Voting Fraud Fears Grow (Update)

The previous two presidential elections suffered from severe problems in the voting process, whether it be loose chads or malfunctioning computer screens. Voters are now concerned about the possibility of not only voter problems, but voter-fraud throughout the country, and politics abound over each individual accusation.

In the swing-state West Virginia, six people who voted early complained that their votes were switched from Democrat to Republican by the machines.

According to Paul Nyden of the West Virginia Gazette, October 18, 2008:

WINFIELD, W.Va. — Three Putnam County voters say electronic voting machines changed their votes from Democrats to Republicans when they cast early ballots last week.

This is the second West Virginia county where voters have reported this problem. Last week, three voters in Jackson County told The Charleston Gazette their electronic vote for “Barack Obama” kept flipping to “John McCain”.

In both counties, Republicans are responsible for overseeing elections. Both county clerks said the problem is isolated.

They also blamed voters for not being more careful.

“People make mistakes more than machines,” said Jackson County Clerk Jeff Waybright.

About 1.5% of the votes in the region. The Putnam Count Clerk Brian Wood is concerned that these isolated incidents may be misinterpreted as voter fraud rather than voting errors.

Jackson County Clerk Jeff Waybright, a Republican, said 400 other people voted without reporting any problems.

Wood said he and Waybright are both very careful to guarantee people’s votes are recorded properly.

Wood said, “Voting machines are very reliable. I hate the fact that stories like this are printed. It makes everybody get scared.

“That is not good for anybody. Where the fault is, I don’t know and the voter doesn’t know. There needs to be good communication between the voters and the poll workers.”

Wood offered this advice to voters: “The best way to solve this whole problem is that before you leave the voting booth, make sure on the review screen that everybody you want to vote for is checked.”

More than 1,000 voters from 48 local precincts in Putnam County cast early ballots in the past three days, Wood said. Putnam County has 36,000 registered voters.

Another swing-state- Colorado, is suffering from voting problems as well. Myung Oak Kim of the Rocky Mountain News reported on October 16 that Colorado is one of the least prepared states to handle electronic voting failures on Election day.

The report said Colorado had decent rules regarding post-election audits and verifying ballot counts. But it criticized the fact that two counties – Jefferson and Arapahoe – still use electronic machines that don’t have paper records. That means that if the software malfunctions and votes are lost, there’s no way to recover those votes. A state law will require that all e-voting terminals have paper records by January 2010.

Colorado was among 10 states identified as the least prepared for e-voting problems. The others are Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

Akin to the recent complaints about Association for Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a GOP voter registration recruiter was arrested in California for voter fraud. This highly inflammatory subject has led to strident political reactions from the Republican Party, who accuse the Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D) of manipulating events for political gains. Drew Zahn of the WorldNetDaily, reports on October 20, 2008:

The arrest of a GOP voter registration recruiter on the eve of California’s registration deadline has outraged the state’s Republicans, who now say California’s secretary of state, a Democrat, timed the arrest to distract the public from ACORN’s voter fraud scandals.

Mark Jacoby, 25, was arrested this weekend for allegedly falsifying his own voter registration by fraudulently claiming his parents’ Los Angeles County address so he could legally gather voter signatures in California.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office alleges Jacoby did not live at the address, thereby perjuring himself and committing a felony for falsely claiming voter eligibility. If convicted, Jacoby faces up to 3 years in prison.

Hector Barajas, communications director for the California Republican Party, however, told WND that the charges are bogus, claiming that while Jacoby travels the nation working on voter registrations, his childhood home is still his home.

Concerns over voter fraud will mount as we approach Election Day and different organizations such as Citizens for a Fair Vote Count have taken it upon themselves to monitor and report problems throughout the country. In one example, Wired Blogs has set itself up as a reporting site for voter problems. The site has asked for people submit their complaints to them at vote@wired.com.

How concerned are you about the safety and security of your vote?

Update by Nate

An interesting, and somewhat scary story from the Washington Post:

Thousands of voters across the country must reestablish their eligibility in the next three weeks in order for their votes to count on Nov. 4, a result of new state registration systems that are incorrectly rejecting them.

The challenges have led to a dozen lawsuits, testy arguments among state officials and escalating partisan battles. Because many voters may not know that their names have been flagged, eligibility questions could cause added confusion on Election Day, beyond the delays that may come with a huge turnout.

The scramble to verify voter registrations is happening as states switch from locally managed lists of voters to statewide databases, a change required by federal law and hailed by many as a more efficient and accurate way to keep lists up to date.

But in the transition, the systems are questioning the registrations of many voters when discrepancies surface between their registration information and other official records, often because of errors outside voters’ control.

The issue made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which yesterday blocked a challenge to 200,000 Ohio voters whose registration data conflicted with other state records.

It is impossible to know how many voters are affected nationwide. There are no reports of large-scale problems in Virginia, Maryland or the District, but the trouble is cropping up in many states.

In Alabama, scores of voters are being labeled as convicted felons on the basis of incorrect lists.

Michigan must restore thousands of names it illegally removed from voter rolls over residency questions, a judge ruled this week.

Tens of thousands of voters could be affected in Wisconsin. Officials there admit that their database is wrong one out of five times when it flags voters, sometimes for data discrepancies as small as a middle initial or a typo in a birth date. When the six members of the state elections board — all retired judges — ran their registrations through the system, four were incorrectly rejected because of mismatches.

As the gateway to voting, the new registration lists have become the focus of attention from many fronts, including voting rights advocates, officials concerned about fraud and political campaigns looking for an advantage.

It is “this season’s big issue,” said Wendy R. Weiser, who directs voting rights projects for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law, noting that efforts to keep names off the lists are “a new trend, not in the majority of states but in the battleground states.”

The changes stem from the Help America Vote Act, passed by Congress in 2002 in the aftermath of the deadlocked presidential race two years earlier. The law provided millions of dollars for states to upgrade voting equipment and procedures, and to create the centralized databases, which allow voters in most states to check their registrations and polling places on the Internet.

The electronic lists have been coming online gradually, and for 31 states, this will be the first time they are used in a presidential election.

It seems to me that with the fear of voter fraud, states may have swung too far the other way which is now causing the opposite problem of certain voters getting mixed up on the wrong list.

More on this as it develops with these early voting states…

  • I am not exactly sure. I just walked in my door, coming from voting early in Pinellas County, Florida. Here we have gone from computerized voting, back to a paper ballot that is filled in with black ink and scanned into a computer.

    If there is a blank spot let on your ballot then the computer spits it back out and tells you there is an error. This appear to be a good enough idea. I would feel even more comfortable if it gave me a small print out with my name on it, showing what I voted for/against and which candidates that I chose. This way I would have further documentation of my vote in case there is another Florida Screw Up.

    I am always a bit skeptical when it comes to votes being tampered with. With computers, there is always a very simple way to tamper which votes. Without computers, people are also very capable of discarding votes, especially when there is no proof given to the voter that he or she voted and for who/what.

    All we can do is “Hope” everything goes well.

  • IndiMinded

    I think it should be obvious that there are problems with electronic voting machines to anyone really paying attention. At Rice university, computer science students are being challenged to subtly tamper with the voting machine’s programming as part of a classroom project.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081007102851.htm

    I’ll bet that a certain amount of cheating has probably occurred in every election in American history – call me cynical, I just believe that there will always be some people on both sides ready and willing to take any advantage they can get. But with these machines I expect it would be much easier to pull off massive fraud through subtle means.

    I think they’re real bad news.

  • Babs

    Kendale, we also use the same method in Georgia, paper ballots fed into the computer. I don’t think there’s any better way to do it, because if the computer results are questioned, you still have the paper ballots to recount and verify.

    Reports out of Ohio this morning are that thousands of possibly illegal registrants have already cast their ballots. I’m predicting that this will be a close race (no surprise), and that the loser will cry foul before the last vote is tallied. It’s going to be a mess.

  • Babs, what bewilders me is that why don’t all supervisors of elections require valid state identification to vote?

    Here, we have to show valid state identification. They enter out name into a computer which then gives a printout with our information which is placed on our very own personalized ballot.

    This is such a kindergarten simple way to prevent fake people from voting, and people from voting more than once. It’s as if certain precinct COUNT on voting fraud. Sounds like this is a job for the federal government to initiate a federal mandate on voting laws. All people voting must have valid ID.

  • Jessica

    It seems like this guy Homer is having the same problem in Springfield.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtwZSF7uQLw

    Seriously though, it is frustrating that this kind of thing has to happen. I have to wonder if there have been presidents (or or other elected officials) who won b/c of problems like this. In a best-case scenario, each sides’ mistaken/fraudulent votes would cancel the other out and the person would the most “real” votes would win. You would think after all these years, someone would finally get it right, at least in terms of machines or whatnot. Fraud is something that is pretty much impossible to monitor, but the process can continue to be improved. Instead, it seems to almost be going backwards.

  • Vote fraud in any form disgusts me. Whether it be ACORN, electronic malfunctions, or election workers on either side, it disgusts me.

    Voting should be fair and free from error.

    Michael, thanks for bringing these stories to light, I hadn’t seen that one on West Virginia yet.

  • Stalin

    I hope that California Secretary of State Debra Bowen goes after all instances of voter fraud in California, but somehow I don’t think she will. This was a total setup to embarrass the Republican Party. This doesn’t even come close to the ACORN fraud.

  • Babs

    It certainly doesn’t come close to ACORN by virtue of the number of cases involved. But they all make me angry, and sheds light on a very broken system that is at the very core of our freedom of choice.

    Kendale, I agree there should be a valid across the board method of preventing fraud, especially in a time when we have over a million illegal immigrants in this country who have not earned the right to be here, much less vote. The group in Ohio that rented an apartment for one month so they could vote there is another example. Errors happen in the system, but these types of incidents are premeditated fraud, and there should be a federal law against it and it should be enforced to the letter.

  • DJS

    When I registered to vote I had to show a picture ID, with my name and address on it. When I go to vote I have to give them my name and address. They look it up and verify it. Why is it so hard for all these states to do this the right way. I don’t think ACORN or any other agency should be collecting voter registrations. If the states stopped allowing this and people had to go to a state or town run location to register most of this would stop. It is almost to late for this year but when are we going to fix this. We can send a man to the moon but we can’t prevent voter registration fraud. Anyone going to vote should have to supply some type of indentification and their name should be checked off the list. If they try to vote again or someone else tries to use the same information they would be caught. Maybe I don’t see the big picture because I live in Smalltown, America but it can’t be all that difficult.

  • Youknowwho

    I have a feeling this is going to be talked about even after the election. Which is good. Maybe it will lead to reform and some type of voting standard.

  • jb

    I just voted in Salt Lake City, UT and their machines DO keep a paper record of your ballot and give you several opportunities to review your votes before submitting them. I’m not sure where this article got its information.

  • Odonata28

    For anyone interested, here is a case study of how it is done in Oregon.

    http://www.sos.state.or.us/executive/votebymail/pdf_files/CarterBaker.pdf

    It is pretty interesting to read, and explains how the system works very well. It’s too bad other states this would work in haven’t adopted a system like this. It’s great and Oregonians love it. People are getting their ballots this week, and are starting to mail them in. As the conclusion on page 6 states, it wouldn’t work everywhere, but it is a good system for Oregon. It also states Oregon has no history of voter fraud. We have been using VBM for 10 years.

  • Can you believe that 8 years have come and gone and still we have the same issues? You would have thought that after the debacle in 2000 some kind of reform would have taken place, I guess not.

  • It’s pretty unbelievably CG. You look at the advances in science in the past 8 years and voters are still no better off.

    I like Kendale’s idea of getting a print out with your name on it and who you did vote for.

  • Bruce Becker

    Using a computer is stupid. There are so many ways to cheat with a computer, you could say it is countless.

    We do not have a real election.

    The fantasy that we need to know the next day drove the use of computers.

    It is better to take a few days and be sure who got the votes.