Elections in America: 'Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient'

America's voter registries are a mess, according to "Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient," a new report from The Pew Center on the States. The 11-page report asserts:

  • Approximately 24 million -- one of every eight -- active voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate.
  • More than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as active voters.
  • Approximately 2.75 million people have active registrations in more than one state.

If Pew's data are correct, how can Americans have any faith in their elections? Well, they can't. But before you get too depressed about America having become a banana republic, consider the source of Pew's data. Dave Urbanski at The Blaze reports:

Pew's voter-registration summaries are based on numbers from Catalist, a data-crunching organization that heralds itself as "serving the progressive community" (i.e., the political far left). [...] And in case you're wondering if the Pew Center on the States' brief disclosed any of Catalist's leftward political leanings, that'd be a "no." But given that the sole donor listed under the Pew Center on the States' political initiatives is George Soros' Open Society Institute, that might explain a few things, too.

Despite the political leanings at Pew, it's safe to say that America's voter registries are indeed rife with error. But does Pew have a solution? A 2011 Pew report, "Upgrading Democracy," "examines how technology can be used to improve voter registration." We read on page 2 of their 34-page report that their "approach" is comprised of "three core elements," the first of which is this:

Compare voter registration lists with a wider array of data sources to broaden the base of information used to update and verify voter rolls.

Unfortunately, this approach misses the mark. Indeed, it will produce results which are "inaccurate, costly, and inefficient."

Pew's solution to the problem of unreliable voter registries is to create "a common data exchange controlled by the states" where multiple data sources can be matched and cross-checked. It is similar to "universal voter registration", and shares the same weaknesses. And, by Pew's own estimate, their method is not error-free and will not register all citizens.

Pew's method rests on the idea that the information needed to correctly register all American citizens is not readily available. Rather than "broaden the base of information," we need to narrow it. You don't go after "a wider array of data sources" if there is a single definitive source. Pew has taken exactly the wrong approach.

Pew's approach is to fix existing voter registries. What we should do is replace those registries, which is what "automatic registration" does. (To find out about that better solution to the problem, read this article and then click on the links at the bottom.)

As errant as registration is, our systems for conducting elections and counting votes are just as screwy. So it's sad that Attorney General Holder thinks he must challenge photo ID requirements in Texas and South Carolina. Yet, Wendy Underhill of National Conference of State Legislatures reports: "A big majority of Americans favor voter ID requirements."

In the absence of any substantive reform implemented before the November election, here's a stopgap measure that the states could use to improve the integrity of their elections regardless of whether they have photo ID laws or not: Require that voters submit their Social Security Numbers to vote.

This measure would require that the SSN be affixed to every absentee, provisional, early, and mail-in ballot. And at every voting station on Election Day, the voter would submit his SSN. But the voter wouldn't need to take his social security card to his voting station, as most folks have their SSNs permanently etched in their brains. So to placate the Eric Holders of this world, this new requirement doesn't necessitate the acquisition of a new ID.

What's also needed is for citizens to monitor voting stations -- it's time for the Tea Party to saddle up and follow Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote. Catherine delivered a terrific speech (video) at the most recent Restoration Weekend of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, with John Fund making powerful points in his introductory remarks.

Stopgap measures and citizen monitors are only suggested because no one really wants to fix our voter registration problem. Organizations like Pew don't want to once-and-for-all fix the problem because then they'd be out of work. Career politicians don't want to fix the problem because with the current election systems, vote counts can be manipulated, ballots can be belatedly discovered in back rooms or in the trunks of cars. With the current systems, party apparatchiks can ensure that the right people win.

Winston Churchill once observed that Americans will always do the right thing, but only after they've exhausted all the alternatives. But Churchill's bromide breaks down when it comes to our election systems, where so-called "experts" all stand around debating about how many teeth horses have when there's a perfectly docile nag at hand for them to examine. Our "experts" will do anything but look into the horse's mouth.

But here in The Banana Republic of North America we don't worry about efficiency, cost and accuracy in our elections:

Come, Mister Tally Man, tally me banana

(Daylight come and me wan' go home) ...

A beautiful bunch o' ripe banana

(Daylight come and me wan' go home)

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

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