Hank Investigates: Voter Fraud
"Would you agree our research shows these people that these people could all vote twice?"
- John Donovan, Boston Election Commission
For example: voting records show a Boston woman registered to vote in Ward 12 Precinct 1. In Ward 12 Precinct 2, the same person is registered again! One person, two votes! We also found people registered in two different towns. Once in Lowell, once in Cambridge. Once in Cambridge, once in Framingham. Once in Cambridge, once in New Bedford. Over and over again: one person, two votes.
"People can be registering now in two locations and that is a problem."
It's a problem because local election offices like the one in Boston are required to enter voter registrations into a central statewide computer. The computer is supposed to weed out potential fraud, but our examination shows it doesn't always work. It's actually full of thousands of illegal registrations. Including duplicates, errors, and improper addresses, all of which can become illegal votes.
- Josh Friedes, Common Cause, Massachusetts
"There probably can be some changes that could be made in the programming to eliminate the potential for fraud."
The flaws were exposed when we obtained computer disks of voter registration lists from six towns: Boston, Cambridge, Framingham, Lowell, Revere and New Bedford. We asked the Fair Elections Group, a non-profit organization in California, to merge those lists. They use a more sophisticated software system than Massachusetts.
- Karen Saranita, The Fair Elections Group
"If you wanted to filter out bad voters, certainly you could do it. We did that with a $29.00 piece of software."
The result: they found thousands of illegal registrations! Some in every town they checked. Thousands. And that's from just six locations.
- John Businger
"It obviously disturbs me if people are registered twice. One vote especially in a small turnout means an awful lot."
John Businger knows that first hand: he lost his primary in September by 35 votes.
"This is not an investigation that seeks, I hope, to cast blame, but to do what's most important to improve the system."
One problem with the system is if someone registers with a new name or a new address the computer won't always recognize that. It can only detect exact duplicates. Any variation and it's one person, two votes. And that's not the only loophole.
"Are you allowed to register at a business address?"
"No. You need to register at what's considered your home."
"Is that the law?"
"That's the law."
But here's what we found is considered home for one Boston voter an empty office, which has never been a residence. And we found voters registered at the Statler office building. No residences here either!
"Could someone be registered at a mailbox drop?"
"They're not supposed to be."
But we found the state's computer lists this mailbox drop in Cambridge as a residence and this one in Boston as home to a whole list of people.
"So all these voters, 110, are registered at a mailbox?"
...which is not a valid address.
Rejected Boston registrations prove sometimes an illegal voter or an improper address is caught before it's entered in the system. But otherwise, the state's computer system won't detect business addresses so everyone registered here is eligible to vote November 3rd. And if illegal ballots are cast, fraudulent voters would likely get away with it. The state's computer system also doesn't keep track who votes or how often. There's really no concrete way of knowing whether you have or haven't voted.
The Elections Commission stresses the system is much better than it used to be; up until recently it was all on paper. No commission officials would appear on camera, but in a statement said, "it's an evolving system. As technology improves and/or becomes more affordable, further improvements will be made." Officials say no computer changes can be made until after the election. So for now, they just have to hope voters will be honest.