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Detecting election fraud made virtually impossible

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The story by Myung Oak Kim on Voter-database doubts in yesterday's Rocky Mountain News raises serious questions about the potential for election fraud. From the article it appears that election officials intend to use Colorado's SCORE II statewide voter registration database as an electronic poll book during precinct elections in the future. Certainly electronic poll books are already in use, and required for vote center and mail ballot elections. However, such usage is fraught with peril, and the current system cannot even keep such simple fields as a voter's party affiliation straight. Since the system has been developed in secret, and public review will no doubt be extremely limited in the future, there is absolutely no way to know whether the names in the database are corporeal, the addresses exist and are residential, how many are in a secret file for alleged victims of domestic violence, what other chicanery exists or, more likely, gross incompetence is hidden behind "security by obscurity."
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Before going further, I would like to recommend the book Deliver The Vote, A History Of Election Fraud, An American Political Tradition - 1742-2004 by Tracy Campbell. Anyone familiar with election fraud, and as Tracy Campbell abundantly documents, realizes that a basic and essential tool for detecting election fraud is a printed poll book containing signatures of those who appeared at the precinct and voted in the election. But election officials are rapidly eliminating that fundamental protection with no debate or review.

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While the use of "repeaters," "drifters," and "illegals," together with vote buying and selling are nothing new to American elections, requiring a voter to appear in person at their precinct and physically sign a printed poll book in which they were listed, and that was available for future inspection, at least made the logistics of election fraud complicated and heightened the possibility of exposure and prosecution. But with electronic poll books there is little likelihood that public inspection can be easily accomplished or that the records will be preserved intact and complete. Also, signature capture and comparison is becoming all-electronic with little or no testing, and certainly no standards, for the required equipment and methods. The problems are particularly acute with mail ballots and exacerbated by mail-in voter registration where the "citizen" never personally appears before an election official, then may request a ballot by mail without any justification, or may be sent a ballot without even requesting one.

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Thus we now have a system where we don't have access to any real documentation, there is no requirement that "voters" establish their physical existence, and only ephemeral electronic records exist for the election that we can't see.

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One of the perennial problems with election fraud is that there are more ballots cast than voters who signed the poll book. Ofttimes there are even more ballots cast than there are registered voters in a precinct, which has happened on numerous occasions with electronic voting machines. But with vote centers it hasn't proven possible to break the voters and ballots down by precinct. With electronic poll books, mail ballots, early voting, and precinct voting combined it is impossible to control the number of ballots cast in a precinct in an election. While anyone with evil intent will insure that the total number of ballots cast is somewhat less than the number of registered voters in the precinct, with only easily-manipulated electronic records the problems of proving election fraud are greatly increased. The issue is also made worse by the tendency for county clerks to determine voter turnout by dividing the number of ballots returned by the number of ballots they send out in mail ballot elections. That is done to make it appear turnout was larger than in traditional elections, but such smoke-and-mirror techniques only serve to hide underlying problems which is, of course, desirable for election officials.

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I always quake in fear when attorneys set out in haste to dictate solutions to technical problems. That is particularly true when they legislate on such fundamental issues as elections. I'm quite certain that I don't know all the problems that will result from this mad dash to computerized voting, yet legislators are hastily passing laws to dictate the unknown and, inevitably, the election disasters of tomorrow.

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Given hundreds of years of election fraud experience, our forefathers had figured out that, except in very limited circumstances, requiring voters to physically appear at their local precinct on Election Day and sign a printed poll book that identified them as registered voters in that precinct was the safest, but not perfect, way to insure only eligible citizen's were allowed to vote.

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After establishing their identity and valid registration, voters were then given a ballot that they hand marked in the privacy of a voting booth. Before the voter left their polling place the ballot was dropped into a ballot box after any identifying tags were removed. That ensured a secret ballot cast free from any intimidation, coercion, or electioneering. Vote buying and selling were also minimized by this method.

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When the polls closed the ballots were hand counted at the precinct in full view of poll watchers and the public, and the totals posted at the precinct before the sealed ballot boxes and totals were taken to the clerk's office. The county clerk then totaled the results from all precincts in the county and gave out a public notice that could easily be verified by totaling up the posted precinct results.

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The discerning reader will note that none of these protections exist today in many elections. Perhaps we should heed the lessons learned by our forefathers and return to the methods they developed for secure and honest elections. That isn't to say better means and methods for voting can't or won't be developed in the future, or that computers don't have a place in elections. But it is safe to state that present hastily and ill-informed election legislation has and is making elections less trustworthy and secure.
Chuck Corry
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Dr. Charles Corry is President of the Equal Justice Foundation.

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