Liberals claim conservatives are trying to suppress minority turnout. Conservatives point to loose voter identification laws and bizarre election day outcomes.
In the immediate wake of the Nov. 6 election, reports surfaced of 141 percent turnout in one Florida location, and entire areas of Philadelphia and Cleveland in which the Republican presidential nominee received zero votes.
Indeed, the presidential vote was unanimous in 59 Philadelphia precincts, and in nine of Cleveland’s.
The 141 percent story turned out not to be true. But it added to the perception of a system out of control. And combined with stories of voter machine problems, voter identification squabbles and an explosion of absentee ballots – some of which are mysteriously found after the fact – it just seems our system is no longer credible.
Even U.N. observers were amazed at how loosey-goosey our electoral system is.
In a September story headlined “Voter rolls in Ohio are bloated, experts say,” The Columbus Dispatch wrote, “More than one out of every five registered Ohio voters is probably ineligible to vote.
“In two counties, the number of registered voters actually exceeds the voting-age population ...”
Right here in Augusta – which boasts one of the finest election directors around, Lynn Bailey – an Augusta Chronicle investigation recently unearthed several dozen voters whose home addresses were actually empty lots and abandoned houses across the county. The spot check, done by comparing voter registration information to county property records and Licensing and Inspection dates on abandoned properties, illustrates that voter fraud may be occurring even in areas with the most trustworthy election officials.
Imagine if rank partisans were, instead, in control of the election machinery.
It doesn’t have to be this way. And it shouldn’t be.
Voter “suppression” can no longer be considered a legitimate concern. There were no confirmations of it before or after the election – and fears that Barack Obama might be turned out of office because minorities weren’t allowed to vote were obvious puffery.
Fact is, our problem is just the opposite: There aren’t enough controls on the system to prevent votes being cast that shouldn’t be.
Even in nearby Lincoln County, Ga., incumbent Sheriff Gerald Lawson, who lost narrowly on Nov. 6, is claiming fraud.
“Lawson’s complaint,” reads a recent news story, “alleges that a dead person and felons under sentence cast ballots, that many absentee ballots were delivered by a single person near the end of voting and that absentee ballots were seen outside their envelopes before Election Day.”
It’s quite possible that, in our zeal to make voting convenient, we’ve made it far too convenient.
At the dawn of the 21st century, in the world’s most advanced society, it’s ludicrous to have such doubt shroud our elections.
At the very least, it’s maddeningly inefficient: Once again, Florida didn’t know its outcome in a presidential election for days.
Even in some Third World countries, voters are required to be fingerprinted. We can do that here – and without the ink. As soon as possible, we need to move to biometric forms of identification in elections.
In the meantime, we wish Democrats would stop fighting election reform that would bring more credibility to elections, including photo IDs.
No one knows how extensive voter fraud is. But a supposedly advanced nation shouldn’t even brook the possibility of it.