Election Fraud: Detecting the Undetectable

To know the true extent of a crime, it must be detectable. Progressives contend that election fraud isn't a problem in America because of its low incidence of detection. That's like saying that because border agents didn't apprehend (i.e., detect) any illegal aliens crossing our Southern border last night that no one snuck in. Ridiculous! No one knows how much election fraud occurs in America because under the current system much election fraud is simply --- undetectable.

On ABC's This Week on August 25, Cokie Roberts opined: "What's going on about voting rights is downright evil." The "evil" Ms. Roberts is referring to is the June 25 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, whereby the Supreme Court struck down a provision in the Voting Rights Act (1965) that required certain states to get preclearance when they change their voting laws.

Miss Cokie may also be in a snit about the states that are beefing up their voter ID requirements, as well as the recent actions by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kansas now requires proof of citizenship for voter registrants. In "Kansas and Arizona unite in lawsuit over voter registration laws" in the Kansas City Star on August 21, Brad Cooper writes:

Doug Bonney, the ACLU's legal director in Kansas City, said Kobach's latest court battle will do nothing to help the people whose registrations were suspended. He said laws like the one in Kansas and two other states only keep people out of the voting booth.

"The problem was the law was a solution in search of a problem," Bonney said. "There is no evidence of a single case in Kansas, or elsewhere quite frankly, of citizenship fraud in order to register to vote."

Could that possibly be because the states haven't been verifying for citizenship? At any rate, a rigorous new requirement for new registrants doesn't fix the old registrations that are incorrect. If an ineligible, perhaps a noncitizen, has been registered for years and has been voting, then he'll continue to be able to vote unless registrars correct the registrations already on-file. If you're a noncitizen and you get on a voter registry, you can vote. And the fraud you commit when voting will be --- undetectable.

Cooper continues: "The federal lawsuit, filed in Kansas [by Kobach], demands the U.S. Election Assistance Commission [EAC] modify the federal voter registration form for Kansas and Arizona so it would allow for requiring proof of citizenship."

The efforts to ensure election integrity by Kobach are inadequate. A surer route for Kobach would be to require new registrants in Kansas to submit their social security numbers. As reported back in June, there are already six states that require the full SSN on the EAC registration form. With the full SSN, Kansas could verify the citizenship of new registrants. Indeed, if Kobach wanted correct voter registries, he'd require everyone in Kansas who's already registered to supply their SSNs. Kobach could then verify the citizenship of all Kansas voters.

Critics of the recent efforts by the states to ensure the integrity of the vote are covering themselves with shame. Shamefulness was on full display at the 50th anniversary celebrations in D.C. of the March on Washington and MLK's "I have a dream" speech as speaker after speaker droned on and on about voter ID laws. "The Reverend" Al Sharpton orated in high dudgeon. Sharpton's demagoguery would be comical if it weren't so dangerous. The Rev's venomous rhetoric has sparked a riot or two. The irony is: we're supposed to listen to frauds like Al Sharpton lecture us that fraud doesn't exist. Does Cokie Roberts really want to align herself with this shakedown artist, this shameless race merchant?

The stink about the states requiring voter IDs and demanding proof of citizenship to register would disperse, and the claims of disenfranchisement and voter suppression would end, if America used automatic registration to register all citizens and required the SSN as a voter ID. If the speakers at the MLK events were serious about ensuring voter rights, they'd be demanding the adoption of these changes. But they don't do that because they want the issue. (Their claims about voting rights can be amusingly pathetic.)

Although correct voter registries are a necessary component of ensuring election integrity, they are by no means sufficient. Even if all citizens were correctly registered and they all possessed voter IDs, election fraud would still be possible to commit, and some of that fraud would still be undetectable. That's because of the way elections process ballots.

In the year 2000, Americans learned a new word: "chad." In the Florida recount in 2000, Americans were treated to the embarrassing national spectacle of vote counters peering at cardboard ballots, checking for chads, trying to divine what the voter's intent was. But one thing those Florida vote counters could not ascertain by inspecting a ballot was: who cast it? Was it cast by someone who had already voted, or by an illegal alien, or by someone from another state?

Or, was the ballot simply "manufactured" by partisan election officials? One should be just as concerned about ballot box stuffing by election officials as about fraudulent voters. (If you're concerned about fraudulent recounts, read this disturbing column by Ann Coulter at Human Events.)

Under the current election system, there's no way to distinguish between a ballot that was legitimately cast and one that was not. In a recount, if election officials "discover" bags of uncounted ballots in a back room, they're thrown in with the ballots that have already been counted. Inspecting those new ballots, perhaps cards with holes punched in them, there's no way to tell if they're legitimate ballots or not. So they get counted. (After all, we wouldn't want to disenfranchise anyone, would we?)

The problem with our ballot system is that there's nothing on the ballot to tie it to who cast it. And because of this insufficiency in handling ballots, several varieties of election fraud in America remain -- undetectable.

How then can government ensure that American elections are right, and that the vote counts are true? To answer that, ask yourself what we'd do if we were going to start over, from scratch, with an entirely new system. What would it look like?

In a modern, technologically-advanced country like America, the way we ensure that information is correct is by using computers. Elections are all about information, i.e. data. Like computers, elections are binary: one either votes for someone or one doesn't, a vote count is incremented by one or it's not, a spot on a card is punched through or it's not (except for those dang chads). Elections are a perfect application for computers.

If the greatest brains in Information Technology were to be tasked with creating a state-of-the-art election system that ensured election integrity and which made election fraud impossible to commit, they would quickly agree that something has to be done about ballots. Why? Because I.T. brainiacs wouldn't want to be associated with a system that couldn't be used to prove that its output is correct. In the case of elections, they'd insist on being able to demonstrate that the vote counts are correct.

The way to fix the problem of ballots is to affix the voter's unique information (his voter ID) to his ballot. If there is any one thing I'd like to impart in this article, it is that. Ballots must be identifiable by the voters who cast them, and they must all be put into a single computer file.

Four years ago at TCS Daily, I floated an idea for how to deal with the problem of ballots. That website is now defunct, but Jim Glassman of the George W. Bush Institute has kept the TCS Archive up and available, so you can still read my idea. What I outline is an election system that uses the Internet. If that sounds scary, know that my main objective was to ensure election integrity and to have the means to prove what vote counts are. The system has features and capabilities that current systems just don't have. I hope I'm a better writer than I was four years ago, but the article is readable and I still stand by its ideas. On the second page, I describe the files that would contain ballots, and then I end with a no-holds-barred accusation that conservatives might like.

Kris Kobach and others are trying to do the right thing, but there's a better way to ensure election integrity. I've tried to show that way in series of articles that might be called "mini-systems analyses." But what do I know; I'm just an old-time computer programmer who wrote his first programs by punching them out on cardboard cards with a keypunch machine. Even so, I feel confident that my solutions would work. But perhaps there are better solutions. If there are, let's see them.

Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.


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