Partisans on both sides in the presidential race have been spouting off about their high confidence just four days before the election, but simultaneously launching preemptive protests about how they might get cheated on election day.
From the right come complaints that too many ballots will be cast — by people voting twice, casting ballots in the name of the dead or filling out absentee ballots stolen from other voters. From the left come concerns that voter identification laws and poor polling conditions will unfairly suppress legitimate balloting.
A group of scientists and technologists who have been studying these issues since the troubled 2000 presidential election reported recently that there is reason for concern about the potential for voter fraud, but no “strong record” that is has been a problem to date.
Researchers at the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project reported last month that problems with Americans not being able to vote are a more real and present problem — with millions losing access to the franchise because of technological and procedural shortfalls.
“There simply is not a strong record demonstrating the prevalence of voter impersonation fraud or voting by ineligible individuals — the types of fraud that strong voter identification requirements might mitigate,” the project reported. The scientists cautioned, however, that reforms recommended after the 2000 Florida recount were “less than halfway complete.”
They expressed particular concern about the expansion of absentee and mail-in voting. “Fraud and security are related to the physical protection of the ballot, and the ease with which absentee ballots can be intercepted or bought and sold,” the report said. “It remains the case that having tens of millions of ballots being transmitted and marked without strict chain-of-custody procedures creates risks that simply do not exist with any form of in-person voting, whether on election day or in early-voting settings.”
On the right, reports have been building in recent days about the potential of election losses caused by fraud. A conservative web site asked, “Is the election of 2012 already being stolen?” John Fund of National Review, who has written a book on the issue, appeared on Fox News Thursday to suggest that voter fraud could be a serious problem.
The Republican National Committee on Thursday sent a letter to secretaries of state in six states noting reports of “voting machine errors” from the media and citizens and asking the officials to check their machines. Among other things, they asked for signs to be posted at polling places telling voters to double check that voting machines properly recorded their vote. The letter went to election officials in five battleground states — Nevada, Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri, Colorado — and in Kansas, which is expected to be solidly in the Republican column.
On the left, meanwhile, a group calling itself “Video the Vote” announced Thursday that it would deploy a “network of citizen journalists, independent filmmakers and media professionals” to capture video of “disenfranchisement in their communities.”
“In an era of partisan voter purges, onerous ID requirements, and organized intimidation, it’s not enough for citizens to just cast their ballots,” said Matt Pascarella, the director of the campaign for Video the Vote. The group’s leaders said they are concerned that students, the elderly and many minority voters could lose their right to vote because they don’t know about new voter identification requirements in 33 states.
That could make for some interesting confrontations on election day, since another conservative group — “True the Vote” — has promised to challenge voters at the polls who it believes are not legitimate. And both sides have squads of lawyers prepared to bring legal action. That’s just another reason to wonder if Campaign 2012 will really be over when it’s supposed to be over.