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March 13, 2012

Hangin' With James O'Keefe — Or One Of His Henchmen — In Winooski

As Sam Hemingway is reporting over at the Free Press, notorious conservative provocateur James O’Keefe has released a video documenting how trusting — I mean porous — Vermont’s voter identification laws are.


Using hidden cameras, the video shows a series of exchanges between individuals successfully obtaining ballots at Chittenden County voting places without showing identification. It contrasts those with scenes in which a bartender at the Vermont Pub and Brewery and a motel employee refuse to provide services to customers who fail to show ID.

“If people walked in to vote in the Vermont presidential primary and said the names of both living and dead people, could these people be offered ballots to vote for president without showing any valid identification?” the narrator asks.

Oddly, I was actually present for one of the exchanges documented in the video, which is part of O’Keefe’s “Project Veritas investigates voter fraud in America” series. It was somewhere around 11 a.m. on Town Meeting Day and I was dropping by my polling place at the Winooski Senior Citizens Center before stumbling in to work.

As I waited in line to vote, the man in front of me engaged in a weird back-and-forth with a poll worker. Still half asleep, I only tuned in to the conversation about halfway through, as the voter/videographer got all hot and bothered because the clerk didn’t want to see his ID.

You can watch the whole exchange, which is broken into two parts in O’Keefe’s video: the first at the very start, in which the Winooski clerk mispronounces the voter’s name — which a caption says is that of a deceased voter — and the second part at the 4:19 mark.

After the clerk hands the voter a ballot, he expresses shock that his ID hasn’t been checked.

“In Kazakhstan, you need ID to vote, you know,” he says.

“Really?” the clerk responds.


“Well I think that, um, if you weren’t on the checklist and if we had several people with your names…” she says.

“I get in trouble?” the voter asks.

“No, you’re not going to get in trouble—“

“I’m going to get in trouble. I get ID. I get ID.”

The video cuts to another scene at this point, but — in real life — the man stormed out of the building. I thought the whole exchange was really quite bizarre. I was carrying my trusty reporter’s notebook and tape recorder at the time, but I apparently hadn’t drank enough coffee to process the fact that it might be worth talking to the guy.

So instead, I stepped up to the clerk, gave her my name and address — but not my ID — and voted.

It should be noted that all of the clerks documented in the video appear to be following Vermont state law, which holds that voters do not have to present ID at the polls. According to Hemingway, however, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos isn’t so sure the videographers themselves were following the law. He’s calling for a criminal investigation — into the “voters,” not the clerks.

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