View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Friday, October 15, 2004

A Citizen's Guide to Voter Fraud 

This morning, the two Denver papers have a total of 8 stories, plus at least one opinion column, on the issue of voter fraud. Most of the press coverage, though, is focused on registration fraud. I don't the time to pick apart Susan Greene's hit piece on the Secretary of State, or conspiracy-mongering by Democrats. Or ACORN's apparent inability to learn from its mistakes.

It's time to move from registration fraud to the potential for voter fraud. The AG's office is correct when they say that 40 registrations doesn't give a citizen the voting power of his whole neighborhood. So how do we move from registration fraud to actually upsetting a close election?

A large part of the threat is volume. There are now about three different streams of hand-counted ballots: 1) absentees, 2) provisionals taged under HAVA, where the existence of the registration needs to be checked, and 3) the same-day registrants, where the voter registration information needs to be confirmed.

If Common Cause wins, people who've requested absentee ballots will also be able to cast provisional ballots. So there's yet another form of cross-checking that has to happen.

They're expecting hundreds of thousands of each, at this point, which is going to make proper transcribing and recording difficult, even if we assume that everyone's honest, but tired. The Adams County Clerk admitted as much in an article in the Rocky the other day. (I have no idea what the rules are for poll-watchers at the clerk's office for the counting of provo and absentee ballots.) The possibility of a couple of clerks getting punchy and losing sight of what they're doing is probably greater here than any organized systemic vote-stealing, at least this year. But if we re-institutionalize massive hand-counting, we re-introduce all the pencil-lead-under-the-fingernail stuff that $10 million electronic ATM voting machines are supposed to eliminate.

Bleary-eyed clerks in the Colorado county with the most voters are spending nights and weekends inspecting hundreds of scrawled signatures and splotchy Social Security numbers in an attempt to head off massive voter fraud in Colorado....

The checks are time-consuming and tedious. And the onslaught of voter registration applications and applicants for absentee ballots is straining the office as never before, Miller said. The office is handling 107,000 absentee-ballot requests on top of a jump of 10,000 new voter registrations in less than a month.

"I have never seen anything like this," said [Susan] Miller, [the county's director of elections], a Jefferson County clerk for 15 years.

This is just for registration. Provisional and absentee ballots will be processed under much greater time pressure.

But wait, there's more!

By definition you can show up and vote provisionally without id. Election judges are not always from the precinct they're judging, which means they don't know the people involved. (I'll be an election judge at South High School, where I know no one.) It would be easy to show up and vote as yourself, regularly, and as your neighbor, provisionally. Then when your neighbor shows up, he has to vote provisionally since there's already a record of his having voted. The clerks now have 12 days to figure whose ballot is real. (This is the hypothetical that the judge kept throwing out at the hearing.)

If Common Cause wins, you won't need ID to vote regularly, meaning someone could pull this trick a few times, and there won't even be a paper trail. Your neighbor could still vote provisionally, but even if they decided he really was who he said, the clerk couldn't undo the fraudulent ballot.

Finally, there's the issue of HAVA-tagged voters. You can register by mail without any ID, but if you're a first-time voter, that registration will be "tagged" under HAVA. To vote even provisionally, you'll need ID. But the last four digits of your SSN suffice to remove the tag (and are considered ID by mail). The county clerks have no way of checking those numbers effectively. So it's possible to register and vote for the first time without ever showing ID.

Clerks don't validate any of this information, although they do check to make sure that the address exists in their county. They do check for duplicate information, meaning name/address/birthday combo. But someone could use similar names with different birthdates. The Post Office will almost certainly deliver those registration cards. ("Harsanyi" doesn't have this problem, but when I first moved here, I lived in the same apartment complex, not even the same building, as a Boris Sharf. I got his mail often enough that I went by to make sure he wasn't getting my paychecks. Even now, when I've moved and he's died, I occasionaly get mail for his widow, Sima, who's also moved.)

After the election, all this may be checked, on the way to the statewide computerized list, but then it's too late. The Secretary of State testified that once a ballot is turned into a vote and "cast into the stream," as he put it, there's no way to retrieve it. This is good for privacy, but it makes prosecutions harder.

The fact that some forms of ID are merely name-address identifiers without pictures, like a utility bill, where several names can be listed, probably adds permutations that I don't have time to ferret out. Again, watch the large apartment buildings are probably vulnerable to an attack this way, somehow.

As for absentee ballots, if you are already registered, you can change your registration without any ID, just a signature, by mail. Obviously, you can also change your neighbor's registration by mail, without ID. And the mailing address for the absentee ballot can be a PO Box. Or you could change his residence to a new precinct, or new address. He'll be notified, but there's a good chance he'll throw that out with all the other junk mail, 4 or 5 months out. Or that he won't bother to or be able to make the correction.

I would guess that that's the intent of some of the registrations that have been showing up with offices and PO Boxes. First-time voters can't vote absentee, so it won't work, but then, criminals try to pay for things with $40 bills, too.

Bottom line: we have all sorts of ad-hoc rules for all sorts of contingencies, but no system. A quick meeting with the county clerks isn't going to create a system, just unified rules.

Blogarama - The Blog Directory
help Israel
axis of weevils
contact us
site sections