Right-leaning think tank questions Mass. election security; officials push back
BOSTON — There’s little evidence of voter fraud in Massachusetts. Nevertheless, a conservative-leaning think tank says the state has some work to do to continue ensuring election security moving forward.
- 2015 – Mark Atlas, impersonation fraud at the polls, diversion program,
- 2013 – Courtney Llewellyn, fraudulent use of absentee ballots, criminal conviction
- 2013 – Enrico “Jack” Villamaino, false registrations, criminal conviction
- 2012 – Stephen “Stat” Smith, fraudulent use of absentee ballots, criminal conviction
The state placed 44th in the Heritage Foundation’s Election Integrity Scorecard. It received a score of 44/100 based on the think tank’s identified best election practices, which focus heavily on voter identification practices and use of absentee ballots.
State election officials and the nonpartisan grassroots organization Common Cause Massachusetts dispute the ranking.
“There’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud,” said Common Cause Executive Director Geoff Foster. “It’s hard to prove something that doesn’t exist when it doesn’t exist.”
“Massachusetts, like all other states, has very few instances of voter fraud or election fraud generally,” according to a statement from the office of Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, which oversees elections. “Voters are generally honest people who are simply looking to have their voices heard and know that their votes will be counted fairly.”
Voter ID law
Massachusetts does not require voter ID unless someone is voting for the first time in a federal election; has been an inactive voter; is casting a provisional or challenged ballot; or if a poll worker has reasonable suspicion to request identification.
Hans von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission and manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative, said the state’s absentee ballot and voter ID requirement laws are the most concerning.
“When it comes to absentee ballots, there are all kinds of failures, including no ID requirement of any kind,” he said. “When you don’t have basic security measures in place like an ID requirement, then you don’t have the tools in place to even detect fraud and other problems in the first place when they occur.”
But Foster said such concerns are “a solution in search of a problem. There’s no need for it in Massachusetts.”
Galvin’s office echoed that sentiment.
“We have no comment on ideological rankings such as those created by the Heritage Foundation, except to say that elections in Massachusetts are administered according to the state and federal laws as they are written, and not how private groups believe they should be administered.”
The federal government ensures election security by holding states accountable with election law compliance. In 2008, the Justice Department sued Galvin’s office over the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. The settlement agreement required Galvin to implement procedures facilitating military ballots cast.