Tuesday, September 21, 2004

How to steal an election...

Jeff Jacoby has a good column on voter fraud. This is an important issue that doesn’t get near enough attention. Jacoby gives alarming examples--from New York residents voting in Florida in 2000, to cats being registered by mail, to illegal immigrants voting, to hundreds of thousands of bogus registrants. Go read the whole thing.

A personal example: Last week New Hampshire held it’s state primary. New Hampshire allows you to register when you vote. I’ve long had a problem with this practice--it seems ripe for fraud—but since this was my first time voting in New Hampshire, I took advantage of it. I was alarmed when I was allowed to register and cast my ballot without having to prove my identity. I wasn’t asked for a driver’s license, a birth certificate, or proof of residency. The official just took it on faith that I was who I said I was, that I lived where I said I did, and that I was legally eligible to vote. It occurred to me that I could come back in a few hours, or perhaps go to another precinct, and vote again. I wrote a letter of complaint to the County Clerk and was assured that my experience was an exception and not policy. I wish I could believe that.

Unfortunately, I had similar experiences when living in Los Angeles. The ballots in Los Angeles tend to be rather large, so “sample ballots” are mailed out several weeks before the election. This is handy because it gives you a chance to “vote” ahead of time, then simply copy your choices onto an official ballot on voting day—big time saver. I recall voting on many occasions and having to show nothing more than the address label from my sample ballot. Now this is just a plain white label with a name and address printed on it. Anyone with a printer could make one—in less time than it takes to forge a National Guard memo.

So the potential for voter fraud is definitely there. As Jacoby puts it, “the system is not only open to manipulation, it invites it.” I suspect our elections aren’t nearly as pristine as we like to think. I suspect it’s happening on a grand, organized scale. By the way, have you heard about vote swapping?

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