Where are the United Nations Election Observers when you need them? You know the teams of people who monitor elections around the world to insure that all eligible voters are allowed to safely vote and there is no behind the scene shenanigans. It would be good to have some of them scattered around the country today. Actually, we could have used them for a while.
The news has been full of voting horror stories; new voter identification laws, cuts in advance voting hours and locations, Tea Party members going through records and challenging voter registrations, Spanish language election information that is incorrect and old fashioned harassment of citizens in line to vote. Most of the election changes and scrutiny have been implemented to make it harder for seniors, young people and minorities to vote. The rational is election fraud. To hear an advocate for more election controls talk, you would think that there are millions of “bad” votes in each election and these votes are changing elections.
Is there voter fraud? Yes. News21 has search public records and compiled a database of election fraud. They found 2068 alleged cases of fraud since 2000. Yeah, two thousand sixty eight cases over 11 years. That averages to less than 200 cases each year. In the Presidential election in 2008, there were 122,394,724 votes cast for Sen. McCain and President Obama. Less than 200 alleged fraudulent votes in over 122 million votes cast.
37 states have considered or actually enacted tougher voter ID law. But News21 found that of the 2068 cases only 10 involved voter impersonation and none showed intent to change an election. 10 cases over 11 years is not a good justification to disenfranchise voters but 9 states now require ID to vote. Kansas is one state with a new ID law and it has not been well published. Most of the people I’ve mentioned it to didn’t know the change has been made.
Absentee ballot fraud is the largest category of alleged fraud that News21 found. But they only discovered 491 cases since 2000. And registration fraud only resulted in 400 cases. Even those larger numbers don’t justify voter ID but they might be insightful for the future of voting.
I’m interested in hearing how voting in Washington State goes this election. They have done away with polling places and registered voters receive a ballot in the mail. They can be mailed in or dropped in a ballot drop box. You can check to see that your ballot has been received or to find a ballot box online. Need to register? That can also be done online or in a voting center. From the material they provide, it looks like a citizen can register and vote the same day at one of the centers.
I don’t think the long lines at the polls or the intimidation attempts will go away. And we shouldn’t need the UN to make sure we are giving all eligible voters the chance to vote. Election fraud is a small problem and it shouldn’t be the excuse to disenfranchise anyone. Once this election is over, we need to look at our local voting procedures and see what we can do to make it more open and accessible.