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Sorry, I Can’t Find Your Name October 24, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Electoral Fraud, John McCain, U.S. Election 2008.
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by: The New York Times | Editorial

 

    Before Mississippi’s March presidential primary, one county election official improperly removed more than 8,000 voters from the eligible-voter rolls, including a Republican Congressional candidate. Fortunately, the secretary of state’s office learned of the purge in time and restored the voters.

    It’s disturbing that a single official (who acted after mailings to voters were returned) could come so close to disenfranchising thousands of voters. But voting rolls, which are maintained by local election officials, are one of the weakest links in American democracy and problems are growing.

    Some of these problems are no doubt the result of honest mistakes, but in far too many cases they appear to be driven by partisanship. While there are almost no examples in recent memory of serious fraud at the polls, Republicans have been pressing for sweeping voter purges in many states. They have also fought to make it harder to enroll new voters. Voting experts say there could be serious problems at the polls on Nov. 4.

    When voters die or move to a new address, or when duplicate registrations are found, a purge is necessary to uphold the integrity of the rolls. New registrations must also be properly screened so only eligible voters get added. The trouble is that these tasks generally occur in secret, with no chance for voters or their advocates to observe or protest when mistakes are made.

    A number of states – including the battleground state of Florida – have adopted no match, no vote rules. Voters can be removed from the rolls if their names do not match a second list, such as a Social Security or driver’s license database. But (like the U.S. mail) lists of this kind are notoriously mistake-filled, and one typo can cause a no match. In Ohio, Republicans recently sued the secretary of state, demanding that she provide local officials with a dubious match list. As many as 200,000 new voters could have been blocked from casting ballots. The Supreme Court rejected the suit, but Republicans are still looking for ways to use the list on Election Day.

    Congress and the states need to develop clear and accurate rules for purges and new-voter verification that ensure that eligible voters remain on the rolls – and make it much harder for partisans to game the system. These rules should be public, and voters who are disqualified should be notified and given ample time before Election Day to reverse the decision.

    For this election, voters need to be prepared to fight for their right to cast a ballot. They should try to confirm before Nov. 4 that they are on the rolls – something that in many states can be done on a secretary of state or board of elections Web site. If their state permits it, they should vote early. Any voter who finds that their name has disappeared from the rolls will then have time to challenge mistakes.

    If voters find on Election Day that their names are not on the rolls, they should contact a voters’ rights group like Election Protection, at 1-866-OUR-VOTE, or a political campaign, which can advocate for them. They should not, except as a last resort, cast a provisional ballot, since it is less likely to be counted.

    There is a desperate need for reform of the way voting rolls are kept. Until then, election officials, voting rights advocates and voters must do everything they can to ensure that all eligible voters are allowed to vote.

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