New York State Opens a Door to Vote Fraud

Card check -- the scheme that violates the traditional American freedom of the secret ballot in labor union organizing elections -- has just captured a beachhead in New York State general election law, arguably opening the floodgates to massive ACORN-style voter fraud and intimidation.

The event at hand involves absentee ballot "reforms" hurriedly signed into law by New York's hapless accidental governor David A. Paterson.

In the era before the Australian "secret ballot" came to America, voting could be a tricky -- and often violent -- proposition. Goons from such big-city machines as Boss Tweed's Tammany Hall knew how you voted, and if you knew what was good for you, you voted the right way.

All that changed with the secret ballot. What you did behind the curtain stayed behind the curtain. American elections got a lot cleaner and fairer.

But with an absentee ballot, party activists can "assist" you in filling out those ballots as they cannot "assist" you at your local polling place.

The possibility for intimidation increases exponentially once those in power -- or those who lust for power -- know how you are voting.

So, of course, does the possibility of fraud.

"Coercion and chicanery are made much easier by the excessive use of absentee ballots," the Wall Street Journal's John Fund noted recently. "Most of the elections thrown out by courts -- Miami, Florida's mayoral election in 1998, the East Chicago, Indiana's mayor's race in 2005 -- involved fraudulent absentee votes. Three decades ago absentee and early ballots were only 5% of all votes cast nationwide. In 2008, they exceeded 25%."

New York State has traditionally insisted that those applying for absentee ballots meet certain reasonable criteria. Voting is a right. Not bothering to physically show up to vote is not. Accordingly, anyone claiming a disability or illness must provide the name of an attending physician or institution. Anyone claiming to be out of town has to provide some minimal level of actual proof.

These reasonable safeguards have now vanished.

No longer must a voter be "unavoidably" out of town or prevented from physically being present to vote. In fact, no longer must they be technically "absent" at all -- they must merely "expect" to be absent, with no definition of what that might mean. Even the safeguard that they be "reasonably" absent is discarded.

That the bill's sponsors (which include Brooklyn's infamously violent and vituperative Senator Kevin Parker) wish to remove these safeguards is all too evident from language stripped from the current law involving the historical reasons for granting a voter absentee status -- i.e., "because his duties, occupation, business, or studies require him to be elsewhere on the day of election [or] absent from such county or city because he is on vacation else-where on the day of election."

Also loosened are time limits for absentee ballots. Essentially, an absentee ballot was previously secured one election at a time, save in cases of permanent conditions. That has now been loosened, again without any attendant justification.

Advocates termed the measure "no fault" absentee ballot. Critics score it as "no safeguards."

"The vote was one in which I really was concerned that it might be just an invitation for voter fraud," said State Senator Stephen Saland (R-Poughkeepsie), echoing remarks made recently this year by Wisconsin Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen when a similar measure was being rushed through his state's legislature. Van Hollen contended that it would "make election fraud more likely" and "jeopardize the orderly administration of election laws."

Wisconsin's measure was stopped in its tracks. In New York, the story was different. In the now-Democratic-controlled State Senate, only twenty-seven votes could be mustered to block this new law. In the Assembly, remarkably, only five -- five -- GOP members possessed sufficient will to oppose it. The remainder got along to get along. Some even co-sponsored it.

New York's absentee ballot "reform" is now law.

Exactly how far New York's "reform" advocates may go is presaged by recent comments by New York's lockstep-liberal Common Cause group in advocating passage of another proposed election law "reform" measure. "S5988/A4015A adopts a common sense solution to a persistent problem," Common Cause blithely explains, "This bill would combine what is now a burdensome 2-step process that forces voters who fill out affidavit ballots who are not actually registered to later fill out and file an entirely new form in order to register into one, streamlined and more efficient form." [Emphasis added.]

Why, no, we wouldn't want to inconvenience any voters filling out ballots "who are not actually registered."

Nor would we want to keep folks who weren't actually absent from voting with absentee ballots.

Nor, in the long run, it seems, do we actually want fair and honest elections.

Boss Tweed, you've won.

David Pietrusza ( is the author of Silent Cal's Almanack: The Homespun Wit & Wisdom of Vermont's Calvin Coolidge and 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents.
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