Our nation may be on the brink of repeating the 2000 Florida
election debacle, but this time in several states, with allegations of
voter fraud, intimidation and flawed voting machines added to the
generalized chaos that sent Bush v. Gore to the Supreme Court for
"If you think of election problems as akin to forest fires, the
woods are no drier than they were in 2000, but many more people have
matches," says Doug Chapin, editor of the nonpartisan Electionline.org.
The real battle that could decide this election may be fought by
the squadrons of lawyers both sides have hired to prepare Florida-style
challenges to the results in any close state. Once again, America's
sloppy, fraud-prone voting system could turn Election Day into an
Election Month of court challenges.
Election lawsuits are already piling up. A new federal mandate
requires that all voters be allowed to cast a provisional ballot if
their names don't appear on registration lists. Liberal groups are
suing to have such ballots counted even if they are cast in precincts
where the voter doesn't live. If the number of provisional ballots
exceeds the margin of victory in the Senate race, you can bet lawyers
will argue that "every vote must count," regardless of eligibility.
Candidates may have to hope their vote totals are beyond the "margin of
The issue of photo ID has become symbolic of the clash of values on
election standards. Supporters say it is bizarre that most states don't
require a photo ID to vote, at a time when one is needed to buy an
airline ticket, rent a video or cash a check. A Rasmussen Research poll
found 82% of Americans believed voters should show photo ID, including
70% of Obama voters. But liberal groups insist that even laws that
allow voters to use a paycheck or utility bill as ID discriminate
against minority voters and could lead to "profiling."
But when voters are disfranchised by the counting of improperly
cast ballots or outright fraud, their civil rights are violated just as
surely as if they were prevented from voting. The integrity of the
ballot box is just as important to the credibility of elections as
access to it.
Political bosses such as Richard Daley or George Wallace may have
died, but they have successors. Party machines in Hawaii and south
Texas intimidate critics and journalists as they harvest votes from
illegal aliens and the dead. A left-wing "community organizing" group
called ACORN has seen its employees frequently convicted of voter
registration fraud. This year its employees are under active
investigation in several states. Perhaps one reason for ACORN's
go-for-broke behavior is that Barack Obama
used to be a lawyer and top trainer for the group. In August, the Obama
campaign was caught misidentifying an $800,000 payment it had made to
an ACORN subsidiary for "election services."
Even after Florida 2000, the media tend to downplay or ignore
stories of election incompetence, manipulation or theft. Allowing such
abuses to vanish into an informational black hole in effect legitimizes
them. Should "anything goes" continue to accepted as an election
standard, voters may wake up to a crisis even bigger than the 2000
Florida folly. Perhaps then it will demand to know why more wasn't done
to fix the system before it failed again. That's why officials need to
enforce whatever safeguards we have this year - and then lobby hard for
better voter education and protections against fraud in the future.