Grave digging in the voter rolls
posted at 4:46 pm on August 28, 2012 by Jazz Shaw
Glenn Reynolds has a surprisingly good piece in the NY Post this week which touches on a hot-button topic for me. Called “Dead voters & a dying democracy,” Glenn identifies a number of deficiencies in our current system of identifying, registering and verifying citizens on the voter roles and identifies what he feels would be the requirements for a fictional, “ideal” system.
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.
This is a subject which I realize carries a significant “ick factor” for a lot of folks, but as unpleasant as it may be, it really requires attention. While we’re far, far from perfect at it, our current system at least makes an effort at recording and tracking the births of United States citizens and the official dates of naturalization for those who immigrate. This results in a fairly well populated baseline of initially qualified voters. But we do very little to track the permanent relocation of voters, (removing them from the rolls in their former home state after they register in the new location) and we do almost nothing to track them when they die. These critical housekeeping tasks are left to not only the honesty, but the thoroughness and organization of people who move. And the task of tracking the deceased and purging them from the rolls is far more daunting.
The upshot of this, as Reynolds correctly notes, is that many areas have voter rolls which are stuffed full of names of people ineligible or incapable of voting. Even if you ignore the obvious invitation for mischief which this extends, you could at least be put off by the fact that these names falsely force the turnout percentages downward in a depressing fashion. But the question remains, how do we establish a tracking system for those who move or die, do so in a legal, implementable fashion, and then tie it into the official voter registration system? If you’re waiting for me to finish this article by offering a miracle cure-all to the problem, read no further. I don’t have one.
EDIT: United States would probably be better than “stats.” Thanks, as usual, to our army of unpaid editors. (Jazz)