I am often asked about the possibility of illegal votes cast in Champaign County. The questions are usually about either the possibility of double voting or the possibility of people voting here who are living somewhere else.
We’ve never had the resources to do the exhaustive study of some of these issues that we’d like. However, this last semester, we had an intern in our office who dived into the project of determining whether some people in Champaign County voted illegally.
Our research identified 146 illegal voters. The research is available here and the actual data here. The research paper itself puts the issue in the context of the controversy surrounding so called caging. Caging is an attempt to identify voters who no longer reside at an address by sending them nonforwardable mail and then challenging their right to vote on Election Day.
In the time shortly before and shortly after the November 2008 election we had 653 pieces of mail sent to voters in the November 2008 election that were returned by the post office as undeliverable for some reason. We then wrote the property owner of the voter’s claimed residence and asked whether that person resided at the address on Election Day November 5, 2008. In 146 of those instances, the voter did not live at the address that they claimed on their application to vote and their voter registration yet they still voted a full ballot.
Without further research, it is impossible to know if these are voters who moved within Champaign County and should have voted a Federal Only Ballot or whether these voters had left the county entirely. In all but two instances, the voter’s identification (either Driver’s License or Social Security number) was validated on the State Board of Elections statewide database. None of the 146 voters are shown to have voted in another jurisdiction.
Much more research needs to be done yet on this project, including determining why so much mail gets returned when in fact the individuals in question actually reside at the residence they claim. Of course, the research was conducted only for voters for whom mail was returned. Most voters never received a mailing from our office after August 1, 2008.
As I write in the paper, the key element here from my perspective is that voters who tell the truth vote a federal only ballot. Voters who are willing to lie about their residence, are rewarded with a full ballot. In the November 2008 election, that meant they were able to vote on such things as County Board (including a race decided by fewer than 200 votes ) and the local sales tax referendum, which lost by just 246 votes.
There’s much more detail, thoughts, as well as possible solutions to this issue in the research paper.
Further, while I realize that this is not the highest priority for law enforcement, I have turned this information over to an investigative authority.