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Our Opinion: Fighting election fraud

July 18, 2001

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors is considering creating a committee to look at the issue of voter fraud; how to prevent it and how to do deal with it should it occur.

In light of events during a recent county supervisors election, it makes sense to form a committee to consider action. Whether fraud occurred in the last election — we are still waiting for official word but it sure smelled fishy — the controversy surrounding the race for the District 3 seat is enough to prod the issue forward.

The issue is being pursued most vigorously by District 3 Supervisor Joe Maruca who was a leading voice in the last election that there were signs of voter fraud, particularly because it was in his race when the allegations arose. (Maruca was the alleged victim, not the alleged perpetrator.)

Regardless of who is bringing the issue to the forefront, we urge the board to follow through because the public deserves to know that when an official is elected or turned away, the voting process was fair and accurate.

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District Attorney Gilbert Otero had some ideas worth considering in forming such a committee. Otero suggested setting up watchdog and investigative units. He told the supervisors that state officials are prepared to train local law enforcement on how to identify voter fraud.

Otero also suggested setting up a telephone hot line for people to report potentially fraudulent activities and setting up a process to educate the public on proper voting techniques, including the use of absentee ballots. It was absentee ballots that came under scrutiny during the last election.

The supervisors should take a close look at what other counties have done in handling voter fraud issues. They should talk to state election officials. Such steps could lead to a committee empowered enough to act and assure local elections are as free of controversy as possible.

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