Weeks before Election Day, Bruce Bartman mailed his mother’s absentee ballot with a check mark next to President Donald Trump’s name.
The problem was, his mother had been dead since 2008.
Bartman, 70, pleaded guilty on Friday to a charge of felony perjury and unlawful voting – and blamed his decision to cast the fraudulent ballot on consuming too many false claims about the election.
“I was isolated last year in lockdown,” Bartman said, while apologizing to the judge for his crime, the Associated Press reported. “I listened to too much propaganda and made a stupid mistake.”
Samuel Stretton, Bartman’s attorney, added in court that his behavior was “a very misguided political mistake, and very stupid,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
After sentencing him to five years probation, leaving him unable to vote for four years, Common Pleas Court Judge George A. Pagano noted that Bartman’s crime “goes to the heart of our democracy,” according to the Inquirer, but also commended him for taking ownership of his crimes.
As Trump has doubled down on his false claims of widespread voter fraud, especially in battle ground states like Pennsylvania, Bartman’s case is among the few proven instances of wrongdoing. Statewide investigations have debunked Trump’s claims of broad wrongdoing and lead to dozens of dismissed lawsuits. In addition to Bartman, prosecutors in half a dozen key swing states have only pursued charges in a handful of cases, The Washington Post recently reported.
Bartman’s case began on Aug. 20, 2020, according to prosecutors, when he submitted voter registration forms for his deceased mother and mother-in-law, who died in 2019. Bartman registered both women as Republicans.
On Oct. 14, Bartman, who lives in Marple Township, Pa., submitted an online request to the Delaware County Bureau of Elections for an absentee ballot for his deceased mother. He received his mother’s ballot three days later and by Oct. 28, elections officials had collected and recorded the fraudulent vote for Trump. Her vote was subsequently tallied on Election Day.
Bartman did not end up requesting an absentee ballot for his deceased mother-in-law.
After Pennsylvania’s voting system flagged Bartman’s mother’s registration as having come from a dead person, Bartman fraudulently signed a letter claiming that she was alive. Investigators eventually caught on when someone filed a complaint after rumors circulated that a deceased person had voted in the county, according to the Inquirer.
Bartman was arrested on Dec. 18 and charged with two felony counts of perjury and one misdemeanor charge of unlawful voting. At the time of the arrest, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer (D) called the case “disturbing in light of the contentious presidential election and its aftermath.”
Stollsteimer added that this is the “only known case of a dead person voting in our county, conspiracy theories notwithstanding” and that by prosecuting the case, law enforcement is proving it will continue to “uphold our election laws whenever presented with actual evidence of fraud.”
On Friday, the district attorney said he agreed with the judge’s decision not to send Bartman to prison.
“There’s not public benefit to him being incarcerated,” Stollsteimer said. “This defendant from the beginning has accepted responsibility for his actions, and he has paid the price for them.”
In addition to Bartman, two other men in Pennsylvania face charges of fraudulently voting for Trump, according to the Inquirer. Ralph Thurman of Chester County allegedly tried to cast his son’s vote and Richard Lynn of Luzerne County, who allegedly attempted to obtain an absentee ballot for his deceased mother. Both cases are pending.