March 19, 2012 By Wayne Hanson
We may exult with voters in the Middle East who hold up their purple thumbs as evidence that they have voted and cannot cast another ballot — presuming the dye can stand multiple washings. We may watch YouTube videos of voters in Russia stuffing stacks of ballots into ballot scanners and dismiss it as a pothole on the road from hammer and sickle to democracy. But we Americans shouldn't feel too self-satisfied. We have our own problems with counting the vote.
In Means of Ascent, author Robert Caro details a close 1948 Texas Senate primary race between Lyndon Johnson and Coke Stevenson, in which the race went down to the wire. Stevenson appeared to have won until 200 supposedly "overlooked" ballots were found in Ballot Box 13, in Alice, Texas -- 198 for Johnson and two for Stevenson. Johnson won by a few votes, but the charge of ballot box stuffing followed him the rest of his life.
And who can forget the 2000 presidential election beteween George W. Bush and Al Gore, as the outcome rested on a few disputed counties in Florida, which devolved into recounts over disputed ballots — think "hanging chads" and "butterfly ballots" — which could have changed the outcome, depending on which way voter intent was ajudicated.
The Florida Supreme Court ordered another recount, the U.S. Supreme Court overrruled it and declared George W. Bush the winner. And even though Gore won the popular vote, Bush won the Electoral College vote and therefore the election. The rest, as they say, is history.
And then, in 2008, electronic voting machines hit the fan, specifically "direct recording electronic" devices that recorded the vote, but didn't provide enough assurances that the vote was recorded correctly or hadn't been tampered with. Leading the fight for accuracy and accountability in the devices were California Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, among others.
Now, in 2012, as Republican challengers fight it out, and Vice President Joe Biden launches the Obama campaign, another challenge to "one person. one vote" has arisen, also documented on YouTube. Activists — including one who seems to have a British accent — arrived at New Hampshire polling stations assuming the names of deceased voters to see if they could cast ballots. It turns out they could, and as pointed out at length, no identification is required in New Hampshire. The name is checked off the voter rolls — so dead people can only vote once, which should be some comfort to those worried about voter fraud. And by the way, voter fraud is quite a serious offense in this country, if that is any deterrent. For the record, the activists say they didn't submit the ballots.
Could the British be attempting to suborn the electorial process? Will Queen Elizabeth — as a write-in candidate — win a primary for county assessor or New Hampshire state senator on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee?
At Issue: Does the principle of one person one vote still hold, and will the 2012 presidential election accurately reflect the will of the people who are still alive? Leave your comments below.