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How Bad Are Ohio's Electoral Problems?

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports on alleged voting problems in Ohio, and suggests there's more smoke than fire.

With three weeks until Election Day, partisans on both sides are once again drumming up fears that the voting process in Ohio is tilted against their side. Republicans rail about an army of fake voters; Democrats say Republicans want to disqualify newly registered voters, who are expected to favor Barack Obama.

The evidence suggests both sides have little to fear.

Inkmiser (mail):
Little to fear or not, the Buckeye Institute filed a state RICO action against ACORN today in Warren County. Warren County was one of two southwestern Ohio counties widely credited for delivering Ohio to President Bush in 2004. The Complaint can be see on the Buckeye Institute's website. It does a nice job of delineating ACORN's many escapades. I'm afraid the RICO elements are not properly pled, however.
10.14.2008 3:34pm
wooga:
How does this logic work?

#1 We've only caught a few people actually trying to cast fraudulent votes. Therefore, there are not many people out there trying to cast fraudulent votes.

#2 We are actually catching people who try to cast fraudulent votes. Therefore, it is almost impossible to get away with casting a fraudulent vote.

Neither one of those seem very sound to me. To believe either, you have to believe in the infallibility of government work. People get away with defrauding the government all the time by filling out bogus paperwork (welfare, medicaid, taxes). Why does anyone assume the Ohio Secretary of State is capable of doing something no other government official can accomplish?
10.14.2008 3:37pm
josh:
Jonathan:

Do you agree that "The evidence suggests both sides have little to fear"?
10.14.2008 3:57pm
David Warner:
Check our editorial cartoon in today's number. The Enquirer is no longer the fine paper it was 20 years ago.
10.14.2008 4:01pm
Joe1616 (mail):
The Cincinnati Enquirer is a liberal rag. If they say that both sides have little to fear, then the Republicans should be very afraid.
10.14.2008 4:02pm
Allan (mail):
This is scary.

As the country with the longest current history of democracy, one would think that we would have the vote problems licked. Maybe we do, maybe we don't.

If we have these problems, how can we expect free and fair elections in countries with less experience with free elections, i.e., Nigeria, Liberia, Iraq...
10.14.2008 4:05pm
PC:
The DOJ was tasked at ferreting out voter fraud and it found nothing. US Attorneys were fired because they couldn't find any cases of voter fraud worth prosecuting. But now that Republicans are predicted to lose in a landslide, there's a massive push to stoke fears of voter fraud.

This entire conversation is designed to delegitimize the election in the face of Republican defeat. Is there also massive polling fraud going?
10.14.2008 4:13pm
David Warner:
Link to the cartoon.

In the proud tradition of this and this.
10.14.2008 4:41pm
pbf (mail) (www):
PC - they'll come back and tell you "it's impossible to prove voting fraud, but if there's registration fraud there could be voting fraud."

You're absolutely right. This sudden eruption of allegations regarding fraudulent registration is remarkably similar to the allegations David Iglesias thought insufficient to support an indictment for election fraud. Now Mukasey has called for a special prosecutor into the U.S. Attorney firings, singling out Iglesias's case as particularly egregious. Why? According to the report setting forth the reasons for the special prosecutor (at 197): "Iglesias's removal led to serious allegations that he was dismissed for improper partisan political reasons -- namely, to influence voter fraud
prosecutions in a closely divided state or to affect the timing of a public corruption case against a prominent Democrat in order to influence the outcome of the election."
10.14.2008 4:43pm
Joe1616 (mail):
The obvious solution is to stick every voter's finger into a jar of ink like they did in Iraq. One person, one vote.
10.14.2008 4:54pm
Kate S (mail):
"The obvious solution is to stick every voter's finger into a jar of ink like they did in Iraq. One person, one vote."
Fraud is mostly committed through absentee ballots. I think absentee votes should be severely limited, counted seperately and validated against a SSN. Isabel
10.14.2008 5:06pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr:
PC, I doubt that failing to look for voter fraud would make convince Republicans that it didn't happen. The best way would be to put in simple, obvious, and innocuous measures, and advertise how harmless they are.

But no, the Democratic party is so invested in blocking any voting reform that they'd rather advertise how dangerous the existing reforms are -- thus scaring away the voters they claim to want to help.
10.14.2008 5:12pm
PC:
The obvious solution is to stick every voter's finger into a jar of ink like they did in Iraq. One person, one vote.

All the people showing up to vote as Mickey Mouse on election day can just change gloves as they hop from precinct to precinct.
10.14.2008 5:15pm
Federal Dog:
The fact that they check every registration against SSA records, then demand an ID at the polls, makes the in person procedure described in Ohio reasonably reliable. The concern, which I expressed in another thread, is in jurisdictions where those checks are not in place.

Were similar checks in place everywhere, many of the concerns expressed about the integrity of the vote would disappear. The question is why people resist -- even resorting to sustained litigation -- to contest the use of such checks, including the requirement of an ID at the polls.

No one has offered any legitimate explanation as to why reforms necessary to assure lawful registration and voting are so objectionable. Indigency is no reason: Fees (e.g., for necessary documentation) are waived in legal matters for the indigent every day. Since no legitimate reason has ever been offered for such resistance, that supports reasonable inference that its true reason is not legitimate.
10.14.2008 5:47pm
Bad (mail) (www):
The biggest problem with the way most elections are run is generally just sheer incompetence rather than malice.

"No one has offered any legitimate explanation as to why reforms necessary to assure lawful registration and voting are so objectionable."

Nonsense. The plain fact of the matter is that any extra hoop people have to jump through to vote makes it less likely that they'll bother. The end. That's what the entire fight is essentially about: the lazy people at the margins who'll take any excuse not to vote.

The reality is that we're seeing the exact opposite here of 2004, where Democrats were screaming bloody murder that the election was being stolen, and then that it was stolen. The reality is that there just isn't any evidence at all of any massive or organized effort to commit voting fraud in order to sway the election. Nor are there many real large scale cases of illegal voter suppression.

There's just an incredibly lazy electorate dealing with a crappy, poorly run system.
10.14.2008 5:58pm
Federal Dog:
"That's what the entire fight is essentially about: the lazy people at the margins who'll take any excuse not to vote."

I requested a legitimate reason.

If such people choose not to vote, they are completely within their rights to so choose. That does not mean that the system should be fundamentally compromised and made susceptible to fraud because some people choose to be too lazy to vote. Such people are not being wrongly disenfranchised: They are intentionally disenfranchising themselves by choice. Such choice is not a legitimate concern of any voting system.
10.14.2008 6:29pm
EvilDave (mail):
How long until the Democrats start to consider political assassination and legitimate tool for winning?

That is actual assassination, not just dreaming and talking incessantly about it, as they have for the last 8 years. Or, their masturbatory fantasies of Obama being assassinated (just weird).

I feel like I watching the Roman Republic die in the US while the Roman Empire falls in Europe. Except this time the barbarians crossed the Rhine from the south not the North.
10.14.2008 7:56pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
pbf and PC: Check out this article:

In it, our hero, David McKay, as US Attorney who stood up to the Bush administration on refusing to prosecute so-called voter fraud explains:

"Most of the felons who voted in the 2004 election, according to McKay, received ballots in the mail from the state of Washington. Therefore, he said, it would have been extremely difficult to prove in court that they knew it was unlawful for them to vote, but did it anyway."
10.14.2008 8:11pm
gwinje:
EvilDave,

I don't know when or if they'll resort to assassination, but if recent history is any indication, they're a lot better at being assassinated than they are at being assassins. I think McCain can look for danger in other corners.
10.14.2008 8:21pm
PC:
PDXLawyer, so some felons voted and were not prosecuted because they couldn't prove intent? It seems like Washington state needs stricter controls on its mail in ballots.
10.14.2008 8:29pm
Aleks:
Re: People get away with defrauding the government all the time by filling out bogus paperwork (welfare, medicaid, taxes).

In those cases there's personal financial advantage in the act. Fraudulent voting brings no such reward (I am assuming of course that no one is paying people to vote). In fact voting is rather a pain in the rear in some ways and I have trouble imagining there are that many masochists who would put themselves to the hassle of casting multiple ballots for nothing in return
10.14.2008 8:33pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr:
Fraudulent voting brings no such reward


It brings no consequences, either. So why not do it? And it has more reward than legit voting, since you can only vote legitimately once, and there's no legal barrier to fraudulent voting many times.
10.14.2008 8:51pm
Oren:

The obvious solution is to stick every voter's finger into a jar of ink like they did in Iraq. One person, one vote.

I would support such a thing (which would have the added benefit of allowing social pressure to shame non-voters into doing their civic duty).
10.14.2008 9:38pm
RPT (mail):
Noun-verb-Von Spakovsky Day 1. Another beneficiary of the Heritage Foundation-Fox News connection. There is a good reason the US Attorneys (or was it a DOJ publication) manual warned against publicizing such investigations this close to an election. Not satisfied with the last eight years of Deibold-ism Republicans have now constructed a built in explanation for any defeat.
10.14.2008 10:30pm
just me (mail):
No objections to blue thumbs here.

I see no reason to require a photo ID presentation to vote. You can't buy beer or cigarrettes here without a photo ID, so I am pretty sure just about everybody has an ID. I wouldn't object to providing free ID's to those who need them to vote so cost shouldn't be an issue. You need ID for all sorts of trivial things now-to the point that I have a hard time buying the idea that there are thousands and thousands of eligible voters out there who don't have one.

I think photo ID is a pretty low bar to jump over. If a person can't be bothered to jump this bar, then I really don't have a whole lot of empathy for them.

I also think prohibiting felons who have served their sentences from voting is silly. I don't see a real justification for removing this right permanently. But if they live in a state where they don't have it, maybe states should come up with a better method of screening them out so they aren't voting.

I think a good portion of the problem is ineptitude and just an inefficient system. I doubt there is real malice involved in most of this-but that isn't a reason to let it happen or throw the hands in the air and declare it acceptable since you can't fight it.

Tolerating fraud at the registration level means that somebody out there will take advantage when it comes to voting, and really it just makes the whole system look corrupted which is the last thing we need.
10.14.2008 10:59pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr:
"Noun-verb-Von Spakovsky Day 1."

I see these bursts of words, always beginning with "noun-verb" and ending with "day n", usually at the beginning of a post.

Are they intended to convey some kind of meaning? Or are they some kind of social signal?
10.14.2008 11:30pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
We're told that errors in registration don't matter, because that doesn't mean that there'll actually be illegal voting. Then we're told that actual illegal voting can't be prosecuted because it arose from errors in registration. We can't publicize investigations of illegal voting before an election, because that might look bad. And, we can't prosecute illegal voting after an election because nobody publicized before the election the fact that it was illegal. fortujnately, none of this is any indication that there is a real problem.

I think I'll put on my tinfoil hat, before my brain explodes.
10.15.2008 2:03am
David Warner:
William,

"Are they intended to convey some kind of meaning? Or are they some kind of social signal?"

It's an implicit accusation that those participating in this conversation are either McCain operatives or idiots useful thereto. As in we're supposedly just following a predetermined script.

Reminds me a little of people escaping North Korea who are stunned to discover that the outside world doesn't in fact consist of miserable automatons indoctrinated to hate North Korea.

Some of the noun-verbers haven't figured it out yet.
10.15.2008 4:52am
Federal Dog:
"Fraudulent voting brings no such reward"

That's not at all clear, especially when you consider the psychology of the thing. There are plenty of fanatics who require therapy and threaten to leave the nation when their candidate does not win. They live and breathe their political ideology, and take defeat very personally. "Derangement syndrome" has remarkable symptoms; casting more than one vote would not be among the most virulent.
10.15.2008 9:02am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Fed Dog.
Good point. Who gets to define "reward" and why should we believe him?
10.15.2008 9:10am
Oren:

I see no reason [not] to require a photo ID presentation to vote. You can't buy beer or cigarrettes here without a photo ID, so I am pretty sure just about everybody has an ID. I wouldn't object to providing free ID's to those who need them to vote so cost shouldn't be an issue.

First of all, in most states you can buy beer and cigarettes if you look older than 30. Clerks certainly don't have to card someone that clearly is in their 40s.

More pertinently, a lot more people don't have ID than you would think. Some don't even have the requisite documents required to get an ID (birth certificate, SS card). Unless you want to dedicate many man-hours of time to digging up records, calling hospitals, inquiring with HHS, getting valid ID is a non-trivial matter. The burden on these voters would certainly have the effect of discouraging or disqualifying many of them from voting.

In my opinion, the number of voters so suppressed by photo id requirements would far exceed the number of fraudulent votes prevented.

Perhaps blue ink if you don't have id?
10.15.2008 11:25am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Oren;
You have as a planted axiom that those people--unknown number--who don't have adequate ID aren't going to or can never change that status.
Wrong.
10.15.2008 11:51am
Federal Dog:
"Some don't even have the requisite documents required to get an ID (birth certificate, SS card). Unless you want to dedicate many man-hours of time to digging up records, calling hospitals, inquiring with HHS, getting valid ID is a non-trivial matter."


It all depends on how important you consider voting to be. If you consider it important, securing necessary documents, and undertaking the time and expense to furnish them to those who need them, is both necessary and proper. If you consider voting trivial, then that time and expense is unacceptable.

Voting is important, at least in my opinion. Making sure that the process is not abused by unethical and fanatical people is sufficiently important to warrant the time, effort, and expense necessary to confirm the legal status of everyone demanding to affect social policy. I consider few functions more worthy of taxpayer support than that.

My question is why some people, on one hand, loudly proclaim voting an essential right, yet refuse to protect that right by taking even minimal measures to assure its integrity.

Actually, I lie: I don't really have a question about that. The purpose of that refusal is no mystery.
10.15.2008 12:38pm
Loren (mail):
"Some don't even have the requisite documents required to get an ID (birth certificate, SS card). Unless you want to dedicate many man-hours of time to digging up records, calling hospitals, inquiring with HHS, getting valid ID is a non-trivial matter."



Well since according to federal law, an employer can't hire someone without those same sorts of documents, it seems that getting ID is critical. Employers can't fill out the (required) I-9 form without such documentation.
10.15.2008 1:17pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):
Have we reached the point where the vision of the Founders that states manage the voting process can no longer be full-filled? Should there be a national voter registration and vote casting process? Would that (a) solve these problems and (b) prevent new issues in future elections?

I don't know...just opening the topic.
10.15.2008 7:34pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
there has been voter registration fraud, but few to no instances of voter fraud.

Just because a paid signature gathering makes up names on registration forms doesn't mean that someone later uses the made up names to vote. In reality, there are few to no fraudulent votes. The reason is that the signature gatherer doesn't have any incentive to vote fraudulently but does have an incentive to gather signatures fraudulently.

The notion of massive voter fraud really just a bogeyman used by the Republican party to suppress minority votes, by getting some legitimate voters stricken from the list of voters. Unfortunately, incompetence or worse by some ACORN affiliates in turning in voter registrations simply fuels the right wing's paranoia about voter fraud.

Rove trotted out voter fraud investigations in 2006, when it looked like the Republicans were about to lose Congress, and added the twist to it of pressuring US Attorneys to "investigate" and "prosecute" such "voter fraud" in close electoral races, such as Washington State and New Mexico. So, now the same tactics are being reprised in Ohio, which was fairly closely contested between Obama and McCain. Next, we should expect to see "voter integrity" programs, like used in Florida, to purge legitimate voters from the list of eligible voters.

Personally, I think the Democrats should give in on the requirement that voters must show a photo ID to vote. In fact, I would mandate a national ID card for every citizen in the country, to be issued free of charge at birth, and updated when you turn 18 years old, and are eligible to vote. The ID card could be used as a passport, and facilitate border, airport and overall security. I see no problems with such a requirement, and many pluses, but I know some libertarians are concerned about this idea and have opposed it in the past. Larry Ellison would love such a card, so long as it involved using a massive database that he could sell the software for. Thoughts?
10.16.2008 11:38pm