Faithless Elector Claims Fraud, ID Law Kept Him From Voting in Election
Illustration by Monica Fuentes
There's a little irony in the case of the now-nationally known Texas faithless elector Chris Suprun, who refused to vote for Donald Trump on December 19: Despite being a self-described “voting addict,” he says he was unable to cast a vote during the general election.
That's because, Suprun claims, somebody else voted in his name in Dallas County. On top of it, he says he was turned away from the polls the first time he tried to vote during early voting because of confusion over the state's voter ID law — he did not have his photo ID with him the first time, but brought other identifying documents.
Suprun originally complained about the mess to elections officials verbally, leading the Dallas County Elections Office to forward Suprun's complaint to the Dallas County District Attorney's Office for investigation of possible voter fraud, according to Dallas County Assistant Elections Administrator Robert Heard (the DA's office did not return a call seeking confirmation). Suprun has also complained in writing to U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, the judge who ordered the state to rewrite “misleading” voter photo ID informational materials, which were changed after the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found the state's strict photo ID law unconstitutional. Texas is appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Either we are required to have identification and it is equally enforced, or we should find the identification requirement unconstitutional and move forward,” Suprun wrote to Judge Ramos. “I am not sure which I prefer, but I know that the fact my ballot was stolen from me is offensive.”
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According to Suprun, here's what happened — the voter ID confusion coming first, the alleged voter fraud second.
Before trying to cast his vote early on October 26, Suprun had left his wallet in the family van when he took it to the car shop for repairs the night of October 24. Instead of going back for it, Suprun says he believed it would be sufficient to bring his water bill, cable bill and voter registration card to the polls as identifying documents. The election judge disagreed.
In a written complaint to the Texas Secretary of State's Office, Suprun called this a “civil rights violation” and charged that it was against the law.
Which is debatable.
After the Fifth Circuit shot down the Texas photo ID law, the amended requirements allowed people to cast a ballot without photo ID as long as they could not “reasonably obtain” the ID or had a “reasonable impediment” to getting one. Instead, they would have to bring other identifying documents, such as utility bills, and sign an affidavit explaining why they couldn't reasonably obtain the ID. Suprun believes he should have been able to cast a ballot under these rules, since election workers are not allowed to question the “reasonableness” of someone's impediment once they submit the affidavit.
But Alicia Pierce, spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State's Office, said that election workers are allowed to determine if someone is eligible for casting a provisional ballot — and here's the key — if the person does possess a photo ID but just forgot it. Perhaps the person left it in a different purse, she said, or left it at a friend's house. (Or, perhaps, at the car shop — but Pierce would not comment on Suprun's specific case.)
Suprun's voting woes got worse when he attempted to vote a week later, on November 3 — and here's where this alleged voting fraud comes in.
Suprun, who works in Dallas as a paramedic, was intent on voting early because he says he was out of state from October 27 and through Election Day, teaching a work-related program, and he had missed the deadline to request a mail-in ballot. After the ID screw-up, he apparently made special arrangements to come all the way back to Texas to vote November 3, the day he'd found someone else to cover his teaching stint. But when he arrived at the poll location with his photo ID in hand, poll workers apparently told him this time that he had already voted. They showed him a chicken-scratch signature that was not his, from a voting location nowhere near his home, submitted on October 27, when he says he was already out of town.
Suprun provided us the document bearing the questionable signature, signed on the Dallas County early voting roster (see below), and he directed us to the federal certificate he signed during the Electoral College meeting for comparison's sake (his full name is Stephen Christopher Suprun). According to Suprun's voting history records the Houston Press obtained through the Secretary of State's Office, the October 27 vote was indeed counted in his name.
Robert Heard, in the Dallas County Elections Office, says voters can vote early in Dallas County at any location, but a person cannot cast a vote and sign that piece of paper without either photo ID or without providing additional documents to vote provisionally. What's weird about Suprun's case is, if a person theoretically impersonated Suprun and voted provisionally, without the ID, Suprun's name and “signature” could not have appeared on that Dallas County early voting roster, according to Heard. It would have been on a provisional early voting roster, he said. (We have requested Dallas County's provisional ballots for confirmation.)
Still, Heard maintains that, without further investigation into what went wrong, it is too soon to jump to conclusions about voter fraud. It could have simply been an error, he said.
Suprun is unconvinced. "If we are going to have a voter ID law, then no one but me should have been casting [my] ballot October 27,” he told us in an email. “If we were going to have temporary rules, the judges should have been educated on them so it wasn’t an issue as it was for me on October 26. I have voted in every election I was eligible to since I was 18. I want clean, fair elections that are easy for voters.”
Suprun voted for Ohio governor John Kasich in his capacity as an Electoral College member. Had he been able to vote during the general election, he says he would have voted for Trump — but only because the vote technically was for himself as a Republican elector.
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