It seems that the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics isn’t particularly enamored with right-wing filmmaker James O’Keefe’s use of the April 3 primary D.C. primary to make a point about the need for voter identification laws.
In a statement released today, the three-member board condemned the video where one of O’Keefe’s colleagues attempted to vote as Attorney General Eric Holder during last week’s primary, calling O’Keefe and his associates “political pranksters.”
“There is never any justification for disrupting the voting process with fraudulent activity,” the board’s chairwoman, Deborah Nichols, said in the release. Nichols said the board’s attorneys plan to investigate what the operative from O’Keefe’s Project Veritas organization did when he dropped by the polling station in the Spring Valley neighborhood, where Holder resides.
In the video, the Veritas member, whose real name is not stated in the video, gives his name as Holder’s when approaching a ballot worker. When the cameraman is presented with the polling place’s registry for signature, he backs off and offers to show photo identification, presumably not that of the attorney general. The ballot worker assures the Project Veritas activist his signature is not necessary, a point the resulting video fixates on as an open door for voter fraud. Had O’Keefe’s pal signed the book as Holder, he would have been in violation of election law. The real Holder, if he voted at all, would have been given a provisional-or “special” ballot-that would later be counted and verified assuming the attorney general provided acceptable proof of residency in his voting precinct.
Project Veritas targeted Holder for his longstanding opposition to voter ID laws. Under his leadership, the Justice Department has attempted to block some states’ attempts to make photo identification a requirement to obtain a ballot.
Perhaps a phony signature would have made O’Keefe’s point about election fraud, an issue he’s also raised in primary elections this year in several states, most notably New Hampshire, where Project Veritas obtained ballots using the names of deceased people. Except, O’Keefe is probably overblowing his case, we read yesterday in a report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, which found that Americans commit voter fraud about as often as they are hit by lightning. (Which is to say, not very.)
But for his cheek in trying to make a scene about potential voter fraud, O’Keefe may now find the tables turned. The board, according to the statement, will investigate the Project Veritas stunt for potential fraud, “as we customarily investigate all reports of irregularities before we certify the outcome of an election.”
It’s also not O’Keefe’s first brush with the long arm of the law. In January 2010, he and three associates were arrested in New Orleans after they posed as telephone repairmen in order to eavesdrop on an office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). The four pleaded guilty to entering U.S. government property on false pretenses and were sentenced to probation, fines and community service.
But Project Veritas maintains any wrongdoing depicted in Monday’s video lies with the board. In a statement released through a spokesman, O’Keefe said fault for the situation lies with the board, not his group.
“The poll workers within the District of Columbia created problems of election integrity by following procedure set forth by the DC Board of Elections,” O’Keefe said. “Therein lies the problem. Our citizen journalists did not misrepresent themselves. They simply asked the question ‘Do you have an Eric Holder?’ The voting procedures within our nation’s capital then allowed for a ballot to be offered without verification. The automatic response of the DC Board of Elections is to shoot the messenger rather than addressing the issues of integrity within their own election process.”