Election 2016: Of Millennials and Dead Voters

The deceased rise again in a local debate recalling a 2005 special election here and in a new case of an alleged vote-fraud attempt in Virginia.


Debaters Roland and Cocke at East Memphis Rotary - JB
  • JB
  • Debaters Roland and Cocke at East Memphis Rotary

**ON MILLENIAL VOTERS: As more and more attention is focused on the matter of whether and how the nation’s millennials will vote for President, local spokespersons for both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, vented sorts of concerns with the attitudes of that youngest eligible part of the electorate, regarded by numerous commentators as a potential swing bloc in the election.

Speaking at the opening of the Memphis Hillary-for-President headquarters on Poplar Avenue last Saturday, 9th District congressman Steve Cohen worried out loud that youthful voters might keep their distance from the polls and thereby shirk their duty to the future. “Millennials need to wake up before they drown,” said Cohen, conjuring up a nightmare vision of melted polar ice caps and rising water levels.

Days later, Shelby County Commissioner and Trump campaign West Tennessee chair Terry Roland expressed a fear that voters in that age group lacked a sense of urgency about the specters confronting American in both the domestic and foreign spheres. “I’m more worried about the millennials than I am about China!” is how Roland put it in the course of a Wednesday luncheon debate before the East Memphis Rotary Club at trhe Racquet Club, in which Roland represented Trump and Democrat David Cocke did the honors for Clinton.

**ON FRAUD AT THE POLLS: As election day approaches, and with the courts paying increasing attention to the viability of voting laws, Roland has publicly reactivated the matter of fraud in his losing bid for the state Senate against Democrat Ophelia Ford in 2005.

In his debate with Cocke, Roland recalled the closeness of that special election, brought about when Ford’s brother, the long-serving John Ford, had to vacate his District 29 seat after being indicted in the Tennessee Waltz scandal. “She beat me by 13 votes, but we found 27 dead people that voted,” Roland said. “Mr. Trump is worried about legal elections. Now, if anybody wants to know about a crooked election, meet me after this is over with, and I can talk to you about it.”

In his turn, Cocke, who — as Roland had observed — represented Ophelia Ford in legal challenges stemming from the election outcome, took issue with Roland’s statement. “When we went through that entire process, instead of 27 dead people, they found two. And there were 14 votes in that election, they only found two discrepancies.” Those fraudulent votes were the result of ballot forgery on the party of two election-poll workers, Cocke said.

As it happens, neither debater would seem to be exactly right. Three election workers, not two, were eventually indicted for crimes associated with that election, and the number of purported dead voters listed in the indictment was 2, not 27. The discrepancy in Roland’s account may stem from the fact that the offenses occurred in Precinct 27-1.

A third forged ballot, linked to a voter who had moved out of the county but was still alive, was alleged in the indictment, bringing the total of demonstrably forged votes to 3.

Asked after the Rotary debate about the difference between the 3 fraudulent votes listed in the indictment and the 27 he claimed, Roland insisted that the number he gave was what turned up in a TBI investigation of the election but that only two were reported after the indictment of the poll workers was sealed.

But news reports of the time indicate that, when the indictment was unsealed for trial, then District Attorney General Bill Gibbons mentioned only the three aforementioned forged ballots, though 37 counts of various kinds, most of them felonies related to the intricacies of the attempted deception, were alleged against the indicted election workers.

Senator Ophelia Ford’s victory in that 2005 special election was first voided by the state Senate, but Ford, assisted by Cocke, sued and obtained a federal injunction overturning the Senate’s action and requiring due process through hearings. The Senate dutifully complied, heard testimony, and in April 2006 voted once more to void the election.

In the regular election cycle of 2006, Ford and Roland had a rematch, won easily by Ford.

**At the national level, the issue of “dead voters” is anything but dead, it would seem. Election officials in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and the FBI are investigating the possibility that almost 20 voter applications using the names of dead people have been turned in to the Harrisonburg Registrar.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Rockingham County Commonwealth Attorney’s office is investigating a claim by Harrisonburg Registrar Debbie Logan that “from 18 to 20 potentially fraudulent registrations” were turned in by a student member of a voter-registration group called “HarrisonburgVOTES.”

The newspaper quotes Logan as saying the potential scandal came to light when one of her employees noticed and flagged a new registration bearing the name of the late Richard Claybrook Sr., father of a well-known local judge

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