There’s been more heat than light in recent days about alleged election fraud of various kinds. Today at electoral-vote.com there’s a good piece about some of the real problems involved here (emph. mine):
Challenges Could Disenfranchise Millions of Voters
The Help America Vote Act, passed after the 2000 debacle in Florida, mandates that states have a statewide data base of eligible voters to help people vote and to prevent fraud. However, these data bases are full of minor errors and hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of voters may be disenfranchised as a result. To make this clear, consider the five newly registered voters listed below on the left. The data for the same people (matched by social security number) appears in the drivers license data base below on the right.
Unless very carefully programmed, the software might reject all these new voters on the grounds of suspected fraud because the data don’t agree. Could the software be made smart enough to do “fuzzy matching?” Of course, but only if the people writing it were instructed to do so. In addition, in many states criminals have recently been purged from the rolls–along with everybody else with the same name as any criminal. But there is much dispute as to which crimes disqualify one, what about people who have served their time, and people who have been pardoned? Even if the laws are clear, which they generally aren’t, the data bases are so riddled with errors and the clerical personnel so ill-trained, that the whole issue of voter registration could be a time bomb that explodes on election day.
There have already been numerous lawsuits filed by the state Republican Parties challenging thousands of newly registered voters, most of whom are Democrats. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday against a GOP lawsuit trying to disqualify 200,000 new voters in Ohio whose voter registration data does not agree with other state data bases (like the examples above). In a Montana case, a federal judge ruled that the Republicans had filed the case “with the express intent to disenfranchise voters.” In some cases it is the Democrats going to court to prevent a (usually Republican) secretary of state from purging eligible voters. In other words, attempting to disenfranchise voters has become just another campaign tactic. It is virtually always the Republicans trying to purge (new) voters because the new voters are so heavily weighted towards the Democrats. If they can eliminate 100,000 voters, they will probably get rid of 80,000 Democrats and 20,000 Republicans, which is clearly worth the effort.
There are also good pieces about related problems today in the Los Angeles Times…
SACRAMENTO — Dozens of newly minted Republican voters say they were duped into joining the party by a GOP contractor with a trail of fraud complaints stretching across the country.
Voters contacted by The Times said they were tricked into switching parties while signing what they believed were petitions for tougher penalties against child molesters. Some said they were told that they had to become Republicans to sign the petition, contrary to California initiative law. Others had no idea their registration was being changed…
…and the New York Times.
In recent weeks, the McCain campaign has accused [ACORN] of perpetrating voter fraud by intentionally submitting invalid registration forms, including some with fictional names like Mickey Mouse and others for voters who are already registered.
Based on the information that has come to light so far, the charges appear to be wildly overblown — and intended to hobble ACORN’s efforts. …
According to ACORN, most of the forms that are now causing controversy are ones that it flagged and that unsympathetic election officials then publicized. …
But for all of the McCain campaign’s manufactured fury about vote theft (and similar claims from the Republican Party over the years) there is virtually no evidence — anywhere in the country, going back many elections — of people showing up at the polls and voting when they are not entitled to.
Meanwhile, Republicans aren’t saying anything about another more serious voter-registration scandal: the fact that about one-third of eligible voters are not registered. The racial gaps are significant and particularly disturbing. According to a study by Project Vote, a voting-rights group, in 2006, 71 percent of eligible whites were registered, compared with 61 percent of blacks, 54 percent of Latinos and 49 percent of Asian-Americans.
Much of the blame for this lies with overly restrictive registration rules. Earlier this year, the League of Women Voters halted its registration drive in Florida after the state imposed onerous new requirements.
The answer is for government to do a better job of registering people to vote. That way there would be less need to rely on private registration drives, largely being conducted by well-meaning private organizations that use low-paid workers. Federal and state governments should do their own large-scale registration drives staffed by experienced election officials. Even better, Congress and the states should adopt election-day registration, which would make such drives unnecessary.
GOP operatives are doing nothing more here than seeding the ground with FUD so that when Obama wins the White House and Dems gain Congressional seats, they can whine after the fact about how it’s allegedly “fraudulent.” Even if they’re sincere in their concern about possible voter fraud, they’re still straining at gnats while swallowing camels, given the vastly larger number of legitimate voters at risk of being disenfranchised. It’s despicable, and it needs to be opposed.
Fortunately Democrats and civil liberties organizations in general have learned from 2000 and 2004, and they’re not taking this lying down. There are quite a few countersuits and legal defense operations going on out there, prominently including the Obama campaign’s recent demand that the special prosecutor investigating the Justice Department scandal “include a review of any involvement by Justice Dept. and White House officials in supporting the McCain-Palin campaign [and RNC’s] systematic development and dissemination of unsupported, spurious allegations of vote fraud.”Tags: Election 2008, McCain, Obama, voting