The Forgotten Lessons of ‘Recount 2000’

Americans want a fair election, not the embarrassment of Recount 2000. Yet we seem to have forgotten the lessons learned after Congress passed sweeping legislation to address the problems of “hanging chads.” The result may be another election determined by lawyers and judges.

Provisional Voting

The proliferation of provisional voting is troubling. After the 2000 election, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to address the problem of uncounted ballots. That law created the “provisional ballot.” Now, a voter can cast a provisional ballot when there’s a question about his eligibility. In theory, the provisional ballot insures that a person inadvertently left off the list of eligible voters can vote and prove eligibility at a later date.

There are numerous problems, though. If a voter has no identification, he must be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. If a name isn’t on the election list for a precinct or town, that voter also is allowed to submit a provisional ballot. Different names, a name on the wrong list or even evidence that you already voted doesn’t prevent a person from casting a provisional ballot. Because of varying election standards, unscrupulous election officials can use provisional ballots as an insurance policy to change results on Election Day with a few sympathetic judges.

Fraud

Fraud has been documented by the media in this election cycle. Although 34 states allowed citizens, and probably some non-citizens, to vote early, most Americans will cast their vote for president on Tuesday. States are bracing for record turnout and the lawsuits have already started in Ohio and Virginia. Recent headlines suggest that a multitude of lawsuits are likely, because serious questions are being raised about fraudulently registered voters.

The left dismisses these headlines as harmless mistakes. But the serious nature of voter fraud is evident in a recent Supreme Court decision relating to Indiana’s voter identification law. The Court said voting problems “have been documented throughout this nations’ history by respected historians and journalists” and those examples “demonstrate that not only is the risk of voter fraud real but that it could affect the outcome of a close election.”

Our military is also being disenfranchised. Virginia’s governor stepped in last week to ensure that a Fairfax County official didn’t discard absentee ballots from our troops. Military ballots many times don’t comply with state absentee ballot laws, because they don’t have a notarized signature and don’t have a post-marked envelope. If Virginia is close, military ballots may be challenged as they were in Florida in 2000 by partisans who understand that our military tends to vote for more conservative candidates.

Small Donor Transparency

No one has raised more money for a presidential campaign than Sen. Barack Obama, who out-raised Sen. John McCain by a quarter of a billion dollars. Change, transparency and reform were frequent themes for both men during the campaign; now we need to see how they will address the potential fraud in the process of contributing money using the Internet. Any fraud won’t be fully investigated until after this election — in short, until after the harm is done.

Technology makes tracking large donors relatively easy, but campaigns have no obligation to disclose small donors (those giving less than $200) to the federal government. As a result, many small donors remain anonymous. For its part, the McCain campaign, which has accepted public financing for the general election, released its small donor list online. The privately financed Obama campaign has failed to disclose any information on small donors, which account for more than half of Obama’s total fundraising.

“Obama Accepting Untraceable Donations,” a recent Washington Post headline read. The Obama campaign is “allowing donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor’s identity, campaign officials confirmed,” the article states. Some argue that this situation could be avoided by using anti-fraud tools that are commonplace in the business community.

If we are to restore America’s faith in campaign financing, we must root out the fraud that appears to have become widespread during this cycle. Conservatives want every valid vote to be counted, including those cast by our military. And we don’t want liberal judges to allow the left to game the system for partisan gain.


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