In 2010, conservative videographer James O'Keefe and three associates pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of entering federal property under false pretenses in connection with an attempted video sting at the office of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Now election officials and election law experts are suggesting that he may be implicated in another illegal scheme. They say that in attempting to create an undercover video showing how easy it is to commit voter fraud, James O'Keefe's associates may have run afoul of those laws themselves.
Those experts and officials are questioning whether the conservative videographers may have violated laws banning individuals from falsely identifying themselves at the polling place and requiring both parties to consent to be videotaped.
In their investigation, the conservative videographers entered polling places, gave the name of recently deceased New Hampshire residents, and were offered ballots by poll workers. In one case, the videographer fled the scene after a poll worker became aware that he was not the deceased voter.
While the videographers were largely careful not to directly assert that they were the deceased voters whose names they were stating, Think Progress noted that in at least one instance, when a poll worker asked a O'Keefe confederate for his name, he gave the name of deceased person.
In addition to potentially putting his accomplices in legal jeapardy, O'Keefe's video largely shows the logical incoherence of the right's voter fraud paranoia and the difficulty of pulling off a large-scale fraud conspiracy.
This morning, the New Hampshire Union-Leader reported that officials in the towns where the video was shot are calling for the prosecution of the videographers:
“They should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. When I was in the Senate, I always heard, 'This never happens.' This is proof this happens,” said Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas.
“People who pull stunts like this should be prosecuted,” Nashua City Clerk Paul Bergeron said.
Think Progress later reported that Bergeron “told ThinkProgress by phone that what these individuals did 'is a crime, regardless of what the intent might be. What they did was wrong.' Bergeron said he hopes the case gets prosecuted because it 'appears to be a violation of the state's wiretapping code for one thing, which is a Class B felony in New Hampshire, in addition to a possible violation election fraud.'”
Likewise, TPM reported yesterday:
Federal law bans not only the casting of, but the “procurement” of ballots “that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent under the laws of the State in which the election is held.”
Hamline University law professor David Schultz told TPM that there's “no doubt” that O'Keefe's accomplices violated the law.
“In either case, if they were intentionally going in and trying to fraudulently obtain a ballot, they violated the law,” Schultz said. “So right off the bat, what they did violated the law.”
Election law expert Rick Hasen, who writes the Election Law Blog, joked in an email to TPM that O'Keefe's team should “next show how easy it is to rob a bank with a plastic gun.”
“Who in their right mind would risk a felony conviction for this? And who would be able to do this in large enough numbers to (1) affect the outcome of the election and (2) remain undetected?” Hasen wrote.