—with the votes all going in one direction—are not deposited in a single mailbox or a few others in close proximity, there is virtually no way election authorities would have any way of knowing that they aren't authentic. Those instances in which voter fraud was detected, such as the treasure trove of fake ballots found in one place in Paterson, New Jersey earlier this year, are usually just lazy cheating, not brilliant police work.

Ballots can also be easily stolen in nursing homes, where employees who claim to be "helping" the elderly complete their ballots actually cast their votes any way they like.

Other forms of cheating are even simpler. The Post's source speaks of having post office mail deliverers sympathetic to the Democratic Party who simply toss out batches of mail-in ballots from areas that are predominantly Republican, like Bedminster, New Jersey.

Then there is also the old reliable trick of finding out the identities of voters who are deceased, or who have moved away, and sending in impersonators—the Post noted that homeless shelters offer a "nearly inexhaustible pool of reliable—buyable—voters."

Voter ID laws—which Democrats claim simply amount to voter suppression—are supposed to prevent identity fraud of this sort. But even in states where such laws exist, they are rarely enforced.

Is the Post's story credible?

The newspaper says that it vetted its source and ascertained that he was who he said he was, and had worked on Democratic campaigns in municipal and federal elections in New Jersey—including some on behalf of some of the state's top officeholders.

Ballots tabulated
Ballots tabulated in Florida in August Joe Raedle/Getty Images

But since he remains anonymous because he's afraid of being prosecuted for election fraud—if he's telling the truth, he belongs behind bars—and provides no documentation of his claims, it's possible to dismiss him as a con man.

And, no doubt, that's exactly what all the people telling us to ignore worries about voter fraud are doing.

But the problem with that is that the methods he describes are not only simple and easy to follow with little chance of prosecution—they are also reminiscent of countless stories of election fraud from the American political past.

Everyone with even a cursory knowledge of American history knows that cheating was commonplace, dating back to the beginnings of democratic elections in this country. The machinations of institutions dating back to the 19th century, like New York's Tammany Hall, whose minions turned out the poor to "vote early and often," are not fairy tales. That fraud continued into the 20th century, both as big city political machines in places like Chicago and New York, and even throughout Southern and rural America.

In 1948, Lyndon Johnson won a U.S. Senate primary runoff by 87 votes in an election memorably marred by vote-stealing in rural counties, where the fraud was brazen. But with the support of the Truman administration—Johnson's opponent Coke Stevenson was an opponent of the president—the result of the stolen election was upheld.

The point here is that in order to declare, as today's liberal establishment does, that cheating never happens, you would have to forget everything you know about American political history, as well as everything you know about human nature.

Moreover, as with the fraudsters of the past who were never brought to justice, their successors today are just as likely to avoid prosecution simply because it is hard to find and prove, and few in the political establishment or prosecutors' offices—which tend to be of the same political party as those in power locally—have no incentive to search for it.

Nevertheless, despite the claims of fraud being rare, enough examples have been discovered. As The Heritage Foundation's published list indicates, it's not as unusual as we've been led to believe.

New York's recent primary election, in which 84,000 mail-in ballots were invalidated due to mistakes or other discrepancies, points to the problems that are perhaps unavoidable if most people aren't going to vote in-person. On a national scale and with the stakes in the Trump-Biden contest so high, the problems will be even greater—along with the temptation for some to cheat.

You don't have to think the New York Post's source for its feature on voter fraud is telling the truth to know that the scams he described could easily be committed. The question is, why isn't anyone thinking about doing something to prevent that from happening? The answer is that too many Americans are partisans, and are too invested in the myth that cheating doesn't happen, in order to wake up and realize that such fraud is not only possible—it's more than likely that some political operatives are already getting away with it.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.