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What Royster's Case Tells Us About Voter Fraud In Kansas City

In June, a Kansas City couple pleaded guilty to voter fraud in the 2010 Democratic primary. Even in a low-turnout primary for a state legislature seat, two votes would normally be a drop in a bucket. But in this race, John Joseph Rizzo defeated Will Royster by a margin of one vote. Rizzo went on to win the election and was re-elected to the seat in 2012. The couple voted in a district where they didn’t live and are Rizzo’s aunt and uncle, which further complicated the situation. The Pitch's Steve Vockrodt recently wrote about the case and Royster's unrelenting quest for a acknowledgement of illegal electioneering and voter fraud.


On the possibility of widespread voter fraud:

“What we know is that two people have pleaded guilty. But what Royster says is that there was perhaps some other examples of votes that could have been miscast. There were some ballots that turned up that didn’t have judges initials, which in most cases they’re supposed to have from the voting booth. There’s also some allegations from several people — election volunteers and election workers — who say there was some electioneering going on within the booths. And a lot of those center around the Somali community in the northeast neighborhood, which is one of many ethnic groups there. But there were several who entered the polling places, in some cases with John Rizzo yard signs and people directing others to vote for Rizzo. And anybody who votes knows that that’s not supposed to happen inside the polling place.”

On why voting irregularities occurred in this race and their frequency:

“There are a lot of allegations that dirty politics took place. It was hard for me to find direct proof of that. There weren’t, from what I could find, a lot of smoking guns that pointed to dirty politics. A lot of suggestions that some of that might have taken place. There is some evidence in the record that it was an election that was run in a sloppy way, if the allegations of electioneering are true. There hasn’t been in court, or in official documents, any suggestion that it was not true. That points to an election that was kind of run in a sloppy way.”

On the case as political thrust for voter ID laws:

“There’s no question that voter ID laws, it’s a partisan issue. It’s something that the Republicans have pushed for and something that Democrats in large measure have said it’s an invented issue by the Republicans. Without taking a stand either way, I think there is a reasonable discussion that could be held with regards to a race like this where it is shown that it can occur. And it appears in this case to be as easy as filling out a registration card saying you live at a certain address even though the Moretinas [Rizzo’s aunt and uncle] were paying taxes on their property in Gladstone which is in a different county altogether, let alone representative district.”

On the political repercussions for Rizzo:

“There was discussion in a previous legislative session that there was a possibility that he could be denied his seat, which is a rare move but there is the authority for that to happen. But it appears that the legislature in terms of investigating this has lost interest. Rizzo ran again in 2012 without opposition and won, which I think has been taken by Rizzo supporters as evidence that there’s support for him in his district, enough so that people wouldn’t run against him. As far as political consequences, it’s hard to say. He’s the minority whip. He’s got a leadership position in the House. So that would suggest that the political consequences haven’t been severe for him. Although there are those in the northeast who speculate that this latest guilty plea may earn him an opponent in the next race.”

Sylvia Maria Gross is storytelling editor at KCUR 89.3. Reach her on Twitter @pubradiosly.
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