A recent case of high-tech school-related vote fraud in Florida reminded me of Kentucky’s deep and long history of election irregularities, and of the role vote fraud played (indirectly) in the adoption of Kentucky’s historic 1990 education reform legislation.
Laura Carroll, an elementary school vice principal and her daughter, Emily Grover, a high school student, are facing criminal charges for allegedly hacking into a school computer system to rig a homecoming election in Grover’s favor.
According to investigators, Grover got dozens of students’ ID numbers and birthdates from a district-wide computer system using her vice principal mom’s log-in. The pair then allegedly cast at least 246 fake votes for the teen on Carroll’s cellphone and a computer at their home through a third-party app used by the school for selecting homecoming honorees. Grover was subsequently expelled, and Carroll was later fired from her job as an assistant principal.
When I read the article about this incident, I was struck as to how vote fraud has not really changed all that much, even in the 21st century. I recalled a famous Kentucky ballot box-stuffing case from the 1940’s, in which approximately 2800 “No” votes and 2 “Yes” votes were cast in a local wet-dry election which included only about 2100 registered voters. I would submit that 250 fake computer clicks are not that far removed from 2800 fake paper ballots.
I was further reminded of the late Ed Prichard, whose legacy is still central to Kentucky’s public education landscape. At age 30, Mr. Prichard was a shining star of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal brain trust. Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. remembered him as "a man of dazzling brilliance." Described as "the most impressive young man of our generation,” he was commonly believed to be destined to become president.
Mr. Prichard grew up in Bourbon County, and at the age of 16 enrolled at Princeton University, where he compiled a distinguished academic record and edited the student newspaper. He went on to Harvard Law School, clerked for the U.S. Supreme Court, and then held many positions in the Roosevelt administration.
After World War II, Prichard returned to Kentucky. It was universally assumed he would soon be governor or a U.S. senator. But on election day in 1948 he stuffed 243 fraudulent ballots into boxes at 11 voting precincts. He was convicted of the crime and spent five months in the federal penitentiary before being pardoned by President Harry Truman.
As you probably know, Ed Prichard rehabilitated himself by devoting most of the remainder of his life to public service, including the establishment of the Prichard Committee, whose work served as the catalyst for the adoption of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990. Had Prichard not been convicted of vote fraud, he likely never would have taken on his role as Kentucky’s influential elder statesman during the 1980’s, thus impacting the future of generations of Kentucky’s citizens.
Perhaps the former assistant principal and her dethroned daughter will have a similar impact on Florida’s future. How would you vote?