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Officials on the lookout for voter fraud

With the Nov. 6 general election looming, recent allegations of voter fraud have state officials on guard.

Attorney General Luther Strange and Secretary of State Beth Chapman are reviewing several complaints regarding alleged improprieties, including cases involving absentee ballots. Strange and Chapman declined to comment on the cases as they may still be under investigation.

Strange and Chapman have said that if voter fraud is uncovered, the violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

“We take all allegations of voter fraud seriously, and when the situation and facts warrant it, we will investigate and prosecute these matters aggressively,” Strange said. “The right to vote is a sacred, fundamental civil right and the foundation of our democracy. It is vital that we preserve the integrity of our elections process.”

In 2008, Chapman’s office created a voter fraud unit dedicated to dealing with reports of voter fraud.

The unit is comprised of attorneys and election staff members trained to receive and process voter fraud complaints.

A website established by the Secretary of State provides a form for reporting complaints that are then reviewed by the voter fraud unit and may be forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office or the appropriate district attorney’s office.

“When I ran for the office of Secretary of State I said there were three priorities of my office, honest elections, honest elections and honest elections,” Chapman said. “We have seen more honest elections, but we have a long way to go in the fight against voter fraud.”

In the wake of the recent allegation, Strange emphasized the enforcement of absentee ballot statutes. The law requires an absentee ballot be witnessed by two adults or be notarized in order to be counted as a legal ballot.

Under state law, it is a felony to willfully alter the vote on someone else’s absentee ballot, willfully cast more than one absentee ballot in the same election, willfully vote in someone else’s name or falsify absentee ballot documents, or to solicit or encourage illegal absentee voting activities.

The penalty for violating the statutes is imprisonment of up to 10 years, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.