Justice

The Problem with This Attempt to Expose Voter Fraud

November 8th 2016

By:
Kyle Jaeger

James O'Keefe, president of Project Veritas, released a video of himself trailing a bus full of voters bound for polling stations around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday. Though he's yet to turn up evidence of misconduct on the part of the voters, his attempt to expose fraud by following the vehicle might be a form of voter intimidation, according to election law experts.

O'Keefe seemed pretty convinced that the act of transporting voters to polling stations was "improper" and newsworthy. But there's nothing illegal about this practice, as election law expert Rick Hasen reported for Slate. It allows people with disabilities, people who don't own vehicles or who don't live near public transportation to have the ability to cast their vote.

polling-place

Voter intimidation is illegal — punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine. Here's how the federal government defines voter intimidation:

"Whoever intimidates, threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose, or of causing such other person to vote for, or not to vote for, any candidate for the office of president, vice president, presidential elector, member of the Senate, member of the House of Representatives, delegate from the District of Columbia, or Resident Commissioner, at any election held solely or in part for the purpose of electing such candidate, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."

O'Keefe defended the video and denied allegations of voter intimidation on Twitter.

Project Veritas, a non-profit that aims to expose institutional corruption, was behind a series of hidden camera videos earlier this year that "reveal tidbits of selectively and (likely deceptively edited) footage absent of any context in which to evaluate them," Snopes reported. In the first video, Manhattan Board of Elections Commissioner Alan Schulkin described the prospect of bussing voters to polling stations.

The clip O'Keefe released is a teaser for a forthcoming video on voter fraud, so it's not yet possible to determine the extent to which the organization's monitoring activities could be characterized as voter intimidation. In response to a question about allegations of voter fraud, Project Veritas provided ATTN: with a link to a separate video released Tuesday. It shows undercover journalists talking to two pastors in Gary, Indiana, during the primary election. At one point in the video, the pastors discuss transporting voters to polls.