Can safeguards against voter fraud sway an election? In Vernon, California, it looks like they just did.
In response to allegations by the area’s Chamber of Commerce that at least 30 percent of votes in a tight city council race were fraudulent, the city discarded six ballots on Tuesday – just enough to tilt the race in favor of the challenger, who won by five votes.
Vernon is a tiny industrial town that, while it has a 40,000-strong workforce, only has 112 official residents. The town survived a state effort to disincorporation it by, in part, agreeing to hold its first city council elections since the 1970s.
The Chamber alleged that 21 of Vernon’s 74 registered voters did not actually live in the town. The voter rolls in Vernon had grown by 12 during the year prior to election day, leading to allegations of potential fraud during the campaign. The town launched its own investigation after finding that nine voters were registered to a single address.
A total of 53 votes were cast in the city council race. The Chamber employed a private investigator to look into some voters’ eligibility, and managed to show that six of them did not live in Vernon. The city threw out another four ballots because of signature issues.
The final tally was 24-19 in favor of challenger Michael Ybarra.
Vernon may be an outlier in terms of its size, but its experience shows that protections against voter fraud can, in fact, sway elections.