Suffolk’s Republican Elections Commissioner Nicholas LaLota says the state’s election system is vulnerable to fraud because voters don’t have to show identification.
But LaLota said he didn’t know of any cases of voter impersonation fraud in Suffolk County. He added, “There is no evidence of massive fraud in Suffolk County.”
LaLota first raised his concerns about the system’s vulnerability to the entertainment website TMZ in a story posted Tuesday, which said “voter fraud is a real concern.” It cited LaLota as one of three election officials to back up the assertion.
While the other two election officials subsequently told the nonprofit independent newsroom ProPublica they were not correctly quoted, LaLota stood by his comments.
LaLota said he is concerned because the state has no voter ID law. Instead, poll workers check voters’ signatures at polling places against signatures on file.
LaLota said in an interview he is not “worried” about fraudulent voting, but said he believes state law should change.
“That is the greatest vulnerability we have to our democracy in this election,” LaLota said. Suffolk poll workers are being trained to be vigilant when checking voter signatures, he said.
Election experts and the board’s Democratic commissioner criticized the comments, which came less than two weeks before a hotly contested presidential election that Republican nominee Donald Trump has warned could be rigged.
Trump’s assertions have drawn criticism from election experts and Democrats who say there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
“What he’s talking about is impersonation fraud, which is extremely rare,” Rick Hasen, a professor specializing in election law at UC Irvine School of Law, said of LaLota. Because of the time and effort it would take to impersonate voters, “it’s a dumb way to steal an election,” Hasen said.
In a review of cases since the 1980s for a 2012 book, Hasen was unable to find any such instance that swung an election.
Suffolk Democratic Elections Commissioner Anita Katz said, “There has never been an instance of voter fraud with the new voting machine. No commissioner, either Democrat or Republican, has made that suggestion until now.”
On voter ID laws, she said, “It’s the job of the commissioner of the board of elections to encourage people to vote, not to make it harder for them to cast their ballots.”
LaLota said his comments are unrelated to Trump’s statements. He said there were seven cases in the past five years in which immigrants applying for citizenship were found to have registered and voted in Suffolk County. Voter rolls are checked by the Department of State when immigrants are applying for citizenship.
New York is one of 17 states and the District of Columbia that allow voters to cast ballots in person on Election Day without showing an ID document, according to the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures.