John Fund: US Far Behind Mexico, Canada, and Europe in Election Safeguards
“Almost all [European nations], with one or two exceptions, require voter ID at the polls. … Mexico, which is our southern neighbor, has a very extensive biometric ID card and a very extensive voter registration system that’s constantly updated.”
How prevalent is election fraud in the United States? And what explains the aversion in America to voter ID laws, restrictions on mail-in voting, and other election integrity laws that are common in much of the developed world?
In this episode, we sit down with John Fund, who co-authored “Our Broken Elections: How the Left Changed the Way You Vote” with Hans von Spakovsky.
“Minorities are often the biggest victims of this because they live in the areas where it can be practiced most assiduously and with the least consequence because the [political] machine often controls the levers of [prosecution] and law enforcement,” Fund said.
Jan Jekielek: John Fund, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
John Fund: Thank you so much.
Mr. Jekielek: I’ve really been enjoying your new book, “Our Broken Elections.” It seems like there’s this ubiquitous narrative out there that voter fraud is not really a thing. Maybe it happens here and there, but doesn’t really influence elections very much. It’s actually just a mantra to disenfranchise voters of sorts. And that seems to be in the corporate media, the common mantra, at the same time, when you actually go and poll everyday Americans, they seem to think it is an issue. And so, how does this all work?
Mr. Fund: Until about a decade ago, this was an issue that was very much debated in the country and discussed in a bipartisan way. Many newspapers in America have won Pulitzer Prizes for uncovering voter fraud cases: the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald, the Cleveland Plain Dealer as recently as the early 2000s.
And in 2002, Congress came together, a democratic Senate and a Republican house. This is after the Bush v. Gore fiasco in Florida, and they passed the first federal election law. And it was designed as the democratic sponsor. Senator Chris Dodd, who was a good friend of Joe Bidens, said, “We want to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat. We’re Americans, we can do both at the same time.”
And that bill was a compromise, but it accomplished some good things. It gave states and local governments more money to improve their voting machines. It also toughened up the requirements that states clean up their voter rolls. The Pew Research Center just a few years ago, estimated that 15 to 20 percent of the voter registrations in this country are invalid, out of date, and represent dead people. And that’s a breeding ground for potentially having people vote fraudulently using someone else’s name.
So, that was all fine. And then, there were some early votes on voter ID laws. In other words, states requiring people to show a photo ID when they voted, and states like Kansas and New Hampshire would pass it with some democratic votes as well as Republican votes. And then in 2008, the Supreme Court weighed in in a six to three decision on the constitutionality of voter ID laws.
And the opinion was written by John Paul Stevens, the most liberal member of the court at the time. And he said, “There’s a long, unfortunate history in America of voter fraud.” It does affect elections if they’re close. And if people concentrate resources to try to subvert that election.
And he also said, “Just having concern about the integrity of elections, undermines confidence in all of our democracy, reduces voter turnout, and is a serious impediment to the legitimacy of the government.” And he had a history of studying this because he was on the Good Government Commissions in Chicago, where he lived and worked. And of course, Chicago is one of the original, most infamous places where voter fraud has been practiced in America. So, that opinion was written by the most liberal member of the Supreme Court.
Well, when Barack Obama came in, his justice department was very hostile to all of this. They felt threatened. They felt that these voter ID laws would spread across the country. They were adamantly opposed to them. And when it came to cleaning up voter registrations, one of the first things the Obama Administration did in 2009 was they had one of the top justice department officials actually told a group of justice department lawyers this section, which entitles the Federal Government to sue states if they don’t maintain honest, effective, and accurate voter rolls. We’re not going to enforce it because it will reduce voter turnout. It won’t increase voter turnout.
Well, the only voter turnout it could possibly increase would be to increase the number of people who are voting who shouldn’t be voting, or who are ineligible to vote. And that was a clear sign that a giant partisan gap was opening up. And unfortunately, since then, it has opened even further.
And of course, in 2016 you had a majority of people who voted for Hillary Clinton, believed that she had actually won the election, whether there was interference from Russians, or whether there was manipulation behind the scenes. And so, that also undermined the confidence in the elections.
Now, fast forward to 2020, and of course, you had the Trump-Biden election, which was full of controversy, storm, and fury. Now, my book is not about trying to take sides, or trying to determine the final outcome of the 2020 election. It absolutely nailed down documented proven problems in the 2020 election, that anybody who looks at the evidence should agree, or of concern, and actually did happen.
So, I’m not going into whether the Chinese communists hacked into the computers, and stole the software and all of that. And I’m not going to go into the Left wing claims that this was all part of a giant conspiracy to overthrow the government—to contest the election in 2020. This is an argument that I think all people of good will, and of both political parties should be able to look at and say, “Regardless of who you voted for, regardless of what happened in 2020, there were real problems that are demonstrated and proven, and we need to address them. Unless we’re going to go through something even worse like this in 2024.”
Mr. Jekielek: Well, and there’s this whole issue that you just mentioned that simply, when you have a whole lot of people in society that doubt the validity of the elections. And we see that all over the place at the moment, and that’s through two elections of this nature. Now, I want to talk about that a little more.
Before we go there, I want to go back to this issue that just in the November 3 elections, for example, right? They were here in New York. There were a number of constitutional amendments, which were in the vein of what you described, the Obama Justice Department was looking to do.
Mr. Fund: Dismantle election safeguards and the election integrity process. There were three constitutional amendments on the ballot in New York State, which is one of the most liberal in the country. Biden carried it by 25 points. The first would’ve made it much easier for the legislature, the democratic legislature, to gerrymandering the state.
The second would’ve set up a same day voter registration system. People could go to the polls having never demonstrated that they were an eligible voter, give an address, register to vote on the spot on Election Day at the polling place, and then vote immediately, which is an open invitation to fraud and abuse.
And the Third Amendment would’ve dismantled whatever remains of the election protections that mean that if you send in a mail-in ballot, it’s actually a valid ballot, and can be cast legitimately. And those all appeared on the ballot. They had heavy union support, and they all lost overwhelmingly in New York State, one of the most liberal in the country.
I think that demonstrates that the average voter does not buy into this consensus in the mainstream media that voter fraud isn’t an issue, and that voter suppression is rampant, and that anything that impedes the ability to vote in this country is a barrier that needs to be dispensed with.
Mr. Jekielek: And the other thing, I’m Canadian, and there seems to be general consensus in Canada, which is not known to be a bastion of conservatism, that voter ID is a good idea. In fact, it’s required.
Mr. Fund: Yes. In fact, it’s even more so. There was a study by the economist, John Lott, who looked at 48 European nations. Almost all of them, with one or two exceptions, require voter ID at the polls. One of the last exceptions was England, and that has finally moved under Boris Johnson to require voter ID at the polls.
The vast majority of them don’t allow mail-in voting. The vast majority of them would never even imagine having someone show up at Election Day, declare that they’re an adult, be able to vote, and be able to vote there on the spot.
Mexico, which is our Southern neighbor, has a very extensive biometric ID card, and a very extensive voter registration system that’s constantly updated. They have far more effective protections against any voting irregularities than we do. So, we are surrounded by almost all of the developing world in the developed world, by countries that take this issue of ballot security far more seriously than we do.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s hard to believe for someone that hasn’t been in the thick of this like you have for 20 years, as to why this might even be a contentious issue, right?
Mr. Fund: Well, there is a philosophical argument, and then I think there’s a political argument. The philosophical argument is, there are people, and they tend to be concentrated in the Democratic Party, who believe that the health of a democracy should be measured by how many people vote. And the highest possible vote in democracy is the sign that it’s vibrant and reflects the will of the people. And no barriers really are justified.
In fact, a majority of the democratic members of the House of Representatives last year voted for a constitutional amendment to allow 16-year-olds to vote. That’s pretty radical. Does a 16-year-old really have the presence of mind, and the education, and the foresight to cast a vote? We don’t let them drive in many states until they’re 18. We don’t let them consume alcohol until they’re 18.
So, I think that that philosophy, the unconstrained vision as the economist Thomas Sowell would put it, drives this desire to get rid of all of these barriers to voting, when there really are protections against voter fraud and voter irregularities. Your audience here tonight has two civil rights when it comes to voting.
There’s a civil right to vote without undue pressure, undue influence, not to have artificial barriers like poll taxes, or educational requirements, or just barriers to entering a polling place. And we fought a civil rights struggle in the 1960s to make sure those would be dispensed with in the South and other States, where they were rampant under Jim Crow.
We need to preserve and protect those gains. At the same time, everyone in your audience has a second civil right, which is not to have their vote canceled out by someone who shouldn’t be voting, someone who’s moved out of state, but their name is still on the voter registration list. Someone who’s dead. Look, I very much believe in honoring our ancestors, but I do not believe in representation without respiration.
And then, you have people who simply don’t exist. Somebody registered a fake name at a parking lot, or a post office box, or an apartment complex, where the address collects mail-in votes that are sent there, and someone fills them out and sends them in. People who are non-citizens—that’s a concern. My hometown of San Francisco recently voted to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections, which I think is a bit of a stretch. So, that’s the unconstrained vision.
The constrained vision says, of course, we want people to vote. Of course, we want everyone to vote. We want to encourage voting. But at the same time, just as you have the right to vote, you have the responsibility to fill out the ballot properly, to go through whatever rules are required to exercise your vote.
In Florida, in 2000, it was, “Did you circle the name of the person you wanted to vote properly? Or did you miss it or make a mistake?” If those things happen, or if somebody is trying to subvert the system, or get around the system, there have to be protections against that, so that everyone believes the vote was free and fair, and they can accept the results.
Mr. Jekielek: Representation without respiration?
Mr. Fund: Well, if you allow dead people to vote, isn’t that what you’re giving them? Representation without respiration?
Mr. Jekielek: How many dead people vote typically?
Mr. Fund: Well, in Chicago, it used to be famous. Chicago used to have people who would go out to the graveyards, and take names down, and then enter them into the polling book, and they would vote for them. It’s a long, dishonorable tradition. I live in Jersey City, New Jersey, which was one of the infamous homes of the political machine run by Frank Hague, who was there until the 1940s. And his successors have continued his dishonorable traditions. There are frequently examples that show up in the local papers of people who are dead, but somehow someone votes in their name.
And by the way, it can happen to the living, too. There are examples that many people have come up to me at my book signings and said, “Well, I tried to vote in the last election, and I go into the polls and someone said someone had already been here and voted for me. So, I had to fill out a provisional ballot, but my ballot wouldn’t be counted, ultimately, because someone had voted. Given my name, given my address, and without ID, they were able to vote.”
I’ll give you an example of how sloppy our enforcement system is if you don’t have ID. New York City, the last action of Mayor Michael Bloomberg before he turned things over to Mayor de Blasio, was to approve a department of investigation’s probe into the Board of Elections in New York, which is considered one of the most dysfunctional, and corrupt bodies in this entire city of bureaucracy, as proven by the last primary election.
And they sent 63 inspectors out to vote in precincts, representing themselves as people who were either dead, people who had moved out of state, or people who were in jail—all of the categories that are not eligible to vote in New York. They succeeded in 61 of those 63 times because there was no voter ID law in New York. They were able to present their name, present an address, and they were immediately given a ballot.
Two cases did not work out. One of them, a fellow shows up in Brooklyn, goes to the precinct, and he is told, “Oh, well, you can’t vote because you’ve moved a few blocks away outside of the precinct. Here, let me go to the door, and I’ll direct you down the street to the right precinct. And then, you can cast your vote there.” So, they were able to cast their vote in another precinct.
The last one, the only case where someone was actually turned away from voting at all, was in Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York, where a gentleman showed up and said, “I’d like to vote for this person.” And the polling worker looked up and said, “Well, I can’t let you do that.” And he said, “Well, why not?” And she said, “Well, you’re trying to give me the name of my son, and he’s in prison right now. And I don’t think he’s here in front of me, and I can’t let you vote.” So, that was the only failure, pure happenstance, that the poll worker’s mother was at the polling place.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s astounding.
Mr. Fund: But it’s a full report. A full 265-page report issued by the Department of Investigations. What was the reaction to the Board of Elections? Did they say, “Well, thank you for uncovering some problems in our system. We’ll try to work it out and fix it?” No, they were furious. They went to the New York City prosecutor, Manhattan DA, and demanded that the inspectors who had conducted this probe be charged criminally with impersonating people and prosecuted. They voted. Bipartisan, by the way, it’s both Democrats and Republicans who did this. And ultimately, they were laughed at so laboriously, they had to drop this. But the response of the Board of Elections was to try to prosecute the people who’d uncovered the problem.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s not a lot of times that I’m speechless when doing this show, but this is one of them, I think.
Mr. Fund: My book has dozens of these, sadly. Some people say you can read it as a tragedy, or you can read it as a comedy, or you can read it as both—tragedy-comedy.
Mr. Jekielek: This is the big question, because again, going back, the mantra is basically that this is not a significant thing, that what you described is some weird outlier that doesn’t really affect things, ultimately, in the grand scheme of things. But you actually document in your book that that’s really not the case. And you reference this Heritage database, which documents a lot of these types of cases.
Mr. Fund: Well, my co-author, Hans von Spakovsky, works at Heritage. He runs their election unit there. They have a database, which I think is over 1,500 cases that are relatively recent vintage, which only list people who’ve been convicted, or pled guilty to voter fraud; 1,500 cases, all 50 states.
Now, prosecutions are rare for a variety of reasons. This is a difficult crime to prove. Prosecutors are loath to pursue them because a lot of prosecutors want to climb the political ladder, which means they’re going to have to run for office. And if you prosecute a voter fraud case, you’re going to anger partisans in the other party, the party that did the voter fraud, or whose members did the other voter fraud, and you’re going to create enemies.
And prosecutors generally tend to put all these cases in the bottom of their stack. And for another thing, of course, if you prosecute this, in certain neighborhoods and in certain cities, you’re automatically going to be accused of racism or voter suppression, and who wants that on their political record, even if the charge is bogus.
Minorities support voter ID and election integrity laws as much or more in many cases as whites. They certainly think it’s a more serious problem. A Washington Post poll a few years ago said that and their other recent polls that have confirmed that. Why would that be? It’s because many minority voters live in urban areas or in impoverished rural areas where political machines dominate. They control the system. They basically crush any opposition.
So, you have a population in these areas, both rural and urban, where you have bad schools, bad roads, bad public services, bad law enforcement, and a whole range of problems, which mean many of our cities are collapsing and falling apart. So, often, reformers will get together and say, “We want to fight city hall. We want to change things.”
And whether it’s Milwaukee, or whether it’s Detroit, or whether it’s Philadelphia, or whether it’s St. Louis, or many other places, the machines will do everything to crush these nascent shoots of reform, trying to come up through the sidewalk, and they will include voter fraud as part of their tactics.
I’ll give you an example. In 2016, Bruce Frank, who is an entrepreneur, runs a photo shop. He had a career, he’s been a gang member, but he went straight and eventually, decided to become a community liaison with the police fighting against police brutality—sort of a Black Lives Matter case. Because there were legitimate cases of police brutality filed in Missouri, and he wanted to have effective law enforcement, and also have a well-disciplined police force that respected Civil Rights.
So, he decided to challenge a 72-year-old Incumbent State Legislator named Polly Hubbard. She was a member of the machine. She was the matriarch of the machine. And he was given no chance, but he raised a little bit of money, and he knocked on a whole bunch of doors.
On primary night, he led her. Then, at the last minute, a flood of about 300 absentee ballots came in, and over 90 percent of them were for Hubbard and the machine. But they were highly suspect absentee ballots. They clearly have been sloppily arranged and hand folded, and delivered. So, there was enough evidence to go to court by Frank’s lawyers. And they got a federal judge to throw out the election as invalid.
And the judge ordered a new election; eight weeks later, the same district, the same candidates, the same electorate. And the election, of course, was supervised and watched more carefully. He won over 70 percent of the vote. Now, that’s not a demonstration that the fraud was that huge in the first round, but it showed A, there was real popular support for him. And B, people woke up, and they must have accepted that these charges were true because they certainly didn’t reward the incumbent who denied the charges. They were rewarding the challenger who was making the charges. And Frank has told me, “I went to every Civil Rights group in the country and asked for help, no one would give it to me.”
The Federalist Society helped me, a group of libertarian lawyers in the area, but no one else did. So, minorities are often the biggest victims of this because they live in the areas where it can be practiced most assiduously, and with the least consequence, because the machine often controls the levers of prosecutors and law enforcement.
Mr. Jekielek: And you also document how hard it is to actually do these cases, how to actually find the evidence. There are multiple cases you describe. And frankly, I’m stunned at the types of evidence that some of these attorneys have managed to figure out.
Mr. Fund: That’s why one of the lessons of my book that Hans and I wrote is, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By the time you have the election, you can’t really go back, and solve the problems that led to whatever irregularities occurred. Donald Trump did not have an effective anti-fraud operation before the election because he should have known that with this flood of mail-in votes. And this is the central thesis of my book.
COVID allowed the Left to take off the shelf, all of the ideas they had for dismantling election integrity, and put them into practice under the cover of COVID health rules. You had unelected health bureaucrats, you had governors operating without the authority of the legislature issue these orders. And the orders basically meant there was a tsunami of mail-in votes that overwhelmed the system.
They were not proper precautions, none proper safeguards taken. And in some places, the mail-in vote exceeded the voting at the polls. Now, I’m in favor of absentee mail-in voting, but I think that it shouldn’t become the norm. It should be the exception. We should vote under the supervision of election officials at a polling place.
Now, you can make adjustments, you can have people vote early in election office, and that seems to have worked very well. But having mail-in ballots, especially, for example, places like New Jersey and Nevada did, where they would mail a ballot to every registered voter, even though 20 percent or so of those ballots went to invalid addresses and invalid voters.
So, in my view, what you have is a system where integrity has to be maintained. And it has to be maintained before the election, because after the election, the audits that were taken all over the country… Now, the audits have uncovered some problems. Arizona being an example. But if you want to look at an audit to change an election, if the mail-in ballot that’s come in wasn’t properly signed, or wasn’t properly handled. And when it’s counted, the sheet describing the voter is separated from the sheet that has the ballot choices on it, what will an audit do? It will decide whether the ballots were counted accurately, but it will never be able to match the ballot up with the person who sent the ballot in.
So, you can’t prove anything. You may be able to prove anomalies, but that’s not proof that can overturn an election. So, I think the focus on the audits by some of the Trump people was misplaced because they couldn’t possibly prove what they were hoping they would prove.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s really fascinating. This whole, basically, dramatic shift in the system that happened.
Mr. Fund: Well, in 1980, three percent of Americans cast absentee ballots. That’s when Ronald Reagan first got elected. This year, it was close to between 40 percent and 50 percent— enormous. Enormous change. And I think there are other problems with massive mail-in voting. We had people voting six weeks before the election. We had people voting before there were any debates.
If you have campaigns, the whole purpose of a campaign is to convince people to vote a certain way, right? Well, if you’re having people vote weeks in advance, they’re missing the campaign. So, why have the campaign then? If people are already going to decide so early who they vote for, it’s just going to ratify their preexisting prejudice.
Mr. Jekielek: Right. I want to jump to this. I said I wanted to talk a little bit about the philosophy of how we approach elections. You could call it the meaning of what a vote cast actually means. Traditionally, we had this situation where votes were actually very intentional, right? Where someone had to go out and basically make the decision. They’re going to go out and vote. There weren’t these in some states, for example, ballot harvesting operations, you call it, I think ballot trafficking, where people basically can go out and mass collect ballots. And it’s unclear under what circumstances, that sort of thing.
Mr. Fund: There have been clear rules in most states until recently that if you had a ballot, let’s say in the mail, this is how it’s most frequently done. You had to deliver it yourself. You had to either mail it yourself, or had to deliver it yourself, or if you were ill, or if there was some other reason, you had to have a family member deliver it.
California abolished that requirement, for example, in 2016. And they created a system in which anyone, including political operatives who were paid, could go door to door, knock on people’s doors, say, “We know your ballot was delivered yesterday. Would you like any help filling it out and delivering it?” And they could gather hundreds of these, and deliver them to election officials with very little oversight, and supervision. And the potential for mischief, for example, if you go door to door, and somebody mentions, “Well, I’m voting for the other party,” or a party you’re not supporting, you can lose their ballot.
They’ll never know. You can’t track it, except in a couple of states. You’ll never know that your ballot was never delivered. Or in some cases, in Los Angeles, there were people who told me, a guy comes to the door and says, “You’ve received a ballot in the mail, la nueva forma de votar, the new way of voting. Let me help you vote and give you advice on who to vote for.”
And they would sit on their kitchen table, and help them fill out the ballot. And then, they would collect it, and bring it in. Nursing homes, this is all long happened with nursing homes, where people go in and take advantage of people, and help them fill out their ballots improperly, and then deliver the ballots.
In Pennsylvania, former Congressman Austin Murphy, was indicted for absentee ballot fraud of nursing homes. Think about that. If a former Congressman who has a reputation presumably to preserve is willing to engage in that grubby behavior, who else is willing to do that?
Mr. Jekielek: The other thing, I guess, that I said I wanted to talk about is, as we’re talking about this, I can’t help but doubt more and more, the validity of elections. And this, inherently, is the problem we’re trying to address. And so-
Mr. Fund: Well, let me push back a little on that. In modern times, the vast majority of elections are conducted freely, and fairly, and properly. The problems I outline in the book are mostly isolated, or limited to places where they’re long-term political machines who want to stay in power. New York City would be an example of that.
In New York City, the former democratic head of the Manhattan election administration confessed in 2016. He thought there was a lot of voter fraud in the city. A lot of people were busted from precinct to precinct to vote frequently, and there should be voter ID laws.
So, machines, rural areas, which often have discredited systems from the past, like share cropping and others, where political machines grew up, and people were subservient to landlords, and other political bosses. And also, where votes are believed to be close. You don’t cheat if you think you’re going to win in a landslide. You cheat when you think it’s going to be close, and when you think it will make a difference.
So, in the 2020 election, what was concerning was the creative ways that people had of tilting the balance in some of these critical swing states that everyone knew the election for president would be decided on.
A chapter in my book on Zuckerbucks, there’s a charity in Chicago, a nonprofit called the Center for Civic Life. It has never given more than $1,400,000 in grants a year ever in its entire existence— tiny charity. In 2020, it suddenly had over $400,000,000. How? Because Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, and his wife have a foundation, and they funneled over $400,000,000 to this foundation to give out grants to election offices all over the country.
Grants that would say, “We want to increase voter turnout. We want to increase participation. All you have to do is sign a contract, specifying what you’ll do to increase voter turnout based on our guidelines. And you can have the money.” Now, this is an astonishing thing on several reasons.
One, let’s say you had a company that was in constant violation of OSHA laws, workplace safety laws. And rather than clean up their act, they decided to create a little foundation on the side, and have that foundation go to the local OSHA representative, OSHA office and say, “You’re doing a great job. We think you need to be rewarded for your efforts. We just have a few suggestions on how your enforcement mechanism should work, and who you should have inspections of, and all of that. And if you’ll sign this agreement changing your workplace enforcement provisions, you’ll get a bunch of money.” We would, of course, never allow that. In fact, it is against the law at the federal level.
But effectively, that “Privatization” of an election administration took place all over the country because these election administration offices were suddenly dancing to someone else’s tune. They were not following their established procedures in all cases. Philadelphia. Philadelphia’s annual election budget is 15 million. Philadelphia city council had an emergency five-minute Zoom meeting on Labor Day holiday.
The only purpose of which was to approve the contract for a $10 million grant from the Zuckerberg foundation money to supplement their election efforts. Well, they did voter registration efforts in certain neighborhoods. They had set up drop boxes that didn’t have proper supervision or cameras on them. They had people go out, and do mass rallies, and events to promote voter registration in certain neighborhoods, but not in others.
All of these efforts were theoretically open to any election office in the country. But in practice, it was all concentrated in democratic areas, urban areas of swing states that were going to be closely contested; Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, places like that. And in fact, in New York State, the election officials didn’t have enough money to handle this Governor Cuomo order that they had to dramatically expand mail-in voting.
So, they went to the New York State Board of Elections and said, “We don’t have the money.” They said, “Well, we don’t have the money either. Why don’t you go apply for money from the Zuckerberg foundation?” So, a government entity was telling these local election offices, “We’re not going to give you money. Go get it from this private source that has perhaps its own interest involved.”
This is outrageous. And this problem, of course, is no one ever imagined that anyone would do this. So, in almost all cases, it probably wasn’t against the law because no one would imagine somebody trying this. But this happened all over the country. And it may have swung states like Arizona and Georgia.
Mr. Jekielek: Yes. And I think he said it was in something like 2,500 jurisdictions.
Mr. Fund: There were some grants to small counties in the range of $3,000, $5,000. So, they can point to counties and rural areas that got money, but the vast majority of the money went to highly urban democratic areas in swing states.
Mr. Jekielek: Yes. And frankly, I think you also document that it’s very difficult to actually track it because we hear all the time about this concept of dark money. You don’t know where it’s going. You don’t know-
Mr. Fund: How about black money? This was black money, effectively, because it took hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests by a group called The Capital Research Center and other groups to ferret out the story. It wasn’t fully learned until months after the election.
Now, states have moved since then. Arizona, Florida, Texas, many states have moved to make this illegal. But somebody got away with it, and it may have skewed, and tilted the election. We’ll never know.
Mr. Jekielek: How do we bring back… there’s at least half…, what I’m getting at, I’m going to go back to what I said earlier. The reality is that a lot of people doubt… and frankly, it’s not in a bipartisan way, doubt the validity of elections, perhaps in favor of the team that they support, right?
Mr. Fund: Well, first of all, this is not a partisan book. There are examples of Republican voter fraud. In fact, a congressional candidate, a Republican hired a consultant who normally worked for Democratic candidates. But in this case, he outbid the others, and got this consultant to work for him in North Carolina in 2018.
And that consultant filled out hundreds of absentee ballots improperly, and defeated a Democratic candidate with those improper ballots. There is Republican voter fraud. I think it’s very limited because Republicans used to dominate the big cities. And then, the Democrats took over the cities, and perfected the methods that the Republican machines left behind.
So, it’s not a partisan book. The vast majority and the examples in my book do involve Democrats, but that is not to say that one party has a monopoly on virtue on this. Given the proper temptation, and the proper opportunity, and the lack of prosecution, anyone is prey to tilting the scales in their favor on some level.
Mr. Jekielek: So, would you say the preponderance or this dramatic increase in absentee ballots is the biggest issue?
Mr. Fund: It’s the biggest potential issue because the opportunity for mistakes, manipulation, and even outright fraud exists. The book that Hans and I wrote is not primarily about fraud. It’s about a system that is so sloppy, and so loose-goosey, and so subject to vague interpretations in one direction or another, that you can’t tell where the incompetence ends and the fraud begins.
I’ll give you an example. Two articles appeared in the major papers a few weeks ago, side by side. The first was, Post Office slashes budget, changes delivery times, slows down national delivery. Second, Democrats push bill on Congress S1 to nationalize federal elections. Mandate mail-in voting in all states. Sweep away all the existing state election laws in favor of a one-size-fits-all Washington policy.
I read that and I said, “It’s weird.” Here, we have this push for this all mail-in voting system. At the same time, the Postal Service’s reputation continues to decline. Its reliability is more and more suspect, and it’s slowing down its delivery times. Does this really work together? And sure enough, it doesn’t.
CBS News in Philadelphia decided to conduct an experiment. They took 100 envelopes, and they made to the same size as a mail-in vote. Same weight, got a post office box, and sent in paper that resembled a ballot. And they waited to see what would happen.
They went after a week, and 47 of the hundred had shown up, and the rest hadn’t. After three weeks, 97 had shown up, after three weeks. Well, you can say, “Well, 97 showed up.” Well, a lot of elections are decided by less than three persent of the vote. So, the more and more you go to mail-in voting, do you really want to trust the Post Office, the Post Awful, to be the receptacle of your trust?
And by the way, three weeks is a long time. If you mail your ballot in a week before the election, even first-class mail, are you sure it’s going to get there? Let’s say you’re working out of state. You’re working in Texas and you want to vote in New York. You mail in your ballot. Shouldn’t a week be enough?
Well, maybe it’s not now. In fact, the post office has changed the delivery time for transcontinental letter to five days. And a lot of the time, they don’t meet that average. So, it’s not just that mail-in voting is cast outside the supervision of election officials. So, there can be ballot harvesting, trafficking,
There can be manipulation. You can have spouses, employers put undue pressure on you the voter. It’s also that it’s using a mechanism, which is increasingly unreliable in this country called first-class mail.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk about solutions. Because your book is, as you’ve suggested, very forward-looking, how to create a system that is more reliable and more effective at making sure that every vote is a real one.
Mr. Fund: Well, if you were to ask me theoretically, way off into the future, what could be done? Andrew Young, the former mayor of Atlanta, former confidant of Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther King, has supported voter ID in the past—properly understood. Because he says that it gives people, the few people who don’t have voter ID, it gives them access to things like a bank account, travel, to things that you need an idea of some kind to participate in.
And he suggests a voter ID should be called a freedom passport because it gives people who don’t have one much greater ability to operate in the industry of American life. He also suggests, for example, that over time maybe we could move to Sunday voting. The fact that we vote on Tuesday, which is a workday, is arbitrary, and artificial, and tied to the farm economy we used to have.
So, in the long run, that might be something to look at that would expand voting, a day of rest. Although, there might be some religious objection in some quarters. They could vote absentee. But in the short term, I think what you need to do is we should have voter ID laws, require ID for almost everything in life. Why should voting be the exception? People say, “Well, voting is a constitutional right.” Well, so is marriage. You can’t get married, gay or straight, anywhere in this country without showing an ID. So, that’s not one. I think we need to abolish things like same-day voter registration, which is a recipe for mischief.
We need to update our voter rolls. That’s probably the most important thing. We need to make sure that the voter rolls are an accurate reflection of reality of who the voters actually are, and don’t include phantom voters, and people who don’t exist.
Mr. Jekielek: And very briefly, what is the reality around these voter rolls at the moment?
Mr. Fund: The Pew Research Center estimates that between 15 and 20 percent of voter registrations right now are invalid, outdated, or not active. They represent people who aren’t eligible to vote, who no longer exist, or are otherwise out of the system. They moved out of state. They’re no longer eligible where they registered.
Mr. Jekielek: Why this incredible resistance to cleaning that up?
Mr. Fund: It is curious. Judicial Watch, a public research group sued the county of Los Angeles, and they got a court settlement. The County of Los Angeles agreed to take a million-and-a-half names off of the voter rolls because they were invalid. In the back and forth before the consent agreement, the county said, “Well, there conceivably could be people here who are listed as inactive, who really do still exist. And we don’t want to take anyone else off. We don’t want to take any steps that would reduce anyone’s chance of voting.” So, rather than clean up the system, they basically leaned on the excuse, “Well, there might be a few mistakes in that list, and we have to keep everybody on the list.”
Mr. Jekielek: To the tune of the million and a half?
Mr. Fund: On a population in the county of 10 million, yes.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s tough to swallow.
Mr. Fund: Well, there are people who believe that there are things going on behind the curtain in our voting system, that some people don’t want the curtain parted so the rest of us can see.
Mr. Jekielek: And as we finish up, I also wanted to touch on this whole idea of automatic voter registration, because this is something new that is being floated as part of these H1 and S1 bills. That obviously changes the whole equation dramatically.
Mr. Fund: Well, New York state voters rejected a version of that called Same Day Registration at the polls, decisively, which shows there’s public antipathy to this. Automatic registration would mean, if your name appears on any government list, and your name appears on a lot of government lists, you’d automatically be registered to vote. Now, the problem, of course, is we appear on many different lists.
So, you’d probably registered more than once. You’d probably be registered under different forms. Sometimes you’d have your first name, your middle initial, and your last name. Sometimes you might have just your first name and your last name. Sometimes you might have your initials. You could be registered multiple times. And I think again, it’s a recipe for confusion, chaos, lack of clarity, and potential fraud.
Mr. Jekielek: And so, ultimately, what is it that’s going to bring back faith in the system?
Mr. Fund: Following what we have in our book. And also, I think we need the media to devote resources to telling the full story. What is actually in these bills in Texas, Georgia, and Arizona that passed? Were they really voter suppression, or were they really just returning to the status quo before the COVID rules were changed without official legislative vote?
Are there cases where there are areas of this country where elections are notoriously flawed like Philadelphia? Yes. Are there people, minorities in urban areas, who actually have seen, and been up close to witness voter fraud? There are a lot of unanswered questions the media used to ask, where I referenced all those poll surprises they used to get that they no longer ask.
So, I think, sunlight is the best disinfected, but much of the mainstream media has bought into a single narrative on this. And there are exceptions like your network. But most of the time, people just want to repeat the same old tired stories, and the same old tired charges of racism, and voter suppression, when that’s not the real story anymore. It may have been in the 1960s, and we fought a Civil Rights struggle to overcome that. The story is different now, and it has different villains, and different sets of facts.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, John Fund, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the show.
Mr. Fund: Thank you. Thank you.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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