Nothing would be simpler than for me to concede defeat in the recent Senate race. And if it were only one Senate seat at stake, I might have taken the easy way out. After all, one of the main reasons I entered this race--the goal of a GOP Senate majority--has been achieved. But I believe that there is more than one Senate seat in the balance. At stake is the future of free elections in California.
In the final weeks before the election, I received a trickle of calls from voters expressing concern about fraud and other voting irregularities; after Nov. 8, the trickle turned into a flood. In conversations with investigators and citizen-action groups, I have become convinced that the management and supervision of our elections is fundamentally flawed.
Examples of registration irregularities and fraud range from the alarming to the bizarre. There were the 133 people registered to vote at one apartment building in Burbank--some were illegal aliens, some had not signed the registration card and some were nonexistent. Who signed them up? Activists paid by the Assembly Democratic Caucus, under the leadership of Assemblyman Phil Isenberg. In another example, 31 widows in Hawthorne received postcards from the registrar's office informing them that their deceased husbands had been recently registered to vote. And in still another case, Kenji Kawamura of Hawthorne discovered when he went to the polls that his dog, Sam, had been registered to vote.
Cynics, or those who have an investment in the status quo, would like to dismiss this evidence as anecdotal. But they cannot dismiss the report, based on computer searches of the absentee-voter rolls, which I plan to present the first week in January. This will be an interim report; the investigation will need to continue.
Meanwhile, the voter fraud task force has uncovered widespread instances of ballot counting that were lax and riddled with error--tally sheets where the numbers of ballots issued and votes counted didn't add up, precinct forms that went unsigned, provisional ballots unaccounted for.
Why does such apparent fraud exist? Because the system invites it. In California, a person may register to vote without showing any proof of citizenship, state residency or identification. Unbelievably, there is no safeguard, no deterrent, against registering many times, under many different names. There is no method of purging rolls to remove "ghost" voters--people who have moved away or died but whose registrations can be fraudulently used. And so we end up with the situation in Los Angeles, where there are 75,000 possible duplicate registrations.
If the federally mandated Motor Voter Act is implemented Jan. 1, these problems will become irreversible. Without uncovering the extent of voting irregularities, without real reform, Motor Voter would freeze the problems we have in place, making it more difficult to remove deceased voters and double registrations from the rolls and allowing fraud to further erode the foundations of the democratic process.
Some may ask, "If there was so much voting irregularity and fraud, then why didn't it affect Gov. Wilson's victory? Why didn't it affect the success of the Proposition 187?" The answer is that it probably did. Wilson won with a big margin; without fraud he would have won with a bigger one. The same could be true for 187. The bottom line is that voting irregularities and fraud have an effect only at the margins. They tip the close races like mine, not the landslides.
Voter fraud is not a static problem. Like a tumor, it does not cure itself if ignored. It can only get worse and spread. The only remedy is radical surgery--in this case, honest inquiry and bold reform.
Whether voting irregularities and fraud affect the outcome of the Senate race, a thorough investigation will benefit everyone by leading to reform of a system that badly needs it. Whether you voted for Mike Huffington or Dianne Feinstein or someone else, we all have an interest in preserving the integrity of our free elections, the sacred trust upon which our democracy depends.