The Columbus Dispatch reported on October 24 that two accused terrorists are registered to vote in the state of Ohio, a revelation that underscored concerns about the accuracy and security of the nation’s voter registration rolls heading into the November 2 election.
“Accused terrorists Nuradin Abdi, 32, and Iyman Faris, 35, are registered to vote in Ohio,” the paper reported. “An indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in June said Somali immigrant Abdi and admitted al Qaeda member Faris plotted with a third Columbus man to attack a mall.”
Abdi, the paper reported, is not a U.S. citizen. “Fred Alverson, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department, said Abdi’s false registration may violate state and federal law,” the paper said. “In fact, the application he signed–swearing he is a U.S. citizen–notes that election falsification is punishable by up to six months in prison, a fine of $1,000 or both.”
The other man, Faris, the paper noted “is serving a 20-year sentence after admitting that he scouted the Brooklin Bridge in New York and other potential targets for al Qaeda as recently as March 2003. As an incarcerated felon, he will not be allowed to vote.” Faris, a native of Kashmir, became a U.S. citizen in 1999.
Both Abdi and Faris are registered in Franklin County, Ohio, which is dominated by the city of Columbus.
The Dispatch‘s report underscored the belief of many Republicans that a sharp increase in voter registration in key swing states could lead not only to an increase in legitimate voters but also an increase in voter fraud.
Also in Ohio, the state Republican Party sent letters to all newly registered voters, urging them to vote Republican. Roughly 35,000 pieces of mail were returned as undeliverable. Republicans preemptively challenged most these new voter registrations, 14,000 of which were in Cleveland alone. “We want to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised by fraud in this election,” said state GOP Chairman Bob Bennett in a statement. A federal judge blocked the preemptive challenges October 27, but Republican poll-watchers were gearing up to challenge the identities of anyone who tries to vote under the suspect names.
The 1993 federal Motor Voter law made it illegal for election officials to check someone’s identification before allowing them to register to vote. Still, some advances have been made in election integrity since the contested 2000 election. This year, 17 states are requiring all voters to show identification at the polls, up from just 11 in 2000. The only competitive states to do so this time, however, are Colorado and Florida, both of which are must-win states for Bush. Kansas and Pennsylvania require identification only for first-time voters. Pennsylvania is one of the states that Gore won in 2000 that Bush spent considerable time and money trying to pick up this year.
The other 31 states and the District of Columbia require identification only for first-time voters who register by mail. In many cases, even this is an improvement, brought about by the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002. Although conservatives disliked much of the legislation, some of it will make fraud slightly more difficult.
Democrats have successfully prevented the passage of stronger state laws against vote fraud by alleging, for example, that requiring that people show identification when voting is a way of intimidating minority voters.