July 30, 2005
A Colorado Springs woman who was an election judge pleaded guilty this month to attempting to vote twice in the November 2004 election, once in El Paso County and again in Collier County, Fla.
Even though the woman was caught and election workers counted only her El Paso County ballot, Clerk and Recorder Bob Balink said Friday the case illustrates the voter registration system’s vulnerability to fraud. The woman, 22-year-old Katherine Anne Blair, pleaded guilty in 4th Judicial District court to voting twice, a misdemeanor. Balink said election authorities caught Blair’s second attempt to vote “by luck,” because no nationwide voter registration database exists. When Blair tried to cast an absentee ballot in Collier County, workers called El Paso County to verify she hadn’t already voted here, Balink said. He said she had cast an absentee ballot here already. Many election offices around the country, including El Paso County, do not automatically check with other jurisdictions when they issue an absentee ballot. Even counties within the same state can’t always screen out duplicate votes. The Colorado secretary of state is setting up a statewide voter registration database starting next year that’s partly aimed at reducing the possibility of fraud. El Paso County is one of four counties testing the system before it goes into service. Meanwhile, someone might be able to cast votes in multiple counties, Balink said. “It would be illegal, but nobody would have caught it,” he said. “I suspect some day down the road we’re aiming toward a national (database), to combine voter registration databases in all 50 states so people can’t vote in two states.” Blair’s attorney, Ed Farry, said Friday that Blair’s mistake stemmed from an innocent misunderstanding about how governments handle records. She wanted to sign up as an election judge here, but to do so she had to register to vote in Colorado, he said. “Her perception was that the event of registering to vote in Colorado would terminate her registration in the state of Florida,” Farry said. Blair accepted a plea deal under which prosecutors dropped a felony charge of declaring a false residency. The July 15 sentence included a $5,000 fine and a one-year jail sentence, both of which are suspended if she stays out of trouble. She’ll also have 48 hours of community service, serve 12 months on probation and pay $198.50 in court costs. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0187 or email@example.com