A post circulating on Facebook claimed an Indiana woman had been accused of delivering 400 ballots with the Democratic candidates already selected.
“I mean, what could go wrong with this mail-in ballot stuff?” the post asked.
The woman who shared the post asked a simple question.
“How do I check this?” she wanted to know.
I punched a few words into Google and found a story from the Evansville Courier & Press reporting on the arrest of a Democratic Party activist named Janet Reed.
“She did not mark ballots,” I responded. “She’s accused of sending absentee ballot applications for the primary with the party already checked.”
The charge is a level 6 felony carrying a sentence of up to two and a half years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Trial is set for January.
The original poster suggested the mainstream media was ignoring the story, but my Google search found lots of news articles reporting on the case. The Courier & Press story I shared noted that the case had drawn national interest, much of it a result of President Donald J. Trump’s insistence that mail-in voting would likely lead to rampant fraud.
The 68-year-old Reed is a precinct committeewoman in Vanderburgh County. She was working on behalf of E. Thomasina Marsili, who won the Democratic nomination to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon in the fall.
Vanderburgh County Clerk Carla Hayden told the newspaper her office learned of the pre-marked ballot applications in April. Both her office and the county Democratic Party leadership reportedly asked Reed to stop what she was doing, but Reed reportedly ignored those requests.
Reed hasn’t said much publicly about the case other than to deny her guilt. It’s not entirely clear what she could have gained by pre-marking the ballot applications, all of which apparently went to Democratic voters.
Hayden told the newspaper it was possible a few of the applications Reed is accused of distributing slipped through the process, but she said the number was likely small.
The primary message from this is the opposite of the one that Facebook poster was trying to deliver. No fraudulent ballots were submitted, and the alleged culprit was caught. She faces a trial, and if convicted, she might well spend time in prison.
In the end, the episode proved mostly to be a hassle for the county clerk’s office and for the affected voters, most of whom ended up having to submit a second application before receiving their ballots.
All of this comes in the midst of a campaign where one candidate, President Donald J. Trump, has been trying to convince voters the other candidate, Joe Biden, is likely to cheat.
The Brennan Center’s 2007 report on the issue found fraud rates of between 0.0003 and 0.0025 percent. An American voter, the report said, is more likely to be struck by lightning than to cast a fraudulent ballot.
The center reports that Oregon — a state that votes primarily by mail — has documented about a dozen cases of fraud out of more than 100 million ballots cast in the last 20 years.
Nevertheless, scores of people remain convinced that fraud is a very real threat. Hundreds shared that post about the woman supposedly filling out more than 400 fraudulent ballots.
That same Facebook user, meanwhile, has shared another post about election fraud.
“Just found out that my grandfather, a lifelong Republican, is voting Democrat this fall,” it reads. “This never would have happened if he was still alive.”
It’s an old joke, of course, but it seems a little less funny in the current political environment.