“Stranger Danger.” This phrase is used by parents to warn their children about predators. In this election year, it is also an appropriate warning for vulnerable citizens who could be targeted by activists who will try to suppress or steal their votes.
The danger is real. Anyone who has been paying attention to election security issues for the last couple of decades knows that election fraud fraud in nursing homes, group homes and other residential facilities has been an open secret.
In just the last few weeks the headlines have unveiled the corruption. In Macomb County Michigan an employee at the Father Murray Nursing Center was recently sentenced to jail for forging signatures on absentee ballot applications. Vote fraud is criminal but vote fraud against the mentally disabled is heinous.
In Wisconsin, the state assembly appointed a special counsel to investigate possible vote fraud in nursing homes after an investigation by the Racine Sheriff’s Office uncovered evidence indicating vote fraud in a Racine nursing home. In a move that indicated the seriousness of the investigation, the legislators chose Michael Gableman, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, as the special counsel.
The Office of Special Counsel’s second interim report was released this month 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 specific evidence of fraud including illegally assisting and marking ballots and possible forgery.
There were also improbably high voting rates in some nursing homes which could indicate widespread fraud. In three counties, 100% of nursing home residents voted. Since most nursing homes have a significant number of residents who suffer from dementia, the likelihood of every person being capable of requesting an absentee ballot and filling it out is almost zero.
None of this came as a surprise to the American Constitutional Rights Union (ACRU). Our Protect Vulnerable Voters project was fully operational in the 2020 election season. The results of our extensive efforts led us to conclude that widespread vote fraud in residential facilities for elderly and disabled Americans is a national disgrace.
ACRU reached out to directors of residential facilities across the nation offering assistance in educating staff, residents, and family members on how to protect vulnerable residents from vote suppression, coercion, and outright theft. This included a Senior Citizen Voting Bill of Rights.
ACRU also reminded facility directors of the criminal penalties for election fraud, as well as high likelihood of a PR disaster if ACRU should receive credible complaints to our Vote Fraud Hotline.
This direct outreach was coupled with an extensive radio campaign promoting the ACRU Vote Fraud Hotline and warning senior citizens of the danger of allowing strangers to touch their ballots.
The ACRU hotline received tips that leftist activist organizations were taking completed ballots from nursing homes with a promise that they would make it to the election office. This completely insecure process was a prescription for fraud.
There were many allegations received through our hotline that nursing home workers were filling out ballots for residents who were mentally impaired. After the 2020 election, a Texas daughter who was the guardian of her mentally incapacitated mother, searched the state voter website to determine that her mother’s voter registration address had been changed without authorization and she had “voted” while in the memory care wing of a nursing home. We assisted this family with sworn affidavits and a formal complaint to the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
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. Registering people to vote or requesting mail-in ballots without their consent, is illegal.
This is an area of election integrity in which citizens can play a big role in preventing fraud. If a loved one is in a residential facility, they can be protected by an engaged family member.
If a loved one is cognizant and able to vote, ask them if anyone has talked to them about voting. Find out if they have been coerced in any way or if someone has offered to help them fill out their ballot. Talk to the residential facility director about how they intend to protect your loved one’s right to vote freely and securely if they are capable of voting.
Nursing home residents who are mentally incapacitated are at great risk of vote theft by dishonest activists who will request a mail-in ballot and fill it out for them. Family members should ask facility directors if they have trained their staff on proper protocols around voting and the criminal penalties for vote fraud. Directors should be asked how they plan to ensure that no one fills out a ballot for residents.
Each state has different laws governing mail-in ballots, assistance with ballots, and ballot harvesting (outsiders collecting ballots for others). Citizens can contact local election officials with specific questions. But generally speaking, “Stranger Danger” is a simple way to remember how to protect ballots. In most instances, there is no reason why a stranger should transport or tamper with a ballot before it gets to the election office or a secure U.S. Postal Service mailbox.
Vote fraud committed against vulnerable voters is a despicable crime and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. ACRU will leave no stone unturned in presenting such cases for prosecution.
Ken Blackwell is a Policy Board Member of the American Constitutional Rights Union and Chairman of the Center for Election Integrity—AFPI