Politics & Policy

Election Deceptions

Our vote-fraud problem.

Here’s the first question for tonight’s election-fun quiz as you wait impatiently for the early results: Which candidate would the September 11 terrorists have voted for if they had survived their own attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center?

You think that an unfair and monstrous question? Not really. As John Fund of the Wall Street Journal has pointed out in his recent book,–Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy–eight of the nineteen hijackers could have registered to vote in Virginia and Florida while they were planning their attacks.

They were not U.S. citizens, admittedly. They were not even in America legally, having over-stayed their visas. And they certainly did not have the best interests of the nation at heart. But they could have turned up at the voting booth today–and it would have been an offense in 33 states for anyone to ask for evidence either of their identity or of their citizenship.

If an election official had been foolhardy enough to do so, lawyers for the Democratic National Committee, activist groups for the poor like ACORN, ethnic pressure groups like La Raza, and the impartial non-partisan media would have been crying “voter suppression” and demanding the official be punished. A judge would have restored their names to the register. The official would have been bound over not to repeat his discriminatory actions. And nothing at all unusual would have happened.

In recent years voter fraud has been a major problem in American elections. It has got steadily worse since President Clinton signed the “Motor Voter” Act that made voter registration virtually automatic while removing most safeguards against electoral fraud. Last time around, for instance, several thousand New Yorkers registered themselves twice–once at home and a second time in Florida.

But human “snowbirds” are the least of the problem. According to Karen Saranita of the Institute for Fair Elections in California, people have registered their dogs and cats to vote. (Dogs lean Democrat; cats are rock-ribbed Republicans–but I think I already knew that.)

Illegal immigrants too have cast votes in large numbers. One illegal immigrant (the assassin of a Mexican presidential candidate as it happens) registered himself twice in California–showing, you might think, a highly consistent attitude towards electoral democracy. And several U.S. electoral districts this time around have more registered voters in them than people over the age of eighteen.

Someone was bound to notice this sort of thing eventually. Rich Lowry, wrote a powerful expose of voter fraud in the 1996 Louisiana Senate election. The then Attorney General Janet Reno was able to cover it up by ordering the FBI not to help a congressional investigation into the fraud on the grounds that since the Democrats refused to help investigate themselves, the investigation was not bipartisan.

Still, the sheer scale of electoral fraud in recent years has revived interest. Several new books deal with it. In addition to Fund’s book, there is If It’s Not Close, They Can’t Cheat by Hugh Hewitt, the talk-show host. And a number of websites keep a careful check of reports of voter fraud around the country. Bill Hobbs of Hobbsonline.com currently lists 64 instances of suspected voter fraud from Ohio to Colorado.

What emerges from these various sources is that voter fraud is both easy to commit–and easy to stop. It consists of several very simple deceptions:

1. Non-citizens or illegal aliens voting when they legally ineligible to do so.

2. Eligible voters voting twice or more, some by registering as themselves in several districts, others by impersonating other voters.

3. Registering nonexistent voters, e.g., the dead, and then sending others to the polls in their name.

4. Tampering with the ballot boxes, destroying votes, and inserting false votes between the polling and the counting.

Most of these frauds, however, could be prevented by one straightforward reform: requiring all potential voters to present evidence of their identity and evidence of their citizenship before being given a ballot paper.

Curiously enough, however, this straightforward reform has not been passed despite the brouhaha over Florida in 2000. Still more curiously, “reforms” to make fraud easier to commit and harder to prevent have been passed in response to Florida 2000. And most curious of all, where the legislators have somehow failed to make fraud easier to commit, the courts have stepped in to do so–only last week two federal judges ruled that laws allowing political-party “challengers” to check the honesty of voting were unconstitutional–imagine that!

It is considered very poor political etiquette to explain this apparent perversity. But the reason (as even non-partisan experts admit in the privacy of seminars) is that voter fraud disproportionately benefits the Democrats and their political allies in left-wing activist groups and ethnic lobbies. Voter fraud tends to be easier to commit in one party districts and in inner cities–and those tend to be strongly Democratic districts.

Of course, voter fraud does not happen simply because it is easy. The truth is that Democrats believe that illegal aliens, non-citizens, citizens who lack enough interest in politics to register, and even convicted felons ineligible to vote are likely to be in their column. So on Election Day the cry goes out from the local Democrat HQ: “Round up the usual suspects–and drive them to the voting booth.”

Then, whenever any attempt to expose or halt voter fraud is attempted, someone like Maria Cardona of the Democratic National Committee will step forward to claim that “ballot security and preventing voter fraud are just code words for voter intimidation and suppression.” A civil rights leader will throw in a reference to Jim Crow. A spokesman for La Raza will add that asking for evidence of citizenship from all potential voters mysteriously discriminates against Hispanics. And a federal judge will rule that any doubtful votes should be counted first and maybe examined later.

Three weeks ago the Kerry-Edwards campaign went a step further and suggested that local Democrats should “launch a pre-emptive strike” and allege that the GOP was practicing voter intimidation even when they were unable to trump up any evidence at all–just to be on the safe side, so to speak. The leaflet also suggested that they should recruit a local “civil rights’ leader to repeat these charges. Challenged by the press, a Democratic spokesman explained that since the Republicans were always intimidating voters anyway, this was a perfectly reasonable precaution to take.

The fact–a fact that no GOP spokesman has had the courage to say straight out–is that allegations of voter intimidation are intended to protect voter fraud. Allegations of racism and discrimination are designed to prevent anyone objecting to voter fraud. Legal battles to bar party challengers from the polling booths are mounted to make voter fraud safe, legal and common.

This Democratic cynicism is a harbinger of things to come. The Democrats are said to have 10,000 lawyers already stationed around the nation to handle these battles over fraud and intimidation. (The Republicans have almost as many.) If today produces a landslide in either direction, not much will happen. But if it is another cliff-hanger, then every close state result will be thrown to the courts to decide.

Elections would then be decided not by the voters but by lawyers–just like almost everything else in America. And unless Congress passes the simple reform suggested above to restore honest elections, the rule of judges would result not in honest democracy but simply in a more sophisticated version of voter fraud in which the lawyers decide which votes count and which don’t behind a screen of smoke and mirrors.

My first question, incidentally, may have been inaccurately phrased. Given that one of the most common techniques of voter fraud is to cast votes on behalf of the dead, maybe I should have written: Which candidate did the September 11 terrorists vote for today?

There are no prizes for guessing the right answer.

John O’Sullivan is the editor of The National Interest and editor at large of National Review. He can be contacted through Benador Associates at www.benadorassociates.com..


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