Thursday, October 07, 2004
Joel L. at Southern Appeal has an interesting note on election fraud. I posted the following in comments, then thought it would make a nice post here.
I have long worried about the abuse of election laws to undermine confidence in our system. Frankly, this is an area of law about which I am starting to educate myself, not only for personal edification and professional opportunity, but also to be able to offer assistance to counterbalance these types of attacks.
I have long believed our system, which has remained essentially unchanged for over a century, is in need of serious reform. My thoughts for reform have centered around better, more secure voter identification and ballot integrity.
I'd like to see a voter identification card that requires as much information and documentation to get as an American passport. The ideal card would have a photo identification, plus a thumbprint scan, and would be required by law before a voter could cast a vote for any candidate for federal office. Once swiped at the polling place, it would register that you had been given a ballot in that election.
For absentee ballots, you would have to appear with the ID at the county election supervisor in the county in which you resided. That supervisor would have the sole authority to request your home state provide an absentee ballot for you. Once you received the ballot, you would be required to mark your votes and seal the ballot in a manila return envelope. That envelope would be sealed by the same county election supervisor (or his proxy) and forwarded to your home state for counting.
Citizens overseas would be required to do the same thing, except they would be required to appear at the nearest American embassy or consulate.
Active duty military personnel deployed overseas would be required to undergo a similar process, only using their military identification and providing ballots to an appropriate military coordinator who would have the responsibility of forwarding the ballots to each soldier's home state.
Would that eliminate all voter fraud? No, but it would reduce it.
I also think we ought to be vigorously prosecuting those suspected of illegal voting or other types of election fraud. Those involved in the dual registration problems (New York and Florida) who cast ballots in both states should be prosecuted and stiffly punished. Involvement in election fraud should carry, in addition to any monetary fine or prison time, a lifetime ban on voting or holding any elected or appointed political position. Extreme? Maybe -- but undermining our very democracy by calling the results of elections into question merits the penalty.
The problem with voter fraud is that once you undermine faith in election results, you undermine people's reluctance to engage in or condone those acts (because everyone else is doing it). Swift and severe punishment, combined with very tight restrictions on access to the polls, would serve to shore up our system.