Politics & Policy

The Ghosts of Voters Past

A new study shows that fraud is a real problem in American elections.

While Democrats dismiss vote fraud as a collective Republican hallucination, a study released Tuesday by the Pew Center for the States confirms the GOP’s concerns. The ghosts in America’s voting machines may be the least of our worries.

Pew has discovered that 1.8 million dead Americans are registered to vote. Perhaps worse, 2.75 million Americans are enrolled in two states each, while 68,725 are signed up in three. Indeed, Pew found, “24 million — one of every eight — active voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate.”

This is just what America needs in an election year.

#ad#The U.S. boasts atomic weapons and an election apparatus worthy of Laos. More charitably, Pew states that America’s electoral systems “are plagued with errors and inefficiencies that waste taxpayer dollars, undermine voter confidence, and fuel partisan disputes over the integrity of our elections. Voter registration in the United States largely reflects its 19th-century origins and has not kept pace with advancing technology and a mobile society. States’ systems must be brought into the 21st century to be more accurate, cost-effective, and efficient.”

Americans are highly peripatetic, with civilians and GIs moving among their parents’ homes, college dorms, military bases, and large houses in boom times, and returning to modest dwellings when things go bust. Amid this tumult, some people vanish from the rolls while others wind up registered in multiple locations. While most are innocents in these situations, this confusion also invites and facilitates abuse.

Exacerbating this mess, Pew finds, America’s “antiquated, paper-based system remains costly and inefficient.” Oregon and Wyoming spend about $4.00 to register and manage each active voter. Canada, in contrast, uses modern, private-sector name-matching techniques to process registrations. Cost: 35 cents each.

For its part, President Obama’s Justice Department exacerbates these problems.

As former federal prosecutor J. Christian Adams explains in his superb book Injustice, Section 8 of the Motor Voter Act “requires voter rolls to be kept free of dead and ineligible voters.” As Justice attorneys were poised to investigate eight states rife with non-living and otherwise unqualified voters, top Obama appointees balked.

Adams heard Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes tell headquarters staffers in November 2009: “We have no interest in enforcing this provision of the law. It has nothing to do with increasing turnout, and we are just not going to do it.”

Meanwhile, as prosecutors at Justice’s Voting Section literally play computer solitaire and watch YouTube, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission reported in June 2009 that in North Dakota, registered voters totaled 101.6 percent of the voting-age population. In Michigan, that figure was 101.9 percent; in Alaska, 102.2 percent; and in Maine, 103.9 percent. Alarms should wail when there are more registered voters in a jurisdiction than eligible adults. Instead, Justice’s snooze buttons are busier than ever.

South Carolina’s attorney general determined last month that 953 people “were deceased at the time of their participation in recent elections.” Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler compared voter rolls and drivers’-license records. Last March 8, he determined that “it is likely that many of the 4,947 voters were not citizens when they cast their vote in 2010.”

These problems vindicate efforts, primarily by Republicans, to require photo ID at the polls. Such rules will slow or stop those who try to cast ballots on behalf of deceased Americans. Citizens who lack ID cards should get them for free. Such a requirement will be far less inconvenient than another presidential-election fiasco fueled by posthumous voters.

Another solution: A company called Catalist assisted Pew’s research. Catalist, Pew notes, “applies a complex matching process to combine and analyze data to verify or update records of voters.” States should hire Catalist to update and oversee their election procedures.

As voters choose this nation’s leaders this year, America deserves better than an electoral system reminiscent of the McKinley administration. 

New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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