Basically, We’re on the Honor System When It Comes to Voting

As every election season accelerates towards its consummation claims of voting irregularities inevitably surface.  This year is no different.  Close elections are scrutinized for fraud and indeed frequently in the past fraud has been detected, after the fact.  But usually once the election is over the media and the public’s interest wanes until the next election and the cycle is repeated.

Here are a few examples of elections with dubious outcomes because of ballot shenanigans.

In 1960 Cook County (Chicago) put JFK into the White House over the soon-to-be long suffering Richard Nixon.  Every grade school kid in Illinois in those days knew the Daley Maxim, “Vote early, vote often.”

In the mid-1990s California Congressman Bob Dornan lost his seat to its current holder, Loretta Sanchez, by 979 votes.   A year-long investigation by the House of Representatives discovered that 748 votes were illegally cast, 624 from non-citizens.  The same investigation found 4,700 problem voter registrations but nothing was done further.  Purposeful fraud and cracks in the system resulted in Dornan’s ouster.

The 2000 Presidential election was thrown into chaos in Florida where there were lots of problems, real and imagined.  Remember the “hanging chads?”  How does one actually hang a chad?  You normally don’t if you are punching only one ballot.  But claims of “double punching” could explain it.  Here’s how it works.  After the polls close you take a handful of cast ballots from the ballot box, 25 or 50 of them, and stack them up properly and then punch the hole down through the stack for the candidate you support.  Any ballot in the stack that has been punched for your candidate remains unchanged.  But any ballot that has been punched for an opponent is negated as a “double punch.”  Your candidate doesn’t gain a vote, but his opponent loses a vote.  Clever.  The chad hangs because it cannot fall free from the stack as it does from a single ballot.

In Washington State in 2007 the infamous ACORN was charged with the biggest voter-registration fraud in state history.

Al Franken may have become the senator from Minnesota as a result of voter fraud in 2008.

In his revealing 2004 book “Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy,” John Fund gives the perfect example that he rightly calls, “…an ugly reality. The U.S. has the sloppiest election systems of any industrialized nation, so sloppy that at least eight of the 19 hijackers who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were actually able to register to vote in either Virginia or Florida while they made their deadly preparations for 9/11.”

Which brings us to this year, this election and my own personal curiosity about voter registration in California.  I have registered hundreds of people to vote in the past and even before I became involved in the immigration issue I wondered when I checked the box for “citizen” on the voter registration form if it was true or not.  Was it verified?  How? By whom?  When?  What if it wasn’t true, what then?

Both federal and state laws regulate elections.  But the elections in America are run by the counties, not the states or the feds.  The U.S. Census Bureau lists 3,140 counties or parishes (Louisiana) or boroughs (Alaska) in the United States.  And they run the elections, local, state and federal for the approximate 150 million registered voters of 207 million who are eligible to vote.

County offices compile the voter registration lists, set up precincts, recruit volunteers, take in the voter registration forms, add them to the voter registration files, mail the sample ballots, mail the absentee ballots, they do it all.  They sometimes struggle with election costs. With all they have to do, are they actually verifying that the person voting has the legal right to vote?

Given the large number of newcomers to our country; foreign students, legal immigrants (not yet citizens) and illegal aliens, plus underage citizens and felons how do we know that only qualified citizens are being registered to vote and that errors in registration are kept to a minimum?

I called 6 county voter registrar offices (roughly 10%) of California’s 58 counties to ask them about registration and how information is verified, who gets to vote, etc.  I got answers all over the map.  So, I called the Secretary of State’s Elections Division in Sacramento and was quoted chapter and verse from HAVA and the state administration code.

I confirmed with the Secretary of State’s office that if the information they ask for is not provided, the person should not be added to the active voter list.

Of the 6 counties I contacted; Marin, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco, only the person from the San Francisco Registrar got it right according to the Secretary of State.  They do not add the registrant to the active file until the deficiency is resolved.

With all the varied answers that I received, (and I understand that these are bureaucracies with many people with varying levels of knowledge, but…this is the most basic element of our system and should be understood by all; who gets to vote) I sent emails to 56 of the 58 county registrars of voters to see what kind of responses I would get.

Dear Registrar,

I have a few questions about registering people to vote, and how the information is verified.

I understand that you send all new registrations to the California Secretary of State who then responds back to the counties with a list of “no match” files from CalValidator.

My questions are:

1.      Are the names that are sent back from the Sec of State requiring more information added to the active voter rolls?

2.      If the registrant goes to the polls on Election Day will his name be on the list?

3.      Is he allowed to cast a vote?

4.      Is that vote counted?

Thank you very much,

I received 22 email responses and they were all over the map, too.  The correct answer, not adding them to the active rolls, wasn’t given to me verbally or by email by even half of the respondents.

The way it is supposed to work is that the county sends all of its new voter registrations to the Secretary of State Elections Division in Sacramento who then run the information through something called CalVoter which sounds very much like E-Verify for voters.  If the registrant’s driver license number or the last four of his social security number don’t match then that person’s registration is sent back to the county registrar to gather the correct information.  If it doesn’t match they shouldn’t be on the voter rolls, voting, or, most importantly, having their vote counted.

13 of the 22 counties responding confirmed that the vote would be counted.  One waffled.  Some of the smallest counties in the state by population; Lassen, Mono, Nevada, Modoc, Tulare, Colusa, Imperial all answered “no.”  The vote would not be counted if the information wasn’t verified.  And, San Francisco County verbally and by email informed me that the registrant in question would not be added to the roles or have a vote counted if the information was not provided.  Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the country, told me by phone that they would count the vote.

Obviously the fact that the registrant is still allowed to vote and his or her vote is still tallied without resolving the discrepancy is a huge loophole in the system that undermines the democratic process by letting potentially ineligible people effect the outcome of our elections.

One of my concerns is that non-citizens are voting in our elections.  It is a very real possibility.  Many in the open borders crowd see no difference between legal immigrants and illegal aliens and think they should have all the rights of citizens and access to all area of our country and culture…including voting.

Check out the website of an Oakland, CA organization called Mobilize the Immigrant Vote.

Their website states;

The Mobilize the Immigrant Vote (MIV) California Collaborative was started in 2004 as the first-ever statewide campaign in California to organize a multi-ethnic coalition of community-based organizations working within immigrant communities and building their capacity to register, educate, and mobilize their constituents for electoral participation.

“…within immigrant communities…”

There are over 100 organizations listed as “Campaign Partners.”  I went to a dozen websites of the organizations listed and many stated outright a support for amnesty for illegal aliens, path to citizenship, coming out of the shadows, etc.  Whatever the euphemism, they are pro amnesty for illegal aliens.  How confident am I that they are only registering people to vote who are citizens?

How about, not very?

It is important that all eligible citizens vote in our elections.  It is equally important that those ineligible to vote are excluded from this process.

In this day and age, proving that one is a citizen of the United States with a birth certificate is a no-brainer.  Everybody has one, or knows where to get one.  There shouldn’t be any question of citizenship when it involves the democratic process that we have inherited from the founders.

Heck, even my grandmother, whose birth records burned up in Kansas in the 1800s, ironically as the result of an Indian attack, managed to get another birth certificate.

I did visit the Registrar of Voters in Marin County to make my inquiries in person.

The lady I spoke to was perfunctorily/bureaucratically polite, her smile faded a little when I got specific with my questions.  Then, 11-99, she called for backup.  She was joined by a man and the two of them seemed a little uneasy by my questions.  Here’s how it went:

“Do you send all the new voter registrations to Sacramento to be run through CalVoter?”

“Yes, every day this time of year.”

“And they respond back to you with a list every day?”


“And when they have flagged a registration as incomplete or a ‘no-match’ or whatever, what do you do?  Call them?”

“We mail them a form letter asking them to contact us so we can get the missing information.”

“So they are not added to the active voter rolls until you get the information?  I mean, if they go to their local polling place on Election Day, their name isn’t on the roster, is it?”

“It is.”

“Well, if it’s on the roster…they can vote then, right?”

“Yes.  But we ask them to show a picture I.D.”

“Does the precinct worker ask for the missing information before giving him a ballot?”

“No, he just asks to see an I.D.”

“Is it a provisional ballot…one that isn’t counted until it is verified that the person is registered to vote?”

“Oh, he’s registered.”

“So, even if the Secretary of State has informed you that his voter registration is incomplete he is still added to the voter rolls, and he gets to vote and that vote is counted even if he doesn’t answer your form letter?”

“That’s why we ask him for an I.D.”

“But…your precinct workers are volunteers, and they’re, of course, not trained to spot a fake I.D., how do you know that this is the guy, that he has the right to vote if he hasn’t given you the information you asked for?”

“Basically, we’re on the honor system.”

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