In the midst of his 2012 GOP primary campaign for a Massachusetts state House seat, Jack Villamaino changed the party affiliation of nearly 300 people in his town of East Longmeadow. Days later, the same number of absentee ballot requests were dropped off at the town clerk’s office, a list that was almost a “name-for-name match” for those whose registration information Villamaino had altered.
Earlier this week, Villamaino pleaded guilty to felony charges of stealing ballots and changing the party affiliation of 280 Democrats during his campaign for state representative. A judge sentenced him to a year in jail, only four months of which he'll be forced to serve behind bars.
The remainder of that sentence will be suspended, and Villamaino will also be required to serve a year of probation. Villamaino's defense attorney had hoped the judge would throw out the felony conviction, while Hampden District Attorney Mark Mastroianni had sought additional felony charges for forgery and perjury.
Villamaino, a former East Longmeadow Board of Selectmen chairman who resigned last year amid the scandal, ultimately lost his Republican primary, and the GOP candidate subsequently lost to the Democrat in the race.
His wife, Courtney Llewellyn, is also facing charges stemming from the scandal, though she has pleaded not guilty and will appear in court later this month.
The issue of voter fraud has arisen as a hot-button issue over the past few years, and while the debate is frequently partisan, people on both sides of the aisle have been found guilty of the crime. Last month, a conservative judge sentenced Ohio Democratic poll worker Melowese Richardson to five years in prison for illegal voting. She was found guilty of having voted for her sister, who was in a coma, in 2012 and in previous elections.
Also in July, the highly publicized case against Colin Small, a young Republican who threw voter registration forms into a dumpster before the 2012 elections, ended without any legal consequences.
While these actions may call into question the integrity of the vote, voter ID laws, the most frequently proposed measure to combat fraud, wouldn't have done anything to prevent them. All said, voter fraud is still incredibly rare, with in-person violations being one of the least common crimes. A recent nationwide analysis of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000 found only 10 instances of in-person fraud.