Bruce Bartman pretended to be his dead mother to illegally cast a vote for President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, prosecutors say.
Samuel Stretton, Bartman’s lawyer, told Insider he admitted to the crime and plans to plead guilty.
“It was his way of doing civil disobedience by voting illegally for Trump,” Stretton said.
Voter fraud is extremely rare in the US, with fewer than 200 convicted cases between 2000 and 2020, at which time hundreds of millions of votes were cast.
The lawyer representing Bruce Bartman – the Pennsylvania Republican charged with voter fraud for pretending to be his dead mother to illegally cast a vote on her behalf for President Donald Trump – says his client believed he was participating in some kind of “protest.”
“He was angry at people criticizing the president and complaining about the election process, and he wanted to do what he considered civil disobedience by registering his mother and voting her,” the attorney, Samuel Stretton, told Insider on Tuesday. “Of course, he was wildly mistaken.”
Bartman has been charged with unlawful voting and perjury. Delaware County prosecutors say he filled out voter registration forms in August, using a driver’s license for his dead mother, Elizabeth Bartman, and social security number for his dead mother-in-law, Elizabeth Weihman. He ultimately cast a successful vote in Elizabeth Bartman’s name for Trump.
Stretton told Insider that Bartman plans to plead guilty once his case goes through preliminary hearings, calling his actions “a terrible mistake.”
The 70-year-old Bartman faces a maximum of 19 years in prison. Stretton said he hopes his client receives probation.
“He was totally wrong in doing that and he’s accepted full and complete responsibility,” Stretton said.
Though the vote cast on behalf of Elizbeth Bartman did add to Trump’s tally, it did not affect the overall election results. President-elect Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 82,000 votes and carried Delaware County.
Prosecutors said it’s the only known case they found out of hundreds of ‘voter fraud’ tips
Prosecutors said Bartman was the only voter fraud case they found out of hundreds of tips submitted to them.
Stretton said the case was initially flagged by The New York Times, rather than the county or state voter services. The Times, he said, is running an investigative story that checks the names in obituaries against voter records, and discovered the name of the deceased Elizabeth Bartman. (The Times didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.)
“The county detectives or DA’s office then investigated. And then, because my client was using his own computer in doing this, they were then able to trace it to him,” Stretton said. “What was interesting was a newspaper doing independent peer reviews that picked it up as opposed to something internally.”
Stretton said it was “worrisome” that state officials didn’t discover the issue on their own, and hoped it would be fixed for future elections.
“It would be interesting to find out why I could apparently pick a name out of the graveyard, erase it from my computer, and be able to vote it,” Stretton said. “Well, I would like to know how that can be corrected in the future.”
Republicans often exaggerate the scope of voter fraud, which is extremely rare in the United States, as a pretext to restrict voting. This year, they’ve extensively pushed conspiracy theories about the presidential election to discredit Biden’s victory, even as he won the popular vote by more than 7 million.
Within that myth is the idea that people frequently vote on behalf of dead people. Republicans often conflate the phenomenon with voter registration forms – which can be sent by anyone and to anyone in the mail – with actually registering to vote.
In November, the Trump campaign and Fox News host Tucker Carlson also spread the conspiracy theory that several dead people “voted” in Pennsylvania and Georgia, but the people they named were very much alive, and in most cases were simply mixed up with their deceased spouses.
The right-wing Heritage Foundation, which maintains a database of voter fraud cases, found fewer than 200 convicted cases between 2000 and 2020, a timespan in which hundreds of millions of votes were cast.
“This is the only known case of a ‘dead person’ voting in our county, conspiracy theories notwithstanding,” Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said in a statement on Monday. “Further, the prompt prosecution of this case shows that law enforcement will continue to uphold our election laws whenever presented with actual evidence of fraud and that we will continue to investigate every allegation that that [sic] comes our way.”
Stretton said Bartman didn’t believe it would be easy, as Trump has suggested, for him to cast an additional vote on behalf of a dead person. Nor was he simply trying to run up the numbers for his preferred candidate.
“As he described it to me, it was his way of doing civil disobedience by voting illegally for Trump,” Stretton said. “I told him that civil disobedience is done in public view. And he said he was wrong and he was very apologetic about it.”
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