An elderly woman in Miami has pleaded guilty to stuffing ballots for a Republican mayoral candidate while she was working in the elections’ department during the 2016 campaign. Gladys Coego, 74, is one of five individuals believed to have committed voter fraud during the 2016 election.
While the specter of rampant “voter fraud” is an unsubstantiated theory embraced by President Donald Trump and his surrogates, it’s important not to lose sight of what the shadowy world of voter fraud and its perpetrators really look like.
In this case, Coego, a grandmother who previously worked as a janitor for a church and displays early signs of dementia (according to Assistant Public Defender Jennifer LeFebvre), had been hired by a temp agency as an elections support specialist, and was tasked with opening, counting, and sorting vote-by-mail absentee ballots at the Miami-Dade election office in Doral.
The 74-year-old, according to court documents, sat at a table at the back of the ballot-sorting room, with her purse on the chair next to her, and conspicuously filled out absentee ballots using a smuggled pen, to favor mayoral candidate Raquel Relegado, a Republican, who was running against an incumbent Republican candidate. The Miami Herald likened Coego to “a student doing a poor job of cheating on a test.” She was caught in the act and arrested.
This was her first offense. Nonetheless, it’s being treated gravely. “The defendant did not just alter one ballot,” said public-corruption prosecutor Devon Helfmeyer, according to court documents. “Over the course of two days, the defendant repeatedly and unlawfully voted in the mayoral election, against the wishes of the legitimate electors.”
Coego will be sentenced on Aug. 16, and could face up to 10 years behind bars. However, because it’s her first offense, prosecutors are seeking just six months in prison.
Coego isn’t alone. In fact, Miami-Dade accounted for nearly half of all five documented voter fraud cases in 2016. Tomika Shanteek Curgil, 33, was the woman behind the other voter fraud case in Miami last year. Curgil’s voter fraud scheme was also a sloppy scheme; authorities allege that she forged voter registration forms, some containing dead people’s names, to favor a legal weed campaign. It was a first time offense for Curgil too.
Three other known cases of voter fraud in 2016 occurred in Iowa, Illinois and Texas. Terri Lynn Rote, a Trump supporter, tried to vote twice in Des Moines, Iowa. She later explained during a radio interview that she voted twice because the “polls are rigged.”
Philip Cook, of Richmond, Texas, falsely claimed to be an employee of Trump’s campaign who needed to test the security of the voting machines on election day, and voted twice. He was arrested shortly afterwards. Finally, a Republican election judge in Illinois, Audrey Cook, cast a ballot on behalf of her dead husband.
But the Trump Administration is convinced that there are many, many more cases. Trump has repeatedly asserted his belief that “three to five million illegals” voted in the 2016 election, ultimately costing him the popular vote. Election experts say there is no evidence so far to support this belief.
He even established the “Presidential Election Integrity Commission” to investigate voter fraud, headed by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is a long-time proponent of the voter fraud myth.