Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stopping Voter Fraud. Or Not.

One of the amusing things I observe each election day is the presence and behavior of the poll-watchers who serve as the eagle-eyed defenders of supposed election integrity. Here's how the process works:

I report to my local polling place, wait dutifully in line for my turn, then step up to the table to have my name checked (by two people) against the list of registered voters. I recite my name and address and try my best to look like the photo on my driver's license, and if I pass muster I am given a card which I can then give to yet another person who directs me to the next available voting machine. But there are two other people involved in this electoral pas-de-trois (making it a pas de cinq?): the Republican and Democratic poll-watchers who sit behind the people at the registration table and carefully duplicate their efforts on their own copies of the voter registration lists, checking me (and each other) out through narrowed eyes as they scrupulously defend the integrity of the voting process.

Oh, for pete's sake ... what sort of useless time- and effort-wasting horse manure is this?

Elections are not stolen by voters at the local precinct level. They are bought and paid for well in advance by those with deep pockets and shallow morals, empowered by the Supreme Court in it's Citizens United decision.

Who commits ... or needs to commit ... garden-variety voter fraud any more?

I'm not the only one to ask the question. In a Slate Magazine article titled Fake the Vote, political reporter Christopher Beam provided an excellent summary of all the reasons why the local poll-watchers are wasting their time. He notes that a crackdown on voter fraud started by the Bush administration in 2002 has to date yielded 86 convictions: about 30 linked to vote-buying schemes in races for small offices like sheriff or judge, and only 26 attributable to individual voters. Most of those were misunderstandings about voter eligibility, such as felons who voted without knowing it was illegal. On the whole, the much-ballyhooed prosecutions provided little evidence of organized fraud. A study conducted in 2007 by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University reached a similar conclusion, finding that the vast majority of "fraud" cases were due to things like typographical errors in poll books and registration records, bad matches between voter databases, and voters registering at new addresses without deleting old registrations. Much of the alleged "voter fraud," the study found, represents little more than improperly filled-out registration cards.

Mr Beam also notes that voter fraud on a large scale makes no sense, if for no other reason than fraud on an election-swaying scale would need to involve so many people that it would be impossible to keep secret, involving too many people with too much to lose. He concludes his article with these words:

"There's nothing wrong with preventing voter fraud, just as there's nothing wrong with preventing alien attacks. First make sure the problem is worth your time."

Actually, though, it is worth the time of those who would steal elections ... because it offers a convenient way to divert attention from the real threat to our democracy - the vast truckloads of cash being spent to buy elections before you and I ever get to stand under the withering gaze of the well-meaning, but ultimately useless poll-watchers.

But all that having been said, vote anyway. It's your civic duty, and if you don't vote you forfeit your right to bitch and moan about the people who are governing in your name.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



KathyA said...

Whoa, Nellie! I've never seen these people -- never. I go to a table where one person checks my name, and asks my date of birth and address. I do not show my driver's license. He does this on a computer and then prints out a form that I sign and take to the judge who takes me to a computer where I vote. Is the voting practice determined by state?

Bilbo said...

Kathy - yes, voting procedures and practices are determined at the state level. I haven't voted in any state other than Virginia since the 1972 presidential election (when I still lived in Pennsylvania before entering the Air Force)...after that, and until I retired and settled here, I always voted by absentee ballot. In fact, I voted absentee in 1972 because I was in college (Penn State) at the time and away from home. I'm not surprised that things are different in MD.

Raquel's World said...

I just posted about voting this morning and part of it was the dishonesty of it all. Great post!

Mike said...

We have the demrubs that have to initial the paper you have to hand to the guy at the end of the line.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Voter fraud is said to go on in Britain with postal votes.