Missouri’s Republican secretary of state used a Senate Rules Committee hearing on preventing future election interference to claim that “voter fraud is an exponentially greater threat than hacking of our election equipment,” comments that earned a stiff rebuke from a Senate Democrat on the committee.
Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s opening statement stressed that there was no evidence hackers altered any votes or voter registration information during the 2016 election, and that state officials were the ones who alerted the federal government of possible cyber-intrusions.
“This is not to say that our elections were perfect, that there was no fraud, that there were no unlawful corruption of votes or vote totals. The evidence indicates that voter fraud is an exponentially greater threat than hacking of our election equipment,” he said.
He then brought up 2010 Missouri state House race that was decided by one vote, where it was later found that two voters — relatives of the winner — had committed voter fraud.
(Ashcroft did not mention the type of fraud committed: the two voters pleaded guilty to claiming Kansas City addresses so they could vote in it. It’s unlikely that a voter ID law, which was in place in the state at the time, and proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirements would have stopped such an act.)
“Moving forward, any meaningful enhancement to election security must take a comprehensive approach to ensure that every legally registered voter is allowed to vote and their vote is not diluted by any sort of voter fraud, malfeasance or ineptitude,” Ashcroft said.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who was the first Democrat to question Ashcroft and the other witnesses, immediately zeroed in on Ashcroft’s remarks. Durbin asked that Ashcroft and the other election officials on the panel report the number of convictions of voter fraud that have occurred out of the total number of votes cast over the last decade to the committee after the hearing.
“The statement, Secretary Aschcroft, that you made has to be addressed for the record,” Durbin said, referring to the claim that voter fraud was an “exponentially” greater threat than hacking.
Durbin brought up that his state’s voter registration system had been infiltrated by hackers, and that they had the capability of to muck with voters’ registration information. It they had, it would have created a “chaotic situation” at polling places, resulting in “hundreds of thousands” of provisional ballots cast, Durbin said.
“I don’t know how that would have ended. They didn’t do it. Thank goodness they didn’t. But the threat was there,” Durbin said. “I can count on both hands the cases of voter fraud in the state of Illinois in the last several elections cycles, and the convictions even fewer.”
“When it comes to this hacking, it is exponentially greater threat to our voting system than voter fraud,” Durbin added.
Corrected: This post has been corrected to reflect that Sen. Dick Durbin represents Illinois.