Seizing on reports that at least two states’ election systems have been hacked, Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence warned on Wednesday that supporters need to guard against voter impersonation — something that is virtually non-existent in America.
On CNN’s New Day, Pence was asked whether voter fraud is widespread, but he did not directly answer the question. “ I think voter fraud exists,” he said. “We’ve certainly had instances of that that have been prosecuted in the state of Indiana over the last 10 and 15 years.” He also noted that “a couple of state elections systems have been hacked.”
While voter fraud is extremely rare, there have been a few isolated cases in Indiana. Most notably, former Republican Secretary of State Charlie White was removed from office in 2012 and confined to home detention after he was convicted of illegally listing his address at a residence he no longer occupied. Another case, often cited by voter fraud evangelists, involved forged signatures on an Indiana petition in 2008. A third example, from last year, involved a police officer who was charged with forging absentee ballot request signatures. None of these cases involved fraud at the polls and none of them would have been prevented in any way by voter identification requirements — or by a large cadre of poll watchers challenging unfamiliar voters.
Still, Pence urged supporters of the Donald Trump-Mike Pence ticket to volunteer to protect the vote at their own precincts. “And people that are involved in this movement, people that want to ‘make America great again’ ought to know that being involved in the election as a volunteer, as a poll watcher, as a poll worker, is the way that we have always vouchsafed the integrity of the one-person, one-vote system. It’s the way we’ll continue to.” He added that skepticism about election integrity is “well founded,” warning that “people need to be very concerned about the potential of voter fraud and that kind of vigilance, I think, is essential to any vibrant democracy.”
New Day host Alisyn Camerota pressed Pence about how poll-watchers would be able to guard against the sort of computer hacking he had brought up. “Well, they wouldn’t be able to detect computer hacking,” the Indiana governor answered, “but one of the things about working at your own neighborhood precinct place, Alisyn, if you’ve ever done it — is that most people know their neighbors, people come through the door, they take a ballot.”
Though Pence’s suggestion that Trump backers should challenge any voters at their local precinct who they may not recognize could lead to huge delays and suppression of citizens lawfully casting their ballots, it also flatly contradicts the message Pence’s running mate pushed earlier this month. In an Altoona, Pennsylvania speech, Trump suggested backers should go to urban precincts where they do not live and monitor voting there. “Go down to certain areas and watch and study make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times,” he urged.
Voter fraud has become a popular Republican talking point in recent years, helping spur voter suppression laws including strict voter ID requirements — laws that Pence praised in the interview as “important.” But research has found that a person is 39 times more likely to be killed by lighting as to commit impersonation fraud at the polls, and 3,500 times more likely to report a UFO encounter. Still, the first Trump-Pence general election TV shows an image of a polling place with the words “system rigged.”