The Justice Department announced Thursday that federal prosecutors had charged a disgraced former Democratic congressman from Philadelphia with perpetrating a variety of voting-related crimes in recent years.
Michael “Ozzie” Myers was indicted earlier this week on charges of “conspiring to violate voting rights by fraudulently stuffing the ballot boxes for specific candidates in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 primary elections, bribery of an election official, falsification of records, voting more than once in federal elections, and obstruction of justice,” according to a Justice Department statement.
Myers served as the representative for Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District from November 1976 until October 1980, when he became the first lawmaker to be expelled from the House of Representatives since the Civil War after being ensnared in the FBI sting operation known as Abscam.
During an exchange with an undercover agent posing as an intermediary for a fictional Arab sheikh, Myers was infamously recorded saying, “Money talks in this business and bullshit walks.” He was subsequently convicted of bribery and conspiracy charges, and sentenced to serve three years in prison in 1981.
Myers is now charged “with conspiring with and bribing” former Philadelphia Judge of Elections Domenick Demuro, who pleaded guilty in March and was convicted in May for “his role in accepting bribes to cast fraudulent ballots and certifying false voting results during the 2014, 2015, and 2016 primary elections” in the city, according to the Justice Department.
The news of Myers’ indictment comes amid a national debate over mail-in voting and voter fraud ahead of November’s general election, which has become complicated significantly by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
President Donald Trump, claiming without evidence that mail-in voting results in large-scale voter fraud, is instead urging in-person voting against the wishes of several states’ election officials, as well as public health experts who warn of a greater threat of Covid-19 infection at physical polling places.
Cases of election fraud in the United States are exceedingly rare, although some experts acknowledge there are slightly higher risks with mail-in balloting when proper security measures are not implemented. A study earlier this year found that, on the whole, voting by mail does not benefit one party over another.
Until Thursday, the most prominent, recent examples of voter fraud had been committed by Republicans. In 2019, an election for a North Carolina House seat was tossed out after a GOP operative illegally collected ballots, and last week, Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Kan.) was charged with three felony counts of voter fraud related to the 2019 municipal elections.