The prior post discussed the need to fight efforts to restrict voting in the U.S., including those purportedly aimed at squashing voter fraud.
A new article by Justin Levitt, an associate professor of law at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, discusses the problems created in Montana in the 2008 election by people who made false accusations of voter fraud.
For the 2012 election, Levitt reports, there have been “challenges based on ostensible felony status in Florida, ostensible deaths in North Carolina and ostensible address problems in Ohio, among others. Some of these challenges appear to be the work of isolated individuals, others are coordinated by local groups ’empowered by’ national entities like True the Vote. The common thread is that the challenges are based not on personal information about particular voters, but computerized scans of data records.”
There are at least three major problems with such challenges, according to Levitt.
First, the underlying databases for the challenges are inaccurate.
Second, some challenges are aimed at situations that may be unusual, but legitimate: (a) “voters registered at business addresses, ignoring the fact that small business owners or managers may live where they work;” (b) “immigrants, ignoring the fact that noncitizens may have become naturalized [U.S. citizens];” and (c) “students and others in group housing.”
The third major problem created by such challenges is the burdens they place on “overworked and underpaid officials desperately trying to make sure that the elections run smoothly” and on “eligible citizens [who are pulled] away from jobs and families into unnecessary legal hearings.” It is even worse for such challenges to absentee ballots from legitimate voters who have little practical chance to defend themselves.
Many of these challenges, according to Levitt, have been resisted by most election officials.
On election day itself, such officials should be skeptical of anyone “walking around with long lists of ostensibly illegal voters” that are most likely full of mistakes. The officials should “swiftly reject challenges that are not founded on credible personalized knowledge about individual voters, and they must remove volunteers who become overzealous. There must be room for civic participation, but there can be no room for unfounded disruption to the right to vote.”