Barr's big example of vote-by-mail fraud didn't happen, DOJ and local prosecutors say

William Barr.
(Image credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Attorney General William Barr marshaled two pieces of evidence on CNN Wednesday to back up his assertion that expanding mail-in voting during the COVID-19 pandemic is "reckless and dangerous" and "playing with fire," leaving the election "very open to fraud and coercion." Neither claim looked very good 24 hours later.

First, Barr pointed to a 2005 Federal Election Reform report that found absentee ballots "remain the largest source of potential voter fraud." But former President Jimmy Carter, co-chairman of that commission, reminded everyone he endorsed mail-in voting in May, citing new anti-fraud safeguards. "I approve the use of absentee ballots and have been using them for more than five years," Carter said.

Barr's other example was more specific: "We indicted someone in Texas, 1,700 ballots collected, he — from people who could vote, he made them out and voted for the person he wanted to," Barr told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. A Justice Department spokeswoman initially pointed The Washington Post to a case in Dallas County involving suspected mail-in voting fraud in a city council election, but there was no federal indictment, and local prosecutors in the case said Barr had every detail wrong.

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"That's not what happened at all," Andy Chatham, the assistant district attorney on the case, told the Post Thursday. His office did investigate 700 ballots all filled out with help from one "Jose Rodriguez," but "we didn't find any evidence of widespread voter fraud, and instead the ballots that were returned were consistent with the voter's choice," Chatham said, adding that at least in Dallas County, it's "incredibly simple to ferret out" fraudulent ballots. One man pleaded guilty to improperly returning a marked ballot.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec, given Chatham's account, told the Post that "prior to his interview, the attorney general was provided a memo prepared within the department that contained an inaccurate summary about the case which he relied upon when using the case as an example."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.