Politics & Policy

The Election Chaos Act of 2005

Hillary Clinton wants to ditch the rules.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the March 28, 2005, issue of National Review.

“We have spent a lot of time and American lives and money to secure the right to vote in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters on February 17. “We have to do everything we can to ensure that all voters have a reasonable opportunity to register and cast their vote, without becoming the victims of deceptive practices, fear, or intimidation.”

That might sound like an entirely reasonable sentiment, except that Mrs. Clinton did not, in fact, utter those two sentences consecutively. Although she briefly recognized that democracy is on the move around the world, her expression of concern about deceptive practices, fear, and intimidation came at another point in her remarks. And she wasn’t talking about obstacles to voting in Afghanistan or Iraq. She was talking about the United States.

Senator Clinton’s speech came as she introduced–along with fellow Democratic senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer–legislation called the “Count Every Vote Act of 2005.” The bill might best be characterized as the ultimate wish-list of Democrats who believe that rumored voting irregularities in Ohio cost the party the White House in 2004. Although its stated purpose is to “count every vote,” its actual effect would be to make it impossible for polling-place officials to determine which votes should be counted and which should not.

Take, for example, a provision requiring states to allow anyone to register to vote on Election Day itself, and then vote, and then “have that vote counted in the same manner as a vote cast by an eligible voter who properly registered during the regular registration period.” That would give state officials virtually no time to determine whether an applicant was in fact eligible to vote.

Then there is the provision requiring states to “accept and process a voter registration application for an election for federal office unless there is a material omission or information that specifically affects the eligibility of a voter.” The bill specifies that an applicant’s failure to provide a Social Security number, a driver’s-license number, or any proof of citizenship may not be considered a “material omission,” that is, may not be used to judge whether the applicant is eligible to vote. In fact, it is not clear what–other than, say, not knowing one’s own name–would constitute a “material omission” under the Clinton standard. In any event, a person who is not registered, who is not a citizen, and who has no identification would be able to show up at a polling place and register and vote.

Another feature liable to abuse is the provision requiring states to allow anyone to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in the state, regardless of where that person may–or may not–be registered to vote. That could allow someone who is not registered to cast provisional ballots at as many poll locations around the state as he could physically visit in a day…

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Byron York is a former White House correspondent for National Review.

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