In November, Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon released a grand jury report detailing allegations of voter fraud in a local election last year. The New York Post reported:
A Staten island grand jury has identified numerous instances of ballot harvesting fraud in a race for City Council last year — including a ballot submitted on behalf of a dead person and signature fraud involving dozens of other absentee ballots.
The unprecedented 38-page grand jury report released by Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon called for changes in state election law including requiring official government-issued ID to vote. But it does not specify the race in question, nor does it file criminal charges against anyone.
Sources told The Post that the criminal investigation focused on the campaign of Marko Kepi, who narrowly lost a GOP primary race to Mid-Island Councilman David Carr.
“This case is the poster child for the necessity of voter ID laws. Unfortunately, the real victims here are the hundreds of residents whose identities and votes were stolen. And this will happen again until our state Legislature takes election integrity and security seriously,” said Carr.
Specifically, the report made the following recomendations:
First, better safeguards must be put in place to prevent campaigns from re-registering unwitting, or even deceased, voters in order to secure votes in their names.
Second, more stringent measures must be put in place with respect to absentee ballot applications to ensure that absentee ballots are provided only to registered voters with a legitimate need or desire to vote in absentia.
Third, the process by which absentee ballot envelopes are delivered to, and processed by, local boards of elections must be improved to ensure that only a valid ballot that is actually tendered by the voter whose name, pedigree information, and signature appear on the envelope is processed and counted.
Fourth, the use of “cure affirmations,” by which voters may cure facial defects on the absentee ballot envelopes bearing their names, must be changed.
We recognize that this Grand Jury is not the first entity to identify flaws in the practices of the New York City Board of Elections (hereafter, “the Board”) and, in particular, in the state laws and guidelines under which it operates. We also recognize that implementing our recommendations would impose some measure of inconvenience on legitimate voters with legitimate reasons for voting without physically appearing at a poll site. Nonetheless, we deem the potential upside in terms of election security to be worth the downside in terms of inconvenience. We are compelled to call for changes in the hope that legislators, regulators, and policymakers will consider this Grand Jury’s perspective and act swiftly to strengthen in New York the keystone of American democracy: the integrity of its electoral process.
Concerns about voter fraud in the race were also raised by the judge that ultimately declared the winner of the election:
The race was so close that it resulted in multiple legal actions that culminated in an August 2021 decision from New York State Supreme Court Justice Ralph Porzio in Carr’s favor.
After the court sifted through 160 ballots that the New York City Board of Elections rejected due to voter signatures not matching registration records, Porzio’s decision mostly agreed with the board’s findings only admitting two of the rejected ballots.
The court’s review found similar concerns that the Board of Elections outlined, and Porzio issued a scathing review of the alleged fraud.
“While this Court recognizes that its jurisdiction in this case is limited to determining if the Board made a ministerial error in rejecting the 160 ballots, the Court could not help but make a record of these patterns since they were so glaringly obvious and deeply concerning,” the judge wrote.
November's grand jury report shows how common sense election reforms would go a long way in increasing the accuracy of our election results and confidence in the process.