Voter Registration Rolls Perfect? Not a Chance!
by FRANK HILL
August 9, 2012
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School and the author of this in-depth report by Mr. Justin Levitt called 'The Truth About Voter Fraud', there is nothing to worry about whatsoever with the American voting system.
'America has no problem with voting fraud!'.
Whew! Don't you feel better already?
Which, if 100% true, begs the question:
'If the voting rolls in the entire U.S. of A are 'perfect' and everyone is a Boy or Girl Scout who votes with integrity each and every election, what exactly is the problem with requiring some form of photo ID each and every time they vote?'
We have absolutely no doubt that Mr. Levitt has done a wonderful job of academic research based on copious note-taking and diving deep into the stacks of the Library of Congress to examine the voting case challenges for every Supreme Court and appellate court decision over the past decade.
What we do have a great concern about is whether or not Mr. Levitt has actually ever: 1) run for political office; 2) run a campaign; or 3) been involved in any high-level position in any large political campaign in this nation?
No matter where you are on the photo ID issue, whether you think it is 'voter suppression' or a 'necessary evil' in a world where the less-scrupulous amongst us take advantage of weak points in any system, you need to know some of the real-life mechanics behind our nation's voting apparatus before you yell at each other over this issue.
There is a lot of difference between the 'truth' put forth from the ivory towers of academia after extended research over a long period of time and the 'low-down, nitty-gritty dirt' of fast-moving modern election campaigns in America today.
For one thing, the enforcement staff of any board of elections or state investigative agencies are woefully understaffed and under-provisioned to go after every allegation or charge of voting impropriety across the nation.
Trying to 'prove' that there is widespread voting fraud is simply impossible without interactive computer databases shared across state lines between all 50 states' boards of elections. It is also very hard to 'prove' without a very expensive massive coordinated effort by every state to comb through the election results of every election to determine some sort of statistically significant trends or patterns.
Absent those two factors, every observation on election 'fraud' is somewhat questionable. Those on the left who say, with confidence: 'There is no election fraud!' can't be proven completely wrong. Those on the right who assert: 'There is massive voter fraud!' can't be proven completely crazy either.
Reports such as this one from the Brennan Center almost always focus on the 'reported' cases where someone has taken the time and the trouble and the expense to bring charges against people they think have committed voter fraud and it has gone through some sort of judicial or legal review by some governmental agency.
If they are never 'reported' or 'challenged', the number of suspected cases drop significantly. Maybe almost infinitestimally.
It is like that old metaphysical saw: 'If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?'
'If there are lots of illegal votes being cast each election, and no one either 1) cares; 2) reports them; or 3) has the money to hunt them down and then prosecute the perpetrators, then is it really 'voting fraud'?
We are still stunned each and every time we go vote in North Carolina and pull out our driver's license to prove we are who we say we are before voting and the gentleman or lady at the voting booth covers their eyes and says:
'We are not supposed to see that.'
'Why not? Don't you want to know for sure that I am who I say I am and I actually live at the address I just told you that I could have memorized from the on-line voting registration lists?'
'Nope. Now move along, you troublemaker! Next in line....please!'
We have significant concerns with the existing enforcement of our national and state voting laws. The stories we have heard over these past 32 years of being around and in-and-out of campaigns would make your hair curl, even if you don't have much left on your head.
If you ever hear of a story where 'someone just miraculously found a bag of uncounted votes underneath the desk in the elementary school in Lizard Lick!' at 3:30 am in the morning the day after the election, you can be pretty darned sure that something 'just ain't right' with most if not all of those votes.
We are just sayin'.
We are obviously not endorsing illegal voting by any of you this upcoming fall election season. If you do any of these, and are caught somehow, you will be charged with a felony and probably serve some time in jail.
Just like anyone of any race, income strata, creed or religion who commits fraud by voting illegally in any fashion should do time. Anyone.
The chances of you being charged with voting illegally, however, is like the IRS auditing your tax returns which is less than 1% every year.
That is the chance millions of people take each year. The IRS simply can not police every single one of the 137 million tax returns filed each year. Roughly 1 million are so-called 'correspondence audits' where things are cleared up by mail. Less than 310,000 were actual 'field audits' where guys from the IRS dressed in dark suits and green eyeshades come 'for a little visit' to see what you have been up to over the past few years.
Does the 'fact' that the IRS 'only' audits 0.2% of all tax returns in person each year mean no one else is cheating on the amount of income they report or deductions they take, even in the slightest little bit?
Doubt. It. Very. Much.
Here are just two ways that a person can commit voting fraud. Operatives within the Republican and Democratic Party know how these games are played and can be taken advantage of in a close election. Both of these tactics should be condemned by everyone, no matter what your political philosophy or outlook or choice for President is.
Regardless of your background, political party, race or income levels, everyone should agree that a single vote cast illegally in America is not a good thing for our democratic republic.
1). 'Dead People Voting'
One of the easiest ways we have ever heard of voting 'illegally' is to peruse the local obituaries for about 6 months before an election. Keep track of the names of any man or woman who has passed away, depending on your gender, and then go on-line with your local Board of Elections to find the name of that person and see if they are still registered to vote or not come election time.
If they are registered to vote, write down their address and precinct on a legal pad and just keep looking.
Come early voting period, or election day itself, people armed with this research can walk into up to 220 different precincts in their congressional district and potentially cast up to 219 'illegal' votes just by telling the registrar your 'name' (that of the deceased person) and their 'address' (remember, they can't ask for any 'proof' of your name or address such as looking at your driver's license, etc).
There is a very high probability of these people being able to vote multiple times during the election season simply because the local boards of elections do not have the time, manpower or resources to purge their official voting rolls every time a person dies, or even once per month, or even once every 6 months in some areas and in some selected area, not even every year, 2 years or 10 years!
Now, do we think the vast majority of American citizens are hard-working, honest, God-fearing people who would never think of violating the sacred trust of voting in our democratic republic?
Sure. But we are not concerned about them.
We are mightily concerned about the small percentage of not-so-honest people who have no problem voting 2, 5, 10 or perhaps 220 different times under the guise of another person who is no longer among the living.
If you don't think these types of unprincipled people exist in the world of American politics, then we have a London Bridge we would like to sell you in the Arizona desert. These people 'exist'.
2) College Students Voting in Person in Their College Towns and Via Absentee Voting Back in Their Home States
This one is so impossibly easy that we are surprised the voting totals of college-age students nationwide are not twice what they actually are each year.
The only reason why college students don't swamp the turnout in every election is because so few college students actually vote in any election any year, including the big Presidential elections every 4 years.
Here's the data from the US Census Bureau that shows below 46% of the college-aged population voted even in the 'massive' Obama surge of 2008. In off-year congressional elections such as 2010, college students turn out at less than a 20% rate. In off-off year elections such as for school boards and municipal seats, they are decimal dust in terms of turnout.
A college student can register to vote in their home state at age 18. He or she can then go off to college in another state, sometime far away from Minnesota or Florida or North Carolina and register to vote in their college towns.
Does each town and municipality in the nation have the capability to connect electronically with the home board of elections of each and every out-of-state student to double-check and see if they have deleted their home voting registration before allowing them to vote in their college towns?
Again, very doubtful. Most board of elections don't have the time or the resources to call the board of elections even if they are an in-state student to check and see if the student had deleted their home city registration before registering in the town of the state university or the private institution in which they are enrolled.
We have heard anecdotes upon anecdotes and personal testimonies upon personal testimonies where students have said that 'my professor has told us all to register in our college town and vote absentee in our hometowns.'
Do we have written proof? No. We didn't ask for it either.
Let's say you are a very idealistic and motivated young college student who really wants his/her candidate to win the White House this year. It could be Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.
Would you be at least the little bit tempted to vote in your college town with all your friends and go to a victory beer party afterwards...even if you also voted absentee back home 3 weeks earlier?
Without a national computer database to enforce and ensure compliance with voting law, the only 'next best option' is to make sure college students can't register to vote in college towns without applying for a valid state driver's license and a change of legal residency to the state in which he/she attends college.
Or else....we will be forced to rely on the trust and honesty and integrity of 18-24 year olds who are still in college.
Which do you feel more comfortable with?
Our advice to you for this upcoming election in less than 12 weeks is the same as what Bluto told Flounder after the Delta brothers destroyed the car of Flounder's brother, Fred: 'Start Drinking Heavily!'
This year is going to be that close of an election year at the presidential level.
Contributing Editor Frank Hill ran for Congress at the age of 28 and served as chief of staff for former Congressman Alex McMillan (NC-9) and Senator Elizabeth Dole (NC). He was a budget associate on the House Budget Committee for 4 years and worked on the 1994 Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform. He now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina where he does some consulting and lots of worrying about federal spending issues.