February 08, 2005,
After casting ballots in widely applauded elections January 30, Iraqis dipped their digits in ink, to prevent multiple voting, then pointed their purple fingers toward a brighter future. Ukrainians cleanly elected Viktor Yuschenko president December 26, after he lost an earlier, fraud-encrusted runoff. Afghans elected President Hamid Karzai in a properly run October 9 vote.
Too bad Washington State's latest election failed Iraqi, Ukrainian, and Afghan standards. Washington's November 2 gubernatorial race remains murky due to illegitimate ballots, others that were miscounted, and still more that emerged from...who knows where? This morass is prosecution-grade proof that America's inadequate voting system screams for modernization.
Democrat Christine Gregoire took office January 12 after edging Republican Dino Rossi in a third recount by 129 of the 2.8 million votes cast. Rossi has sued for a re-vote, a reasonable request given that the number of dodgy ballots exceeds Gregoire's victory margin.
Through January 28, Washington's GOP said it found 996 illegal votes, "and we expect this number to grow in the days ahead." This figure includes:
489 votes by ineligible felons. Dean Logan, Democratic election director in Seattle's King County, seems unoffended by ex-offenders who may not vote but do so anyway. He told the Seattle Times: "I don't think it's the responsibility of the election administrators to essentially do background checks on registered voters."
437 provisional ballots cast by voters of dubious eligibility. Rather than isolate these for later evaluation, 348 of these were fed into voting machines. "These provisional ballots could have been cast by unregistered voters or people who'd voted more than once," Mary Lane, Rossi's communications director, tells me, "but now we'll never know because they're in the general sea of ballots."
44 ballots cast by dead voters. Some of these were apparent clerical errors, such as poll workers confusing live voters with their similarly named dead relatives. Other cases were less forgivable, such as Doris McFarland who told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that she voted for her 92-year-old blind husband who died October 7.
"I called up the elections board and said, 'Can I do it because he wanted me to vote,'" McFarland explained. "The person...said, 'Well, who would know?'" How heartwarming. How criminal.
26 voters cast multiple ballots, 20 strictly in-state and six others inside and outside Washington.
The pro-market Evergreen Freedom Foundation reports that, as of December 30, five counties discovered at least 8,419 more votes than voters who had voted. On January 18, that number inexplicably dropped to 2,200.
Also unusual: Some 500 voters claimed the King County Administration building as their legal residence.
Washingtonians deserve a governor chosen by transparent re-vote. Earth's sole remaining superpower, meanwhile, should use this fiasco to exercise humility and adopt admirable voting procedures from overseas.
First, Congress should require clean voter rolls before every biennial federal election. If states need assistance to purge non-citizens, felons, the relocated, and the dead from registration records, Uncle Sam should scrap some farm subsidies and underwrite this vital improvement.
Second, electoral officials should inspect every voter's photo identification. If Afghan, Iraqi, and Ukrainian voters must show picture ID, what's our excuse? Some Democrats bellyache that this would frighten blacks from the polls. Please! Such condescending rubbish assumes blacks lack workplace or student IDs, bankcards, or drivers' licenses. Keep it simple: Expect blacks, like everyone else, to vote with the same IDs we must show to board commercial jets.
Third, U.S. elections should require each voter to dip a finger in ink after balloting. This will stymie those who vote early and often. A purple index finger also offers a subtle civics advertisement: "I voted. Have you?"
Finally, absentee ballots are easily abused. Deceased-Americans and Alzheimer's-ravaged seniors magically vote, thanks to relatives and caregivers who never see poll workers. Absentee ballots should be limited to mentally competent shut-ins and voters away on Election Day, not just impatient citizens who want to make this solemn civic ritual as mundane as ordering early from a mail-order catalog.
America proudly leads Earth in many spheres, but our vote procedures are a global disgrace. During the 21 months until the 2006 mid-term election, officials should work diligently to guarantee every state a ballot system at least as reliable as Iraq's.