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As Long as We Remember...

August 3, 2006

Deception and Correction

Chris Cavey

One of the most important duties you have as a citizen is to cast your vote with hopes that you will have a hand in improving government. On the other hand it is the duty of government to insure the right to vote and that your suffrage will be heard as your direct voice in government.

No politician in Maryland, regardless of party, can disagree with these statements. The debate is over the handling of early voting and the potential for voter fraud.

Currently there are at least 30 states that allow voters to cast ballots before the designated Election Day. This type of voting is not absentee voting like Maryland and nine other states currently provide for their citizens. Early voting in this definition is: no excuse, show-up to an early voting location, cast your ballot, hope your favorites win and your civic duty is accomplished.

The problem is in the fact that the desired form of early voting in Maryland was created purely with political motivation not a civil rights incentive.

Florida allows early voting 15 days before the election including having these locations open eight hours over the weekend. Polling places have to be public libraries, and city halls; they must be located within each county to afford all voters equal opportunity and access to cast a vote. In Texas they have "curbside voting," for those who cannot get out of their vehicles, both early and on Election Day.

These two examples demonstrate that some states looked at their citizenry and made decisions to promote voter participation. Each state requires voters to show some form of identification for their ballot to be counted. Research has not located any early vote state that does not require the citizen to prove validity as a registered voter. Maryland will blaze the trail to politically motivated use of unidentified voters for promoting voter fraud.

There is a case pending in Maryland courts concerning the constitutionality of Maryland's early voting law. Voting is specific in our Maryland constitution. We are entitled to vote in the precinct or ward in which we live. We are specifically and clearly told the day and how to calculate the date when the elections will be held. These statutes are inscribed to guarantee citizens a time and place to vote.

The currently proposed early voting provisions, passed by a very partisan group of legislators, will allow many measures that could lead to fraud in our election system. The General Assembly did not pass this as an amendment to our Maryland Constitution, but rather as a statute. Yet, the legislation modifies the date, the day and gives you a mandated and specific address of where to vote outside of the precinct or ward in which you live, all of which modify our Maryland Constitution.

The mandated voting locations, under the law, are specific to the address and not meant to serve conveniently all the citizens of the individual county. The locations are placed where specific partisan votes are being courted; or they are located inconvenient to specific voter demographics.Republican voters.

You can vote early, on demand and unchallenged by election judges. They can only ask you a question such as, "where do you live?" Your answer need not be specific. You can say "Frederick" and you are voting! No other proof is needed. Perhaps signs should be issued in polling places that state "No Questions asked, No ID needed."

The Board of Public Works has authorized money for "e-poll books." The idea is that the poll books for each precinct, including early voting precincts, are real-time. This means you vote early in Randallstown and drive to Towson to vote early again, the same day or the next six, the e-poll book should know you already voted. That's "should know?

This sounds odd; but no one is "betting the mortgage" it will work. With such a complicated first time project there are likely plenty of glitches in the system. Hopefully there will be a stockpile of provisional ballots on Election Day...or Days.

What are provisional ballots? They are the voting means of last resort; and the voting means with the highest rejection rates. Federal law allows election officials to use provisional ballots to "correct" administrative errors, yet allow the voter to cast a ballot.

Here is an example of their usage: Someone fraudulently poses as you at an early voting location because no ID was required and they knew you live in "Frederick." Then you show up to vote on Election Day to vote just to have the e-poll book say you already voted. While you are ranting at the election judge, they will find a provisional ballot for you to use to vote.

This is a paper ballot on which you vote and seal in an envelope. You then place that voting envelope inside an affidavit envelope, which proves you are who you say you are. Later, after Election Day, all effort is made to figure out if you were the early voter or if you were the provisional voter.

The outcome is one of two ways. Either your provisional ballot is disallowed and your vote is never counted; or your provisional ballot is accepted and both votes are counted!

The reason both are counted is they might prove someone voted who was not you, but they can't take the fraudulently cast vote away.because they do not know which candidates or issues the deceitful person voted for! Thus, we have voter fraud even with the expensive protective measure of e-poll books.

The preventative measures are easy, simple and non-partisan.

Just require proof of who you are by asking you to show photo identification. Everyone should have one. It's an even bet that it would be less expensive to issue them free rather than to pay for measures such as e-poll books to prevent voter fraud.

Require early voters to vote at their local precinct or ward. The system is in place. If we, as a state, need to implement early voting to increase voting participation, vote at the local Board of Elections. We citizens already pay for those offices and they are staffed during normal business hours. They are accessible, as are all government offices, and hopefully secure, for they are our final stop for all our Election Day ballots.

It is a shame that voter fraud and the desire for it exist. We currently have no problem electing those who serve themselves and do little service for their constituents. With the potential fraud early voting could cause, we will slowly but certainly substitute the idea of self-government with the politics of fraud.

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