Fighting Voter Fraud
Fox News reports how a group of civic-minded Texas citizens decided to volunteer for the 2008 election as workers at several Houston polling places. One of these volunteers, Catherine Engelbrecht, relates they came away "shocked" at what they saw:
"There was no one checking IDs; judges would vote for people that asked for help. It was fraud, and we watched like deer in the headlights."
As a result, the group created "True the Vote," a citizen-based grassroots organization which began collecting publicly available voting data to prove that what they saw that day at the polls was, indeed, happening -- and that it was widespread
"The first thing we started to do was look at houses with more than six voters in them" Engelbrecht said, because those houses were the most likely to have fraudulent registrations attached to them. "Most voting districts had 1,800 if they were Republican and 2,400 of these houses if they were Democratic . . .
"But we came across one with 24,000, and that was where we started looking."
It was Houston's poorest and predominantly black district, which has led some to accuse the group of targeting poor black areas. But Engelbrecht rejects that, saying, "It had nothing to do with politics. It was just the numbers."
Their work has now resulted in an investigation by the Texas secretary of state's office and the Harris County district attorney.
Most of the findings focused on a group called Houston Votes, a voter registration group headed by Sean Caddle, who also works for the Service Employees International Union. Among the findings were that only 1,793 of the 25,000 registrations the group submitted appeared to be valid.
The other registrations included one of a woman who registered six times in the same day; registrations of non-citizens; so many applications from one Houston Votes collector in one day that it was deemed to be beyond human capability; and 1,597 registrations that named the same person multiple times, often with different signatures.
However, major voter fraud is not just isolated to Texas. As the Palm Beach Sun-Sentinel reports
Less than two months before the general election, Florida's voter registration rolls still include thousands of dead people and felons who by law should have been removed.
State elections officials pledged to clean up the voter rolls two years ago after a Sun Sentinel investigation found they included more than 28,000 people who had died and 33,000 felons whose civil rights had not been restored.
The latest list shows more than half of those ineligible voters were removed, but the rest, along with newly added felons, remained on the rolls.
Finding faulty voter lists and other examples of voter fraud may become a major future battle to be fought by other grassroots activists in the years ahead. This problem has worsened as billions of stimulus dollars flow toward labor unions and community organizing groups committed to registering voters -- particularly in poor and minority-dominated areas.
If that's not enough, Houston's difficulties took a new twist one day after Harris County voter registrar Leo Vasquez announced he had turned over his findings to the district attorney:
On the morning of Aug. 27, a three-alarm fire destroyed almost all of Harris County's voting machines, throwing the upcoming Nov. 2 election into turmoil. While the cause wasn't determined, the $40 million blaze, according to press reports, means election officials will be focused on creating a whole new voting system in six weeks. Just how they do it will determine how vulnerable the process becomes.