By Jonathan Kaminsky
(Reuters) - Alabama Republicans, who offered a $1,000 reward for substantiated reports of voter fraud in this month's primary elections, said on Thursday they plan to forward credible evidence of wrongdoing to state prosecutors.
Republicans argue that voter fraud is a central problem in U.S. elections. Democrats say Republican complaints about voter fraud are a smokescreen for Republican efforts to put in place measures like strict voter identification laws intended to make it unduly difficult for voters who tend to vote Democratic like minorities, young people and the elderly to cast ballots.
"It's not just a rumor or a wives' tale, it is actually happening," said Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead. "Anyone talking advantage and creating fraud at a polling place needs to be prosecuted."
The allegations collected by Alabama Republicans include a candidate improperly offering to assist voters in filling out their ballots, a woman who was wrongly told she had signed up to vote absentee and could only cast a provisional ballot in person and cases in which voters were told they could only vote for Democratic candidates, Armistead said.
Armistead declined to say how many cases of alleged fraud had been reported to his party after it erected lawn signs urging reports of wrongdoing near polling sites, but said his office was in the process of compiling evidence in the most serious instances to forward to the state's attorney general.
The signs, which provided a hotline to call in reports of fraud and offered a reward, did not indicate any affiliation with the Republican Party. Most of those calling in were Democrats, Armistead said.
Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said that while the cases of alleged fraud merit investigation, more information was needed before passing judgment on them.
"It’s a good thing to be investigating all these cases," Levitt said. "I would want to see whether they are actually supported by anything or based on a hunch."
(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Edith Honan and Will Dunham)