This column is co-authored with Ken Blackwell.
We celebrate patriotic senior citizens and the invaluable contributions they have made to the financial strength and fundamental freedoms we enjoy as Americans. In turn, we must take every action to ensure the integrity and intent of our seniors’ political choices at a time when they are at risk to be targets of vote fraud. We are calling on fellow Americans to demonstrate their gratitude and respect for seniors by helping to protect the sanctity of their votes.
The American Constitutional Rights Union (ACRU), where we serve as board members, began its efforts to protect vulnerable voters from vote suppression and theft in 2020. Our Protect Vulnerable Voters Project revealed troubling findings. ACRU’s Vote Fraud hotline revealed information about cognitively impaired facility residents having their ballot choices made by staff, sometimes under coercion and often without their knowledge.
Other hotline complaints revealed that activist groups across the country were collecting ballots from residential facilities with the promise that the ballots would be delivered to election officials. Facility directors should not risk giving ballots to outside organizations as this is an unnecessary and unsecure method of handling ballots. The chain of custody and security of ballots should be a foremost concern for any facility director.
The evidence of such fraud is growing. In 2020, a Texas social worker was indicted on 134 felony counts of vote fraud for registering mentally incapacitated citizens to vote without their consent. And this year, an employee at the Father Murray Nursing Center in Macomb County Michigan was sentenced to jail for forging signatures on absentee ballot applications.
In Wisconsin, the state assembly appointed a special counsel to investigate vote fraud in nursing homes after an investigation by a county sheriff uncovered evidence indicating numerous cases of vote fraud in a nursing home. Special Counsel Michael Gableman, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, released a report this year indicating, “rampant fraud and abuse occurred statewide” at Wisconsin’s nursing homes and other residential care facilities.” After investigating more than 90 nursing homes in five counties the Special Counsel concluded that there was evidence of fraud including illegally assisting and marking ballots and possible forgery.
The investigation revealed voting rates in the nursing homes in these counties were astoundingly high. In three counties, 100% of nursing home residents voted. Given the likelihood that every nursing home has some residents who suffer from severe dementia, it seems highly improbable that each resident was capable of requesting an absentee ballot and filling it out.
Nursing home associations, corporations and individual facilities must step up to the plate to fix this rampant problem. Lack of staff training, lack of management oversight and attention to ballot chain of custody, and unmonitored “assistance” with ballot requests and ballot submissions creates opportunities for coercion and direct vote theft. To assist them in educating their staff, residents, and families ACRU has created a Senior Citizen Voting Bill of Rights.
Residents’ family members also play a crucial role. A family member may wish to speak with the residential facility director about how they intend to protect the right to vote freely and securely for those residents who are capable of voting. That family member may also be able to check voting records to see if their incapacitated loved one “voted” (Vote Reference). If an incapacitated loved one, who clearly was not able to request a ballot or fill out a ballot because of cognition difficulties, appears to have voted, they may report this to ACRU’s vote fraud hotline: 888-820-VOTE. ACRU’s experts will assist in investigating and in determining how to file a formal complaint with the appropriate officials.
There is also a role to play by concerned citizens and local officials, who may wish to reach out to the directors of nursing homes, group homes and assisted living facilities in their communities to ask the following questions: What are you doing to protect the residents from possible vote suppression and fraud? Are you training staff on the criminal penalties for vote fraud and the laws that they must follow to protect residents from suppression and fraud? What measures are taken to protect the chain of custody of absentee ballots? How will the facility protect absentee ballots from ballot traffickers?
ACRU has created a guide for citizens and family members who wish to protect the rights of vulnerable voters from those who would suppress or steal their votes.
State legislators must consider passing state laws to make it more difficult to take advantage of vulnerable voters. Each state has different laws governing mail-in ballots, assistance with ballots, and ballot harvesting. Many of the penalties for law breaking are misdemeanors—mere slaps on the wrist and probation. Other states should follow the lead of Florida where Gov. DeSantis and state legislators have shown great leadership in tightening up laws and starting a statewide investigative office to go after all vote fraud.
We are calling on patriotic Americans to join us in putting a stop to this despicable form of vote fraud and we are providing the tools to empower them to make a difference.
Former Attorney General Edwin Meese III and J. Kenneth Blackwell are board members American Constitutional Rights Union.