America faces an alarming threat from election fraud. AT's Lee Cary recently pointed out the election "irregularity" problems that threaten all our states in the upcoming election cycle. This article raises the question: "What can the concerned voter/citizen do to protect the integrity of our elections?" Ten women in Wisconsin began working on that question right after the 2008 presidential election.
We studied the laws, we "watched," and we gave public comment on proposed legislative and administrative changes to Wisconsin election laws. Our overall goal became to promote photo voter ID legislation and support legislators who would enact such a law in Wisconsin. As we "watched" and participated, we learned quite a bit about our elections process and its problems.
We want to tell readers that there are some very important things that the concerned citizen can do to help protect our elections and our votes. "We're Watching Wisconsin Elections" became our adopted project, and we are strongly encouraging others to "adopt" their state elections process as a project and begin "watching" and participating in that process.
Volunteer to be a local poll worker. In most states, elections are conducted at the local level by the citizens of each community. Volunteer to be one of those citizens. Poll workers -- your neighbors -- you -- actually conduct local elections, and by working on the inside of the elections process, poll workers/you accept a critical election responsibility and become the "eyes and ears" protecting that process.
Volunteer to become an Election Observer. (Some call it a poll watching.) An Election Observer does just that -- observe -- watch -- as the election is being conducted. We are suggesting that local civic groups, or groups of concerned citizens, work together to learn what their state's election laws are, work together to learn what to "watch" for as Election Observers, and provide trained observer volunteers to monitor local elections. As an example of what we did to help make our election laws understandable to the average citizen, and to provide a tool for Election Observer training, look at our website: http://www.werewatchingwisconsinelections.org/. The observer manual and the accompanying PowerPoint presentation were written to reflect Wisconsin election law.
Currently, both the Republicans and the Democrats have Election Observer training programs, and we suggest that you volunteer through them for organizing Election Observer training as provided for in your state's election laws. Non-partisan coalition groups should either cooperate with an existing political party observer program or roll up their sleeves and do the work necessary to understand their state's election laws and put together their own volunteer election observer training program.
Many Election Observer volunteers are needed, as voting takes place in many locations and can be done days prior to Election Day.
1) Absentee voting, for example, takes place in your election clerk's offices prior to Election Day. Observe that process.
2) Off-site voting takes place where voters cannot get to the polls and the polls therefore come to them -- nursing homes and other community residential facilities. Observe that process.
3) On Election Day, when most voters still cast their ballots, many observers are needed at local polls. The day begins at 7:00 a.m. and ends usually at 8:00 p.m. A long day -- maybe arrange for shifts of observers.
4) After the polls close, the counting of ballots and the reconciliation of the poll lists is done. This is an important part of the election process and can determine the outcome of an election. Again, observers are needed to monitor and protect the process provided for in our election laws.
These are your elections. If you want to ensure a fair, open, uniform process conducted according to election law, you need to volunteer to make that happen. By just your presence, you can possibly deter someone who is thinking of committing an act of election fraud. Election fraud is a crime -- a felony. We cannot just trust that "someone else will do it" and protect the process. As we have seen, "voting irregularities" are determining the outcome of elections. There are those who do not play by the rules. If you are there "watching," you can make that much more difficult.
Mary Ann Hanson is a member of "We're Watching Wisconsin Elections."