By Brad Friedman on 7/16/2012, 6:35am PT  

Last Thursday, in Cudahy, CA, a small city near Los Angeles, top city officials, including former Mayor David Silva and former City Manager and Code Enforcement Director Angel Perales, agree to plead guilty to federal charges of bribery and extortion.

But as Kevin Roderick of "LA Observed" notes, the filing also includes details on "tampering with city elections" which he describes as "really chilling".

How did the Cudahy officials tamper with the elections? Via absentee ballots, according to the explanation of the plea agreement offered by federal officials:

The Perales plea agreement also discusses election fraud during the 2007 municipal election when absentee ballot were diverted before reaching the City Clerk. Perales “and other city officials routinely and systematically opened the absentee ballots cast in the 2007 City Council election by mail,” according to the statement of facts in Perales’ plea agreement. “Ballots cast in favor of the incumbent candidates were resealed and returned to the mail to be counted. Ballots for non-incumbent candidates were discarded.” Perales and other city officials did the same thing during the 2009 Cudahy City Council election, according to the court document.

We've said it before, we'll say it again: Voting by mail is a terrible idea. Political parties love it, for a whole bunch of reasons (this story underscores just one of those reasons), but we're not concerned with political parties. We're concerned with democracy and whether your vote will be counted and counted accurately, no matter which party you may happen to associate with (or not.)

(Note to Oregon voters who love their all Vote-by-Mail system: Yes, we're familiar with what happens in your state, and we still stand by our long-held assessment of the perils of Absentee/Vote-by-Mail. Please read this article and, as importantly, the link in the paragraph just above, before sending us your hate mail. Thanks!)

Unless you have no other reasonable option --- eg. you're going to be out of town on Election Day and can't vote on a paper ballot during Early Voting, or you live in one of the few places in the nation where you are otherwise forced to vote on 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems on Election Day --- voting on hand-marked paper ballots, at the polling place on Election Day, increases exponentially the chance of your ballot actually being counted, and counted accurately.

We've also discussed, many times, the rarity of voter fraud --- that is, fraud by individual voters, versus the concerns of systematic election fraud perpetrated, most frequently, by election insiders who have easy access to flip results of entire elections with little possibility of detection, via manipulation of results on electronic tabulators or by gaming the voting rolls themselves.

While voter fraud is exceedingly rare --- and virtually non-existent at the polling place, particularly by those impersonating other voters (the only type of fraud which can even possibly be deterred by the polling place Photo ID restrictions Republicans are cynically attempting to put in place across the country, solely in hopes of suppressing the Democratic-leaning vote) --- where actual voter fraud does occur, it's almost always via absentee balloting.

In this latest case in Cudahy, however, though the stolen elections involved absentee ballots, it was still accomplished by election fraud, not voter fraud, since the voters themselves appear to have done nothing wrong. Rather, as is almost always the case when it comes to fraudulent elections in this country, it was a matter of insider officials gaming the system.

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