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September 8, 2022

Spotlighting disparities in voter fraud prosecutions and punishments

The New York Times has this lengthy new piece highlighting that the uneven application of justice around the country when it comes to cases of voter fraud.  The full headline of this piece highlights its themes: "In Voter Fraud, Penalties Often Depend on Who’s Voting: Cases in Florida and a survey of prosecutions nationally indicate that despite the furor over voter fraud, prosecutions remain exceedingly rare and penalties vary wildly."  Here is how this piece starts:

After 15 years of scrapes with the police, the last thing that 33-year-old Therris L. Conney needed was another run-in with the law. He got one anyway two years ago, after election officials held a presentation on voting rights for inmates of the county jail in Gainesville, Fla.  Apparently satisfied that he could vote, Mr. Conney registered after the session, and cast a ballot in 2020.  In May, he was arrested for breaking a state law banning voting by people serving felony sentences — and he was sentenced to almost another full year in jail.

That show-no-mercy approach to voter fraud is what Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has encouraged this year during his re-election campaign.  “That was against the law,” he said last month about charges against 20 other felons who voted in Florida, “and they’re going to pay a price for it.”

But many of those cases seem to already be falling apart, because, like Mr. Conney, the former felons did not intend to vote illegally.  And the more typical kind of voter-fraud case in Florida has long exacted punishment at a steep discount.

Last winter, four residents of the Republican-leaning retirement community The Villages were arrested for voting twice — once in Florida, and again in other states where they had also lived. Despite being charged with third-degree felonies, the same as Mr. Conney, two of the Villages residents who pleaded guilty escaped having a criminal record entirely by taking a 24-hour civics class. Trials are pending for the other two.

Florida is an exaggerated version of America as a whole.  A review by The New York Times of some 400 voting-fraud charges filed nationwide since 2017 underscores what critics of fraud crackdowns have long said: Actual prosecutions are blue-moon events, and often netted people who didn’t realize they were breaking the law.

Punishment can be wildly inconsistent: Most violations draw wrist-slaps, while a few high-profile prosecutions produce draconian sentences.  Penalties often fall heaviest on those least able to mount a defense.  Those who are poor and Black are more likely to be sent to jail than comfortable retirees facing similar charges.

September 8, 2022 at 02:36 PM | Permalink


In comparison, in the 2016 elections in Texas, Ms. Crystal Mason says she did not know she was ineligible to vote, and with a poll worker's help cast a provisional ballot, which ultimately was never counted. Ms. Crystal was arrested, charged, tried, convicted and sentenced to FIVE YEARS of incarceration. Ms. Crystal is black. Two others, referenced in this article above (who were citizens of 'The Villages' in Florida), were white and Republican, and who voted for Trump. They were instructed to take a 'civics class'.

Posted by: SG | Sep 8, 2022 7:44:19 PM

I have been involved in a couple of real voter fraud cases -- intentionally listing a wrong address so that you could vote for a friend or relative in their race for office and things like that rather than somebody not realizing that they are ineligible to vote (which is something that should be caught by the election authority and in many states is a more complex question than it should be). In most cases, the disposition is some form of probation.

Posted by: tmm | Sep 9, 2022 10:42:45 AM

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