Wednesday, February 15, 2012

‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’, but They Can Vote (Update)

Politico reports on a Pew Center nationwide study of voter registration rolls, and the numbers are certainly not encouraging if one is looking for a system that guards against fraud, or even a system that is marginally effective (other studies place the numbers higher).  Briefly:

24 million registrations (one in every eight) are invalid or have “significant inaccuracies”

1.8 million registered voters are dead and have not been removed from the rolls

2.75 million voters are registered in more than one state

12 million records have incorrect addresses

The Politico report seems most disturbed by the finding that 51 million potential voters are not registered.  Registration is important, true, for those who may develop a sudden or even quickly evolving need to vote, but this can fall into the same category as those who would not then go on to actually vote.  Those who fail to vote have exercised their decision: they don’t care.  That is a choice.

The story draws a favorable comparison to Canada’s national system, with its “innovative technology and data matching methods”, but fails to note that Americans have a federal system – states are responsible for voting systems within their boundaries.  The study also did not pay the same compliment to Canada as it did to the US – it made no attempt to track how accurate the Canadian rolls are.  And we have seen how well the federal government does with the postal system, the air traffic control system, airport security, or even illicit arms shipments to drug cartels in Mexico, not to mention the move to the Obamacare system that is already acknowledging that it will end up spending even more money than the present one.  A national (or even a state) computerized registration system is not a reassuring thought to me – if China, for example, is so capable of hacking into any computer system here in the US, apparently at will, then that is not a real solution.  And if it can be hacked from the outside, it is even more subject to manipulation from the inside.

The article also cites an online voter registration system, but like the motor/voter versions, simply making it easier doesn’t make it more secure – likely less so, in fact.  It laments use of “paper-based systems”, but that at least provides some degree of accountability.

I am also struck by this comment:
Still, David Becker, director of Pew’s Election Initiatives, said that the center’s findings did not suggest any kind of voter fraud or voter suppression from these problems, but noted they do “underscore the need for an improved system.”
The findings did not suggest fraud or suppression because the study did not look for fraud or suppression.  It is just as valid to say that there is enormous opportunity for fraud or suppression.

The subject becomes more acute when faced with a ‘vote by mail’ system such as in Oregon, or an absentee ballot practically anywhere.  Once the ballots are mailed from the county clerk’s office, the ballots can wander about with no control until they are returned by way of mail or drop-off box to the county election center.  There are a variety of scenarios about how such a system can be gamed.  Oregon provides the opposite of a secure voter identification system as the voter is completely unseen by a clerk, and providing online registration, with a registrant also unseen by a clerk, makes it even worse.

The conclusions of the article are to leap to a system that is potentially worse.  One also has to wonder that, if Pew can come up with these numbers nation-wide, how difficult would it be for the individual states and counties to track down the same information within their purview?  There is already too much voter fraud that is known, but it is perpetuated by those who likely most benefit from it, those who refuse to clean up the system by making fatuous claims of disenfranchisement of minorities and the poor through requirements of presenting a valid photo identification when voting.  If you have to have an ID to cash a check (or use a credit or debit card according to some merchants), board an airplane, or enter a federal building (and how do you prove who you are to a welfare office), then one should be required to vote.

But cleaning up the rolls of potential fraudulent votes should go hand-in-hand with requirements for voter identification.

Update:  J Christian Adams of PJ Media reports that Florida is attempting to cleanse its rolls of some 53,000 registered voters who are dead, unlike other states who are far less enthusiastic about the effort.  He reports problems in other states like Mississippi, Massachusetts, and -- of course -- Oregon.

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