Voter Fraud vs. Election Fraud
Until recently, movement in this country was aimed at making registering to vote and actually voting easier. Recent elections have resulted in Republican majorities in state legislatures which have passed laws reversing this trend. Voter ID laws and early voting restrictions are designed to make voting more difficult rather than easier, placing additional barriers in the path of those desiring to perform their civic duty.
These laws were passed by legislators claiming that they were necessary precautions to prevent voter fraud and swing elections away from the electorate’s true intent. This despite the fact that none have been able to produce any evidence of widespread attempts at fraud perpetrated by individuals voting where they are not eligible to do so. Getting a photo ID that is acceptable in some of these states is not as easy or as cheap as proponents would lead one to believe, and can affect different groups of voters more adversely than others.
There has also been a movement to increasing use of technology in voting. Computerized ballots have replaced paper ballots and the older machines using levers.Several different procedures are used in different states to count the “ballots” thus cast. There have been and continue to be questions as to the security of votes cast on some of these systems, as well as their vulnerability to hacking to alter intended results. The lack of a paper trail for recounts is another issue that hasn’t been adequately addressed.
I have voted in two states with very different voting methods. While in Vermont, my polling place was a school gymnasium with tables partitioned to provide privacy for voters. Plenty of room was available to accommodate many voters at once. The only cause for lines was the initial check-in to make sure each voter was registered. No ID was needed. Each voter was given a paper ballot and went to a station where a pen was available to mark the ballot as desired, then the voter went to a tabulating machine near the exit to the polling place and inserted the ballot.
After moving to PA at the turn of the century, I found the voting process quite different. We checked in to make sure our names were on the voter registration checklist, signing on a line right next to our names. Only one signature was allowed on the line, so I knew nobody else had voted using my name. A low tech, but effective means of avoiding voter fraud, I think. At the time, we used the old lever machines. There were lower limits to how many people could vote at once, so lines grew longer. Now my polling place has changed to a newer computer model. No paper is used, and again, the number of voting stations is greatly reduced. We also now must show a state-issued photo ID card to vote (unless a court invalidates the law before the election). All the issues discussed above regarding to the way the ballots are cast, counted and potentially recounted do not leave me confident that my vote will be counted as cast.
Reducing the number of polling places, voting stations at polling places, and the times during which voting is permitted all serve to suppress the vote. Long lines discourage people from voting and reduced early voting opportunities has the same effect on those for whom voting during normal voting hours is difficult at best. We often decry the fact that voter turnout is low in our elections compared to those in other countries. The movement to increase opportunities to register and to vote was a welcome attempt to improve turnout and hopefully make our election results more representative of the opinions of the population as a whole. Reversing that trend will only serve to turn our elections into an even worse example of how democracy should work to express the will of the people in free and open elections. There is no need in this day and age to force someone to stand in a line for untold hours to cast their vote, only to be turned away because their wallet was stolen or they forgot their ID. Do provisional ballots even get counted?
I have no desire to cast multiple ballots in multiple precincts in order to make my opinion count more than other voters’ and I know of nobody else who does, either. Yet my integrity gets tested by having to jump through extra hoops in order to do something I’ve been doing regularly ever since I turned 18. On the other hand, I have no assurance that those responsible for revealing the election results to us even have the means available of doing so accurately with the tools they have been given. Technology is wonderful, but far from infallible. Paper ballot backup is not an unreasonable expense or request to ensure the integrity of our elections, given the stakes and the closeness of many recent elections requiring recounts and court decisions to determine the outcome. Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 are two examples that come to mind. Manipulating election results by disenfranchising selected group of people who should be eligible to vote does not lead to fair and honest elections.