Analysis: Oklahoma DAs filed no charges for alleged illegal voting in 2016 presidential election

Donate
No charges were filed against any of the 18 Oklahomans accused of illegally attempting to vote during the 2016 presidential election, a review by The Frontier has found. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

No charges were filed against any of the 18 Oklahomans accused of illegally attempting to vote during the 2016 presidential election, a review by The Frontier has found.

The alleged illegal voting attempts, spread throughout 11 counties, were discovered by local election boards following a query from state election board officials earlier this year. The state election board was responding to a request from three Democratic U.S. Congress members who were seeking tallies of illegal votes from all 50 states.

Seventeen of the attempted illegal votes came from Oklahomans who tried to vote twice in the November Presidential election, records show. The other incident involved a non-citizen in Kay County who attempted to register to vote.

According to many of the district attorneys who reviewed the cases, the reason many of the attempted double-votes were not prosecuted came down to a single factor: age.

“The common theme here is the age factor,” said Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler. Kunzweiler said his office reviewed three cases of alleged double-voting but filed no charges against any of the accused.

Kunzweiler said more than a dozen cases of double-voting were presented to his office following various city, county, and state elections in 2016.

“There was one case I (reviewed) where a person, immediately after they voted, did a lot of different things to notify the election board and said, ‘Hey, I misunderstood the absentee ballot’ and said immediately that they didn’t intend to vote twice,” Kunzweiler said. “My impression is that confusion, and many times age, usually plays a big role in these cases.”

As Trump looks for voter fraud numbers, election board records show it rarely occurs in Oklahoma

Many of the other cases were similar. For instance, a Canadian County man with dementia voted once by mail and then attempted to vote again in person, while an elderly Delaware County man voted absentee, then tried to vote again in person.

Other examples given by district attorneys across the state included a Garfield County man who “changed addresses and had some confusion over where he was supposed to vote,” and a Delaware County man who was traveling during the presidential election and mistakenly tried to cast two ballots.

“That individual appears to have just gotten mixed up with too much going on,” Delaware County District Attorney Kenny Wright said. “This individual was extremely embarrassed. I do not believe (he) acted with any criminal intent.”

The data, at least as it concerns Oklahoma, doesn’t mesh with President Donald Trump’s repeated assertion that millions of illegal votes cast last November cost him the popular vote. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton received nearly 3 million more votes than Trump, but lost several key swing states and was trounced in the Electoral College.

Trump’s Election Integrity Panel, led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, sent a request last month to all 50 states for detailed voter registration data.

The request received an icy response from several states, though Oklahoma complied with the request to a degree. Some of the information requested by Kobach is public record, and some is not, state election board spokesman Bryan Dean said last month, noting that Kobach’s request specifically asks for data “publicly available under the laws of (each) state.”

Under Oklahoma law, Dean said, information like social security numbers or driver’s license numbers is not publicly releasable.

“We have a publicly available voter roll database that includes all the information that’s public,” Dean said. “We’ll release them that information just like we would for any other person who asked for it … (that database) certainly doesn’t include social security numbers.”

Kobach, long a proponent of strict voting laws that critics have decried as a means of voter suppression, claimed in February that the White House had evidence of voters being registered in more than one state.

He told Fox Business reporter Neil Cavuto in an interview that “In Kansas … we have an expert who has analyzed our voter rolls and thinks as many as 18,000 non-citizens could be on the rolls and many of them voting.”

However, since Kobach’s SAFE Act became law, only six cases of voter fraud have been prosecuted.

Trump’s panel, still under fire by voting rights advocates, held its first meeting earlier this month. In the wake of Kobach’s request last week, some states reported a jump in voter de-registrations, something voting rights advocates claimed was proof that the commission was simply a tool of the Trump administration to intimidate voters.

In Colorado, the Denver Post reported 472 people canceled their voter registrations in a week-long period following Kobach’s request for voter data. That was a dramatic rise over the 20 people who had canceled their registrations in the two weeks prior.

But the same trend didn’t hold true in Oklahoma — perhaps because, unlike Colorado, Oklahoma is a deeply red state.

Dean said that in a three-week period following Kobach’s request, 23 people (including 19 from Oklahoma City and none from Tulsa) canceled their voter registrations.

“For comparison’s sake, we had 42 for the entire month of June. We had 21 in May, 29 in April, 31 in March and 36 in February,” Dean said. “Nothing unusual in those numbers.”

State election board officials have found 172 alleged voting crimes in the elections held between 2014 and November 2016;

  • 45 alleged votes by “ineligible convicted felons”;
  • 10 alleged non-citizen votes;
  • 101 alleged double-votes;
  • 13 alleged absentee ballot irregularities;
  • 3 alleged voter registration irregularities.

It’s unclear how many of those resulted in prosecutions, though court cases are occasionally filed. Choctaw County District Attorney Mark Matloff said he had recently filed a case against a former city councilor who moved out of the city limits, but returned to vote in a city election.

“The reason he resigned (from the city council) was because he was moving into the county,” Matloff said. “He had no defense.”

Noble County District Attorney Brian Hermanson recalled a time in 2015 when he filed felony illegal voting charges following a tie in an election for Marland City Clerk.

He said two people — who just so happened to be the mother and son of one of the candidates — voted illegally and forced the tie.

The pair “got a two-year deferred sentence and were jointly ordered to pay the $1,170.51, which was the cost of the new election,” Hermanson said.

Counties where illegal voting was alleged
Canadian, 1 attempted double vote
Carter, 2 attempted double votes
Choctaw, 1 attempted double vote
Cleveland, 2 attempted double votes
Delaware, 2 attempted double votes
Garfield, 1 attempted double vote
Jefferson, 1 attempted double vote
Kay, 1 attempted non-citizen registration
Murray, 1 attempted double vote
Okmulgee, 1 attempted double vote
Tulsa, 5 attempted double votes

Your financial support for our investigative journalism is now tax deductible. To become a Friend of The Frontier, click here.

Dylan Goforth

Editor in Chief/Staff Writer

Dylan is a news junkie and QuikTrip addict. He spends too much time on Twitter, but has launched what will be a failed attempt to cut back in 2018. Contact: dylan@readfrontier.com or 918-931-9405.
Donate