Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

Protecting the Right to Vote

August 5, 2013

Houston Community Newspapers

Protecting the Right to Vote

By Rep. Pete Olson

During the 2012 election cycle, news reports across the country detailed instances of voter fraud or tampering with official election materials. Last year, Indiana's top elections official was convicted of multiple voter fraud-related charges. This May, a former poll worker in Hamilton County, Ohio, was convicted of illegal voting on multiple occasions since 2003. More recently, a congressional aide was implicated in a scheme to submit phantom absentee ballot requests.

According to voter fraud watchdog organizations, 46 states have prosecuted cases of voter fraud. More than 24 million voter registrations are invalid, yet remain on the rolls nationwide, and almost two million dead voters remain on rolls across the country. More than 2.75 million Americans are registered to vote in multiple states. Federal records indicate that 160 counties in 19 states have more voters registered than live in the respective counties. Voter fraud is clearly a problem that threatens to undermine our democracy.

Here in Texas, there are stories of individuals who actively commit voter fraud in order to fraudulently elect their candidates of choice. According to Attorney General Greg Abbott, Texas has convicted many individuals of voter fraud and related charges in the past ten years. In Fort Bend County, last April, 22,000 voter registration cards in Pecan Grove and Cinco Ranch were mailed, but never received by the voters. After requesting an audit by the US Postal Service into the missing voter registration cards, I still have no answers about where they ended up. This is simply unacceptable, and we should do all we can to ensure the integrity of our democratic process is protected.

Every vote is sacred. Throughout history, people have sacrificed their lives to make sure that their voices count when determining who will govern them. Congress has a duty to monitor and ensure the integrity of the federal electoral process throughout the country. To better address voter fraud, I introduced the Voter Fraud Prevention Act, H.R.1280, a bill that stiffens the penalties for individuals convicted of voter fraud or tampering with official election materials, such as voter registration cards and absentee ballots. The bill increases the jail sentence from 5 years to 10 years, and anyone convicted of either of these offenses would permanently lose their right to vote in federal elections.

My legislation also specifically addresses the handling of official election materials by the US Postal Service, the issue highlighted by the loss of the 22,000 voter registration cards in Fort Bend County. It directs election officials to employ the existing tracking system available to the US Postal Service for ballots and all official election materials. Using this tool will better ensure that election officials can track voter registration cards and absentee ballots, and the likelihood of election materials being lost or stolen will be greatly reduced.

Regardless of anyone's personal political views, we can all agree that the integrity of our democracy is critically important. As the world's oldest democracy, we must lead by example in ensuring every citizen's right to cast their vote is protected. For more information on this legislation and my efforts to combat voter fraud, please visit my website at