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The costs of neglecting voter fraud

By Philip T. Simpson
February 24, 2016

Your January 27 editorial about voter fraud in Sullivan County, and especially in recent elections in Bloomingburg, is commendable. Voting is fundamental to our democracy. It is how we choose the people we trust to run our government and to make the often difficult decisions that are needed to navigate the challenges that our communities face. For this reason, it is crucial to our democracy that citizens not only have, but believe they have, fair and honest elections. Citizens who lose faith in the integrity of elections don’t vote. People will still be elected to govern, but they will be chosen not by the majority of citizens, but by established interests, the professional political class and influence peddlers.

The right to vote is fundamental. No one who is qualified to vote should be denied that right. At the same time, it is important to realize that when large numbers of unqualified voters are allowed to vote, the voice of legitimately qualified voters is severely weakened. Our Sullivan County Board of Elections (BOE) has a crucial role to play in not only protecting the rights of qualified people to vote, but also in investigating challenges brought by citizens made against people whom they believe are not qualified. (Once a challenge to a voter’s registration is submitted to the BOE, the BOE is required to make a determination, and doing so may require an investigation.)

On three recent occasions the BOE found widespread voter fraud in elections in Bloomingburg. In the first case, the spring 2014 election, the voters whom the BOE found to be illegitimate brought suit to overturn the decision. But after the Sullivan County Supreme Court set aside two days for the disqualified voters to present evidence, the voters chose not to appear in court to testify under oath in support of their alleged residency. The BOE’s factual findings that large numbers of unqualified people attempted to register and vote have never been overturned. In fact, Judge Schick called it an attempt to stuff the ballot box. Yet despite this, in settling a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit, the Sullivan County Legislature shelled out $575,000 and agreed to a consent decree that is heavily slanted against challenges to voter fraud and will have a chilling effect on future challenges to fraudulent voters.