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Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Voter Fraud Happens

I recently read a new book which chronicles the stories of voter fraud and intimidation I've been watching for years and suggests common-sense remedies. So, if you don't mind, let's talk about voter fraud even as we earnestly hope it doesn't matter much today.

I agree with Charles Krauthammer:

Every four years we are told that the coming election is the most important of one's life. This time it might actually be true. At stake is the relation between citizen and state, the very nature of the American social contract.

In fact, I'll see his domestic gravity and raise you something international: also in doubt is an earth-shaking question beyond our borders. Will there continue to be a nation which is a strong, steady force for religious, political, and economic freedom among the nations of the world? The major question at issue at the polls today is not so much whether the victory in American civilization and beyond will go to freedom or oppression; freedom will not win a final victory in this world. The question is, Will freedom continue to have a fighting chance?

Today is that big.

Sometimes I go light on Election Day. Today I'm feeling . . . optimistic, but not light. I'm inclined to go large -- even larger, at least in a sense, than today's uncommonly consequential election.

So let's talk about the integrity of the vote -- about voter fraud, vote suppression, and doubting the credibility of our most fundamental political process.

Perhaps I'm cruel or cold-hearted to talk about this today. But if this post gets you worrying about it, for the present and the future, whether you want to or not, rest assured: I've worried about it for years, decades.

The party line on one side of the aisle -- I think you know which one -- is that there is hardly any voter fraud in American elections, and measures proposing to address it are solutions in search of a problem. If you can dislodge a partisan from that position for a moment, the fallback position is that the other party does it, too -- as if that were a reason to do nothing, instead of doing much more. Beyond denial and blame-sharing, there is the constant cry that the other party wants to suppress the vote -- usually the racial vote, because the racial card is what we play in our surpassingly condescending and manipulative politics.Who's Counting

I've been watching stories of voter fraud and suppression for years, but not collecting them systematically. Now there's an easily accessible collection with 29 pages of footnotes: a new book by John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky, Who's Counting: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk. Their book is several useful things at once. It is an avalanche of evidence that voter fraud does exist in abundance, in local, state, and federal elections. It surveys evidence that photo ID requirements for voting suppress virtually zero legitimate votes. It presents evidence that photo ID requirements and other serious efforts to protect the integrity of the vote actually tend to increase turnout, by increasing voters' confidence in the process and its results. It offers as strong an argument as I have read lately for the Electoral College. It gives an inside view and a scathing indictment of President Obama's Justice Department, led by Attorney General Eric Holder, which systematically refuses to prosecute cases of voter fraud and voter intimidation, if the victims are white. And -- more on this shortly -- it lists some intelligent things we can do to improve and protect the integrity of our political system and the legitimacy of the vote.

In some cases -- today's presidential, Senate, and House elections among them, I earnestly hope -- voter fraud and intimidation do not affect the outcome of races. But in many cases they do. Fund and von Spakovsky explain numerous recent instances where local, state, and national elections were turned by fraud. One of the most prominent is the US Senate race in Minnesota in 2008. It was disputed until July 2009, when the Minnesota Supreme Court declared Democrat Al Franken the winner by 312 votes. The irregularities found in the aftermath of that election illustrate many of the ways in which voter fraud can be perpetrated and detected:

  • The number of voters casting a ballot was less than the number of ballots counted and certified -- by more than 40,000!
  • Thousands of duplicate voter registrations were found, despite federal law requiring states to purge these from voter rolls.
  • There were almost 100 cases in which voters were strongly suspected to have voted more than once, and thousands more cases where evidence suggested this possibility.
  • Nearly 100,000 voter registrations were found to give nonexistent or non-residential home addresses.
  • Thousands of deceased voters still on the rolls were found to have voted -- that is, their identities were fraudulently used to cast votes.
  • Some individuals who were ineligible due to mental incapacity were found to have voted.
  • Some noncitizens -- who are automatically ineligible in national elections -- were found to have voted.
  • Several thousand voter registration records showed ages of 108 or above.
  • Nearly 2000 voters were allowed to register and vote before reaching voting age (18).
  • At least hundreds of convicted felons, who are ineligible to vote, did vote in the election. About 200 of them have already been convicted and sentenced for doing so, and many more are facing charges. Most report having voted for Democrats.

Believe it or not, there's more where that came from. Call me partisan, but my conclusion is that Al Franken won -- and the Democrats thereby achieved a filibuster-proof majority in the US Senate, making it possible to pass ObamaCare -- by voter fraud.

Who's Counting is full of documented accounts of similar fraud in various states and at all levels of goverment. But hand-wringing is not the answer. Here's a list of things we can do, according to the book's final chapter:

  • Require government-issued photo ID at the polls. A large majority of Americans support this, and evidence suggests that it does not suppress the legitimate vote in any measurable degree.
  • Systematically verify that all registered voters are US citizens (with the exception of a few local elections where non-citizens are allowed to vote). Despite legal requirements, the federal government has refused to assist some states in doing this.
  • Rely on early, in-person voting as a much safer alternative to widespread absentee voting and voting by mail, which pose very high risks of fraud.
  • Cross-check voter registration databases against other state and federal databases.
  • States should enter into agreements to compare voter registration lists, to detect voters registered in multiple states.
  • Congress and the Defense Department, in cooperation with states, should be far more conscientious in enabling overseas military votes to be cast, returned, and counted in a timely manner. These are often disqualified, and the Obama Defense Department has dragged its feet even where federal law requires better handling of this situation.
  • Abolish same-day voter registration, currently used in six states, which allows no time for verification of information on applications.
  • Address the dwindling pool of trained poll workers in several ways, including making the work more accessible to more people (instead of requiring poll workers not to leave the polling place for 15 or 16 hours) and attracting many younger poll workers.
  • Improve the handling of provisional ballots, to eliminate cases where they are counted before being verified and cannot then be uncounted.

Maybe it's just me, but every one of these measures seems to be common sense. The only votes that will be suppressed are the ones that ought to be suppressed: the illegal ones. It is not an overstatement to suggest that one major pillar of our political stability is the integrity of the vote.

Meanwhile, there already are reports of voter fraud, attempted vote suppression, and voter intimidation at the polls in various states in this election. Some of them will prove to be true, and some of those will be consequential. But there is some new hope: A new, multistate, nonpartisan organization, True the Vote, will be on watch at many polling places across the country. They're running a National Election Integrity Hotline to collect reports of hanky-panky.

Once we're past the extreme partisanship of this election -- by tomorrow, one may hope -- it's time for a comprehensive, level-headed effort to address threats to the integrity of the vote. If you're not content to wait for the sensible reforms I've listed, please consider getting the necessary training and volunteering as a poll worker or poll watcher. Chances are you'll have at least two elections in 2013 where you live.

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