I didn’t know there was a National Voter Registration Day until I heard about it on this morning’s news.
Voter registration has become a sensitive subject since the awkward and contentious 2020 national election. State legislatures and officials loosened many procedures because of the pandemic. That left more room than usual for voter fraud.
One way to help prevent fraud is by registering voters well in advance. Strangers should not be able to walk into the polls on Election Day and just sign up. Election officials should require photo identification, proof of age and citizenship, and proof of address. (The homeless can vote, too.) Officials also need time to verify this information in advance.
EASY TO VOTE, HARD TO FAKE
Why? During registration and at the polls, officials should be able to verify voters are who they say they are (the photo ID). For mail-in or drop-box ballots, election officials should match the signature and address against the ones on record.
And why require proof of citizenship, such as a passport, birth certificate, or Certificate of Naturalization? Because only citizens can be legal voters. You wouldn’t have to carry your proof with you to the polling place, just to register. After that, a photo ID would verify that you are the citizen you say you are.
But what of people who don’t have a photo ID such as a driver’s license or passport? Election officials should be able to issue one, during registration, after some other form of verification. Photo ID is useful in other situations, too, such as job applications and travel. A government-issued ID is a public service.
But all these are just one man’s opinion. The states set their own election laws under Article 4, Section 1 of the Constitution. That’s so they can accommodate the needs of the local population. The needs of urban voters will differ from those of rural voters; it’s up to the states to figure that sort of thing out.
THE LESSONS OF BUSH V. GORE
Voter fraud is nothing new. It was charged by the Republicans in 2020 and the Democrats in 2016. Nor is it unusual that elections are so close that fraud or deceit could throw an election.
The 2000 election was contested in the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore. In that case, Florida’s counties had different methods of casting ballots. Some involved hard-to read perforations, or chads, that were open to interpretation. A hand recount there could not be completed in time to certify the election, and the state’s electors went to Bush, who was the winner in the first count.
As a result, Bush won that election. Many Democrats never fully accepted that result. That prompted some Republicans to dub the Gore-Lieberman ticket “Sore-Loserman.” Politicians on both sides complained about fraud.
After the 2000 election, my newspaper filed an FOI request for the voting records of Connecticut residents. About 80 percent of the state’s registered voters were in a central database by then. The records showed their names, dates of birth, party affiliations, and which elections they voted in.
I ran a database analysis and found about 100 voters statewide who registered in two different towns and cast ballots in each in the 2000 election. Many of those had registered and voted in Storrs, home to the University of Connecticut, as well as their home towns.
It was a small number, and would not have had much effect on the state’s election outcome. The double-voters were probably students and new to the election process. But it does show the system is not perfect.
EVERY VOTER COUNTS
My newspaper never ran a story because the editor believed 100 possible double-voters wasn’t significant. But the 2000 election did prompt many states to revise their voting procedures. Today’s electronic voting machines are a result of those reforms.
States are right to re-examine their own voting procedures in light of the discrepancies raised in the 2020 election. Fraud should be harder to commit. In today’s world, financial identity theft is a common problem. We shouldn’t make it easy for electoral identity thieves.
And it all starts with voter registration. In my book, every day should be Voter Registration Day.
Every day, that is, except Election Day itself.