What Kim Taylor's voter fraud case tells us about Donald Trump's big lie

Federal courthouse Northern District of Iowa, photo by Tony Webster, creative commons license and available at Wikimedia Commons

Kim Taylor could face years in prison after a federal jury convicted her on November 21 of 52 counts of voter fraud, voter registration fraud, or giving false information in registering or voting. Over the course of a six-day trial, prosecutors presented evidence Taylor forged signatures on voter registration forms, absentee ballot request forms, and absentee ballots in order to secure votes for her husband in the 2020 election. Prosecutors identified Jeremy Taylor, a Republican who previously served in the Iowa House and is now a Woodbury County supervisor, as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case.

The jury found Kim Taylor helped cast dozens of fraudulent ballots—a large number, but small in comparison to the 45,700 ballots cast in Woodbury County in 2020, not to mention the 1.7 million ballots cast across Iowa.

Which raises an obvious question for all Republicans who have expressly or tacitly endorsed Donald Trump’s sweeping claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” or stolen from him.

The former president continues to lie about his 2020 election loss in every interview and campaign speech, most recently in Fort Dodge on November 19. He and the legions of supporters who promote the conspiracy theory have never been able to explain just how millions of votes could have been subtracted from Trump or fraudulently added to Joe Biden’s total. Some states falsely tagged as “stolen” were not particularly close in 2020 (Michigan, Pennsylvania). Others conducted multiple recounts or audits, which confirmed Biden’s victory (Arizona, Georgia).

When pressed, some of Trump’s enablers and apologists have noted that record numbers of Americans voted by mail in 2020 (yes, to facilitate social distancing during a pandemic), or complained that certain states changed the rules to make absentee voting easier (again, a pandemic response), or that turnout was higher than usual (yes, because Trump on the ballot mobilized huge numbers of supporters and detractors, and the voting-age population grew once Millennials reached adulthood).

None of those trends prove misconduct tainted any of the 81,282,916 ballots cast for Biden across the county.

Taylor’s prosecution shows how difficult it would be to perpetrate fraud on a scale large enough to influence an election.

Nick Hytrek reported for the Sioux City Journal,

Woodbury County election officials became aware of possible voter fraud in September 2020, when two Iowa State University students from Sioux City requested absentee ballots, only to learn ballots had already been cast in their name. They were allowed to withdraw those ballots and cast their own, but Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill, who also is election commissioner, kept the fraudulent ballots. When processing absentee ballots on election night, election workers notified Gill the handwriting on a number of them appeared to be similar. After the election, Gill notified the FBI, which launched an investigation. Taylor was indicted and arrested in January [2023].

At trial, five voters who had immigrated from Vietnam and speak very little English testified through a translator that Taylor had frequently visited their homes to help them fill out voter registration forms, absentee request forms and absentee ballots for them and told them they could complete and sign forms for their children without their consent. One man said he’d hand over all the blank forms to Taylor, who would leave with them.

Eight young adults — the sons and daughters and a granddaughter of those five witnesses — who all were born in Sioux City and speak English, each testified they had never given consent for their parents fill out election forms for them, and all were unaware they had done so. Many of them said they had never voted. In one case, two of the men hadn’t lived in Sioux City for several years, yet voter registration forms, absentee requests and ballots bearing their mother’s Sioux City address were filed in their names.

Taylor’s scheme was unusual, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Evans told Hytrek. “Despite what’s in the media, voter fraud is extremely rare,” Evans said. “To have someone vote dozens of times for several people, that is rare.”

The jury was convinced Taylor generated dozens of fraudulent votes for her husband, a GOP candidate for Congress in the 2020 primary and for supervisor in the general election. Witnesses cited in court documents—whom the prosecution ended up not calling to testify at trial—had indicated that Jeremy Taylor solicited campaign contributions with a promise his wife could secure 500 to 700 votes from Sioux City’s Vietnamese community.

No one has alleged Kim Taylor’s actions determined the outcome of any election. Jeremy Taylor finished a distant third in the 2020 primary for Iowa’s fourth Congressional district, more than 30,000 votes behind the winner, and was elected Woodbury County supervisor that November by a margin of 1,930 votes. Downplaying the importance of his client’s alleged actions, Kim Taylor’s defense attorney had argued in court that Jeremy Taylor won his supervisor’s race “in a landslide.” (It was actually 52.1 percent to 47.6 percent.)

To recap, Kim Taylor’s plan was 1) far more ambitious than most instances of improper voting, 2) not remotely sufficient to change an election result, and 3) easily discovered by election workers and at least two voters who had fraudulent ballots cast in their names.

Of course, filling out a voter registration form or absentee ballot for someone else is a serious crime, regardless of its impact. Bret Hayworth reported for KWIT Radio, “Prosecutor Ron Timmons told the jury his closing remarks said American democracy cannot thrive if there is voter fraud, which undercuts the hallmark of one person, one vote.”

My point is that if one person’s manipulation of dozens of ballots quickly drew scrutiny in Sioux City, how would a network of operatives working in many states manage to shift enough votes to steal an election without leaving an evidence trail? Trump and his attorneys never provided proof of irregularities, let enough a conspiracy wide enough to affect the results in even one state. And for Trump to win 270 electoral votes, he would have needed to carry at least two if not three of the Biden states in question.

Every Republican who validated Trump’s big lie or pretended there was genuine uncertainty about the 2020 presidential election should be pressed on why they refused to acknowledge reality. Then they should be asked how fraud on that scale could have stayed below the radar, when Kim Taylor couldn’t even slip a few dozen ballots by the Woodbury County auditor.

That goes double for the Republicans who have endorsed Trump’s 2024 candidacy, from State Representative Bobby Kaufmann (a senior campaign adviser) to Attorney General Brenna Bird (whose office now has exclusive jurisdiction over state-level election fraud cases) to the nearly two dozen current state lawmakers back on the Trump train.

Top photo: Federal Courthouse (Northern District of Iowa) in Sioux City; photo by Tony Webster available via Wikimedia Commons.

About the Author(s)

Laura Belin

  • governing by conspiracy mongering and press complicity

    indeed, but beyond holding them responsible for this how do reporters take (and spread to us) anything else they say at face value when they are so obviously willing to mislead the public on this central issue,
    and what about say the restrictions on voting rights that have been justified by the fears/doubts/anger raised by the conspiracies these officials and their counterparts have fostered, how many times will reporters allow someone like Grassley to spread dangerous conspiracy theories about say IRS agents and then tell reporters with a straight face that he is just responding to constituents’ interests? Will the public start to hold shows like Iowa Press accountable for playing this dangerous game?

    How can Trump possibly be ahead?