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Hot Topics, Voter Fraud and The Future of Elections

Dean Johnson  | Published on 11/8/2017
You’ve heard of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, no doubt. President Trump authorized the group in May, its purpose being to investigate the president’s claims that millions of unauthorized voters cast ballots in the 2016 election that he won via the Electoral College.
Wednesday’s Hot Topics, presented by the League of Women Voters Orange County, addressed the issue of voting integrity. Moderator Michele Levy, former LWVOC president, introduced the panel of Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles, his Seminole County counterpart Michael Ertel and Florida Fair Elections Commission founder Susan Pynchon.

The League, Levy reminded us, was founded on the principle that all citizens be protected in their inalienable right to vote.
However, some politicians use the “voter fraud” cry to call for laws and voting requirements that amount to voter suppression. Pynchon said evidence of individual voter fraud is “practically non-existent.” Cowles said the percentage of illegal votes cast nationwide is .003.
The presidential commission raised bipartisan hackles when it made a blanket request for voter data from all states, including Social Security numbers. But Ertel said that what the commission asked for was all public record (which doesn’t include SS numbers). He said the data Florida sent to Washington didn’t include SS numbers, but his office (and Cowles’) got calls from people who wanted to “de-register” because they were worried about personal data being shared.

Several of those people in Orange County have re-registered, Cowles said, noting that “no matter what the commission does, Florida law says that only [elections] supervisors can remove voters from the rolls.”

According to Cowles and Ertel, their election offices are on the ball when it comes to measures preventing fraud – including the integrity of voting machines, detecting fraud attempts before any illegal ballots are counted, checks and balances.

For her part, Pynchon said she would like to see more audits of paper ballots after elections. She worries about foreign hacking, the erosion of confidence in our elections process and ballots being sent through the mail.

Cowles says that he worries about the speed with which misinformation moves on the Internet and how that affects voting.
But he and Ertel are optimistic about the world of future voting, citing the new people who have registered online and through avenues such as the DMV and the bigger window for voting other than on election day alone.
After all, Ertel said, “Bill Cowles is the most trusted officer in Orange County.”