Prankster Exploits Legal Loophole, Registers Celebrities Like Chris Brown, Drake, 50 Cent, Trey Songz to Vote Using Same Texas Address

Photo: 50 Cent

American rappers Chris Brown, Drake, 50 Cent, Trey Songz, and The Game have all been registered to vote under the same suburban address in Katy, Texas, igniting discussions about a significant loophole in federal voting laws, Houston Chronicle reported.

The address in question is a modest, beige $300,000 house situated in a new development in Katy, a city with a population of 21,894 according to the 2020 census. The homeowner expressed surprise and confusion upon discovering the high-profile names registered at their address.

According to the news outlet, this is a result of a prank that took advantage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, which allows individuals to register to vote using just their legal names and birth dates, no ID required.

HAVA was signed into law by President George W. Bush over twenty years ago, on October 29, 2002. The prank has inadvertently cast a light on the potential for misuse inherent in the system.

The provision allowing people to register without an ID was written into the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 for eligible voters who don’t have a driver’s license or a Social Security number, according to Sean Morales-Doyle, director of the voting rights program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

“There is not a large group of people in the country who are eligible to vote that don’t have either of those things, but there are some people,” Morales-Doyle said. That could include U.S. citizens who were born outside of the United States and never applied for a Social Security number.

The same federal law also prevents an applicant who submitted a false registration from taking advantage of it.

“The first time they went to go to vote, they’d have to show something, like a utility bill showing that Drake pays the utility bills at that address,” Morales-Doyle said. “And they wouldn’t be able to do that.”

Election officials also root out fake registrations by conducting routine voter roll maintenance, such as sending out mailers to the address listed and removing the registration if the voter does not vote in two federal cycles or respond to the confirmation notice.

Although the artists did not vote in the last election, and therefore posed no immediate threat of voter fraud, the incident has raised questions about the ease with which one can manipulate voter registrations. In Texas, a state that requires approved ID for voting, such a prank is especially pointless and risky.

Randall Erben, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin with a background as an assistant secretary of state in Texas, emphasizes the seriousness of the issue.

“These people are either committing high misdemeanors or felonies,” Erben warned whoever registered these celebrities to vote. “This is not fooling around.”

Mark Songer, a former FBI agent and forensic document examiner, confirmed that “all five of the voter registration application forms more than likely share a common author,” suggesting a deliberate and fraudulent effort.

According to the Houston Chronicle:

Submitting a false or forged voter application form is a third-degree felony, according to Erben, and unlawfully acting as someone’s agent is a Class B misdemeanor.

Voter registration applications also are public documents, triggering other criminal penalties against forgery and misstatements on such paperwork. Making a false statement on an application is a Class A misdemeanor.

Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $4,000, according to the Texas Penal Code. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to 180 days in jail and up to a $2000 fine. Third-degree felonies are punishable by anywhere from two to 10 years in jail, and a fine up to $10,000.

Read more here.

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