NYU Law’s Brennan Center for Justice sent representatives today to the National Press Club in Washington, DC, to inform the press of their findings about the pre-election conditions that may make or break the people’s choice for president.
To a packed room, Executive Director Michael Waldman, a former speechwriter during the Clinton years, addressed us, supplemented by Wendy Weiser, who directs the Brennan Center's work on voting rights and elections; Larry Norden, project director for the Voting Technology Assessment Project; and Jonah Goldman, director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections in the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Voting Rights Project. These experts fielded the many audience questions for which a good amount of time was set aside after Waldman’s brief presentation, which included PowerPoint slides that will be available at the Web site brennancenter.org. (Information there is updated several times a day.)
Walden first presented the three major barriers to an accurate vote count: 1) no match-no vote; 2) voter purges, and 3) partisan voter challenges.
As many know, mostly “insiders,” the first mentioned barrier could eliminate and disenfranchise countless registered voters. Born of the Help America Vote Act that was passed in 2002, heavily influenced by superheroes such as Bob Ney and Jack Abramoff, HAVA mandates state-level voter rolls. Activated differently by each county, according to who is manning the polls, a mere typo can prevent a vote. No match-no vote, meant to purge various categories of voter from the rolls, mandates that the exact voter name must be listed on separate databases, including Social Security lists and registration lists.
I have illustrated this before. I may be Joan Public on one list and Joan Q. Public on another and if so, there goes my vote.
If I have a hard-to-spell ethnic name, from González to Wurtzelbacher, chances are good that misspellings will occur, even if I have gained instant fame as Joe the Plumber.
In Ohio, that bugaboo of 2004, 260,000 more voters have registered than in 2004. Of these 100,000 were eliminated by various interpretations, many of them questionable, of HAVA. Litigation has traveled from the Federal Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court and then back to Ohio. In litigation also was the misspelling of a name on the same sheet of paper as Myhal and Mihal, which eliminated another voter who took the case to court.
Florida is accorded the highest prize for mismatching, with Latino names, among the minorities, most likely to be misspelled (and consider all the Cuban-American Republicans in Miami this may affect!).
No match-no vote could impact hundreds of thousands of votes.
Thirteen million voters have been taken off the rolls in the last few years. Voter purging was conceived, supposedly, to eliminate dead voters from the lists and, indeed, dead people have been known to vote in presidential elections before.