UPDATED 4:15 P.M.
Elections officials in the District are condemning conservative activist James O’Keefe as a “prankster” for his latest hidden-camera ploy, in which he sent an associate inside a D.C. polling place to demonstrate the need for “voter ID” laws by showing he could vote as the U.S. attorney general.
In a statement, the Board of Elections and Ethics said the O’Keefe associate was “misrepresenting his identity” by walking into Spring Valley’s Precinct 9 on Tuesday and asking a poll worker if Eric Holder appeared on the rolls. But a representative of O’Keefe’s Project Veritas said no laws were broken in the incident.
The attorney general is indeed registered to vote in the precinct, and the poll worker invited the man to sign the poll book and proceed to vote. At that point, the man inquired about providing ID and was told it was not necessary before he left.
The board said that the Holder incident is one of “multiple incidents” that took place last Tuesday that it continues to investigate. O’Keefe teased other hidden-camera episodes in the Holder video.
The board’s chairwoman, Deborah K. Nichols, said in a statement that polling places are open to public inspection by media and campaign observers. “There is never any justification for disrupting the voting process with fraudulent activity,” she said.
Holder was specifically targeted, according to the video, because of the Justice Department’s recent opposition to voter ID laws in two states requiring Voting Rights Act preclearance.
Board member Stephen Danzansky, a Republican, said voter ID “is a policy question for lawmakers to decide and the proper forum for influencing that debate is not in the inner sanctum of the polling place. ... We will protect the integrity of that space from political pranksters and advocates who attempt to usurp that ground for their own political positions or causes.”
Under District and federal law, a person voting under false pretenses is subject to up to five years in prison and fines up to $10,000. It is not at all clear that any laws were broken in the O’Keefe stunt; the man does not claim to be Holder, but merely asks the poll worker if there’s an Eric Holder on the rolls.
Board member Devarieste Curry, quoted in the statement, acknowledges the first video might not contain enough evidence to establish there was a criminal act of voter fraud. “Whether that fraud is prosecutable remains to be seen, but it was a fraud nevertheless,” she said.
In a statement, O’Keefe denied that his “citizen journalists” misrepresented themselves.
“They simply asked the question ‘Do you have an Eric Holder?’” he said. “The voting procedures within our nation’s capital then allowed for a ballot to be offered without verification. The automatic response of the D.C. Board of Elections is to shoot the messenger rather than addressing the issues of integrity within their own election process.”
A Project Veritas spokesman, Shane Cory, added that “all of our work is carefully vetted by counsel before an investigation is launched.”
The board statement in full:
Board Condemns Video Showing Fraudulent Activity on Election Day
Investigation underway; evidence of potentially criminal activity will be referred to federal and District law enforcement authorities
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The District of Columbia Board of Elections today condemned a video circulating on the Internet that shows a person misrepresenting his identity at District polling places on Election Day. The Board confirmed that it is investigating multiple incidents that occurred on Tuesday, April 3.
“I have directed our attorneys to conduct a thorough investigation and refer all evidence to law enforcement authorities for appropriate action,” said Board chairwoman Deborah Nichols. “Our polling places are open to the media and observers who want to legally document our procedures for checking in voters. There is never any justification for disrupting the voting process with fraudulent activity. We will take any and all appropriate actions to ensure the integrity of our voting process and we will vigorously seek to hold anyone and everyone accountable for interference with that process to the fullest extent permitted by law.”
“In our democracy, the voting booth and its immediate surrounds are sacrosanct and to be kept free from politics and electioneering. The voter identification issue is a policy question for lawmakers to decide and the proper forum for influencing that debate is not in the inner sanctum of the polling place,” said Board member Stephen Danzansky. “We will protect the integrity of that space from political pranksters and advocates who attempt to usurp that ground for their own political positions or causes. This Board of Elections will grant zero tolerance to anyone tampering with the vital processes and standards by which District of Columbia voters exercise their franchise, including identifying themselves as a registered voter, affirming their qualifications to vote, and receiving and casting a ballot. The falsification or attempted falsification of any of the above is a criminal offense.”
“What is troubling is that someone who purports to be concerned about the integrity of the voting system would in fact perpetrate a fraud,” said Board member Devarieste Curry. “Whether that fraud is prosecutable remains to be seen, but it was a fraud nevertheless. We want every voter to know that no vote was cast in any of the incidents depicted in this video, that we condemn this stunt, and that we will thoroughly investigate it, as we customarily investigate all reports of irregularities before we certify the outcome of an election.”
Executive Director Cliff Tatum noted that none of the pollworkers depicted on the hidden camera had any knowledge that they were being recorded. “Our pollworkers followed proper procedure by requiring the voter to either sign the pollbook or vote a Special Ballot,” said Tatum. Any person whose eligibility to vote is in question can cast a Special Ballot, also known as a provisional ballot, but it is only counted if the Board determines that the voter is qualified to cast the ballot.
The Board will refer all evidence that it obtains in its investigation to District and federal law enforcement authorities. A final count of ballots, including absentee and provisional ballots, will occur on Friday, April 13. The Board is scheduled to certify the outcome of the election at a public meeting on Wednesday, April 18.