Dec. 13, 2000
In waging his contest of the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore's
mantra is Make Every Vote Count (except the votes of servicemen). But
Gore's pious platitude should be subject to qualifications.
We want to count only one vote per person. We want to count only
votes cast by citizens eligible to vote. We want to count only ballots
containing votes that can be objectively read, not votes that permit
election officials to speculate about or "discern" (in David Boies's
word) what may have been in the voter's mind.
We do not want to count phantom votes or re-created votes. And,
of course, we want a scrupulously honest count monitored by observers
from both political parties.
It's long overdue for the American people and the media to focus
on the inefficient voting systems used in most of the country which
produce error rates in excess of automatic recount thresholds, plus so
many possiblities for cheating with so little risk.
We need a system that does not permit the counting of phantom
votes, i.e., (1) votes by people who have died, or moved away, or don't
exist, or claim invalid addresses (such as abandoned public housing
units or warehouses), (2) votes for which there is no paper trail to
verify that they were legally cast, and (3) voting machine counters
showing more votes than there are names of eligible voters on the
We need a system that screens out illegal voters, i.e., (1) votes
by illegal aliens (apparently a commonplace practice in California),
(2) votes by felons (the Miami Herald is reporting that up to 5,000
felons may have illegally voted in Florida including hundreds in Palm
Beach County), (3) votes by persons who are allowed to vote without
signing the voter registration application, and (4) votes by persons
whose signature does not match the signature on the precinct register.
We need a system that does not permit the counting of re-created
votes, i.e., (1) permitting election officials to "discern" the votes
of those who failed to vote properly by trying to imagine what was
going on in the voter's mind, a mystical reading of chad (like tea
leaves) using constantly shifting standards, and (2) votes by the
mentally incapacitated or people in nursing homes who are voted (note
the passive tense of the verb) by the practice of "assistance voting"
with "help" from a partisan campaign worker.
We need a system that does not permit multiple voting, i.e., (1)
by persons driven from precinct to precinct to cast several or even
dozens of phantom votes, and (2) by college students who vote at their
college location and absentee from their homes, too.
We need a system with absolute security at all times to guard the
ballots and the voting machines, with guaranteed observation by both
parties of the setting and reading of the counters.
Here are the bare essentials to reform the way votes are currently
cast and counted. (1) Registration at least 30 days prior to an
election should be mandatory for all voters in order to check proof of
residence and citizenship, and to give election clerks time to delete
obsolete registrations from other jurisdictions.
Same-day registration, allowed by some states, is an open
invitation to fraud. Likewise for the 1993 federal Motor Voter Act,
which allows people to register to vote by mail for federal elections
on forms that can be picked up at any government office.
(2) On Election Day, every voter should be required to show a
picture I.D. and a voter registration card with a bar code that is
scanned into a computer for verification, and should sign with a
signature that matches the one given at the time of registration.
(3) Before every election, all registration lists should be
systematically purged of all persons who have died, moved away or been
convicted. In the computer age, there is no excuse for not doing this.
If machines are used, they should kick out a paper receipt so the
voter can verify that his vote was properly recorded and so that a
paper record is available for a recount. The rules for absentee voting
and assistance voting should be substantially tightened.
Voting by mail should be prohibited because it destroys the
secrecy of the ballot. Internet voting should never be permitted
because of its susceptibility to manifold fraud.
The protections against vote fraud should be as detailed and tough
as the protections every bank takes to protect our money. We should
make cheating as difficult and dangerous as robbing a bank.
The whole process of self government is at stake if we can't rely
on the integrity of the ballot box. What can "one man one vote" or
"count every vote" possibly mean if our votes aren't honestly counted -
- or if our votes are diluted by phantom or illegal votes?