Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Dead voters & a dying democracy?


Americans will fight and die for democracy, but when it comes to the actual business of elections, stuffed ballot boxes and cemetery voters are the subject of jokes more than outrage — though a democracy in which elections are decided by fraudulent votes created by corrupt politicians is no democracy at all.

That contradiction is the subject of “Who’s Counting: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote At Risk,” by journalist John Fund and former Justice Department attorney Hans von Spakovsky.

For all the national outrage about “hanging chads” and the like back in 2000, very little has been done since to improve the reliability of our system for registering and identifying voters, and recording and counting votes. In some ways, in fact, we’ve moved backward.

An ideal voting system would:

* Make it easy for voters to register.

* Positively ensure that voters were who they said they were.

* Make certain that no one could vote more than once.

* And guarantee that votes properly cast would be properly recorded, while making the recording of fraudulent votes impossible.

Unfortunately, no such system exists — and the ones we have are far from the best available.

Current voter-registration systems are flawed, with huge numbers of dead or disqualified voters still on the rolls. And, since voter-ID enforcement is poor, in many places a person can simply claim to be one of those people and vote in their name with no one the wiser.

(Sometimes it’s worse than that — one voting-rights activist, a twentysomething white guy with a pony tail in Washington, DC, managed to get a ballot in Attorney General Eric Holder’s name.)

You might call our system “Third World,” but that would be an insult to the Third World. As Fund and von Spakovsky note, to register to vote in Mexico a voter must provide a photo, a signature and a thumbprint. The Mexican voter-registration card includes holographic security, a magnetic code and a serial number. Before voting, voters have to show the card and have the thumbprints matched by a scanner.

Similar safeguards apply in many other countries, along with simple precautions to prevent repeat voting (remember those Iraqis with purple thumbs?) that America lacks.

In the United States, meanwhile, only 17 states even require identification in order to vote. Holder & Co., claim that requiring photo ID would be racist, because getting a driver’s license, etc., costs money. This claim has consistently been rejected by courts, and with good reason: If requiring photo ID to vote is racist, then what about requiring photo ID to exercise other constitutional rights, like buying a gun?

Of course, the real objection to requiring voter ID isn’t based in civil rights, but in civil wrongs. With elections often decided by narrow margins, the ability to produce a few thousand more ballots can often swing the results. (In Minnesota’s 2008 disputed US Senate election, won by Al Franken — who proceeded to cast the deciding vote in favor of ObamaCare — the margin of victory was 312, but it turned out that 1,099 votes were cast by felons who were ineligible to vote. Many of them have gone to jail, but Franken has remained in the Senate).

Voter ID makes that kind of trickery harder, which is why political manipulators oppose it.

Voters understand this. According to a Washington Post poll taken earlier this month, 74 percent of Americans support laws requiring voters to show photo identification.

The irony is that it is precisely the people who Eric Holder et al. purport to speak for — poor, often black, inner-city residents — who suffer the most from voter fraud.

Many of America’s largest and worst-governed cities suffer from entrenched and corrupt political machines that maintain their position in no small part via voter fraud. Corrupt machines (like that of Detroit’s disgraced ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick) siphon off money that should go to essential services and instead divert it to political fatcats and their supporters. Efforts at reform are often defeated with fraudulent votes.

As we approach a presidential election that may prove to be as close as 2000’s, Fund and von Spakovsky’s book is a wake-up call. If democracy in America is to survive, something must be done. Will we do it?

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a law professor at the University of Tennessee; his new book is “The Higher Education Bubble.”

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