In October 2016, a rumor began to take hold that a student at Virginia’s James Madison University (JMU) named “Andrew Spieles” had committed voter fraud by registering 19 deceased persons in order to cast their votes for Hillary Clinton:
While images like the one displayed above are based on a investigation taking place in Virginia, they also promulgate several unsubstantiated claims and unofficial pieces of information.
As of this writing, no one has been charged with any crimes in connection with the reported story.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Daily News-Record, and the student newspaper The Breeze have all reported that although a student allegedly confessed to registering 19 deceased people to vote, that student’s name is being withheld because as yet no charges have been filed:
A JMU student allegedly committed voter fraud recently using the identities of deceased people while working to register voters through HarrisonburgVOTES.
“He turned in 19 voters to the registrar [of] folks that were deceased,” said a source with HarrisonburgVOTES, who wished to remain anonymous to avoid connecting the accused student with any campus organizations.
The suspect worked for this organization for about nine weeks while he allegedly submitted both legitimate and fraudulent voter registration forms. HarrisonburgVOTES isn’t involved in this case. While The Breeze has identified this student, it has chosen to withhold any identifying information until a charge occurs.
Whether these deceased individuals were truly registered with the intent of using their names to “vote for Hillary Clinton” is as yet undocumented. Although the voter registration group HarrisonburgVotes has deleted their web page and social media accounts, a cached version of the group’s web sites states that it is a “non-partisan” group created to increase the overall number of voters in Virginia:
HarrisonburgVOTES is a non-partisan voter registration organization in Harrisonburg, VA and the surrounding areas. The sole goal of HarrisonburgVOTES is to increase the number of registered voters in Harrisonburg and the surrounding areas to increase and encourage civic engagement.
Republicans have cited this report as evidence that voter fraud is an issue in Virginia that needs addressing:
Republican lawmakers held a news conference call to call attention to the investigation, which they said proves voter fraud is real and validates their push for strong voter ID laws.
“Often times we hear our Democrat colleagues suggest that voter fraud doesn’t exist in Virginia or is a myth,” said House Speaker William H. Howell, R-Stafford. “Well it does indisputably exist.”
At least one Democratic lawmaker disagreed, arguing that this incident did not represent “large-scale” fraud:
Del. Marcus B. Simon, D-Fairfax, said it’s “very disingenuous” to suggest the applications were part of a large-scale fraud, because votes would have to be cast either in person by elderly impostors or through absentee ballots sent to real home addresses.
“There’s no way any reasonable person could conclude that this was part of an effort to actually cast votes for people that aren’t able to cast votes,” Simon said.
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