Jewish World Review Sept. 23, 2004 / 8 Tishrei, 5765
John H. Fund
Ballots or Briefs? In election 2004, the man with the most lawyers may win
The Bush and Kerry campaigns are spending unprecedented millions on TV ads. But the real battle that could decide this election may be fought by the squadrons of lawyers both sides have hired to prepare Florida-style challenges to the results in any close state. Once again, America's sloppy, fraud-prone voting system could turn Election Day into an Election Month of court challenges.
"If you think of election problems as akin to forest fires, the woods are no drier than they were in 2000, but many more people have matches," says Doug Chapin, director of the nonpartisan Election Reform Information Project.
Certainly, a lot of incendiary rhetoric is being tossed around. "Don't tell us that disenfranchising a million African-Americans and stealing their votes is the best we can do in America," John Kerry told a black church audience in Indianapolis in July as he promised to deploy "SWAT teams" of 10,000 volunteer lawyers to police the polls for possible voter disenfranchisement.
The Kerry campaign has already spammed its supporters with an e-mail saying it is "considering our options should John Kerry or George Bush pursue a recount like the famous Florida ballot dispute" and soliciting funds to do so. The Federal Election Commission will hold a hearing this month on a Kerry request to use its legal and accounting funds to pay for recount expenses. Republicans are forming their own network of lawyers to guard against possible voter fraud, citing what they say has been a flood of questionable new voter registrations submitted by liberal activist groups.
Election lawsuits are already piling up. Democrats have sued in Missouri, demanding the city of St. Louis, a Democratic stronghold, be the only jurisdiction permitted to allow early voting at government offices. For the first time, a federal mandate will require that all voters be allowed to cast a provisional ballot if their names don't appear on registration lists.
In Florida, liberal groups sued to have such ballots counted even if they are cast in precincts where the voter doesn't live even though state law disqualifies votes cast in the wrong precinct. If the number of provisional ballots exceeds the margin of victory in the presidential race, you can bet lawyers will argue that "every vote must count," regardless of eligibility. Candidates may have to hope their vote totals are beyond the "margin of litigation."
But the hottest spot for pre-election litigation this year is New Mexico, a state Al Gore carried by only 366 votes. On Monday, a Democratic judge tossed Ralph Nader off the ballot after another judge rescinded a similar order she'd issued because she'd contributed $1,000 to the Kerry campaign. Nader forces have accused Democratic Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron of railroading their man using legal pretexts that have never been applied in New Mexico.
Earlier this year, Ms. Vigil-Giron issued guidelines saying that a new state law which mandates that voters who register without an election official present must show a photo ID at the polls doesn't apply to registrations collected by groups like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (Acorn), but only to those people who sign up to vote by mail. So far, such groups have helped collect 112,000 new registrations, or one out of nine of the state's voters.
Mary Herrera, the clerk in Bernalillo County, which includes Albuquerque, says her office has received over 3,000 suspicious registration forms. A 13-year-old boy received a voter card in the mail. Acorn organizers admitted that registration was submitted by one of their employees, who has since been fired. But in a court case this month, Acorn director Matt Henderson invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to answer whether his group illegally copies voter registration cards before turning them in to election officials. Previously, he had admitted to the Albuquerque Tribune that it did so.
All this has prompted U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to form a statewide criminal task force. "Mischief is afoot and questions are lurking in the shadows," he told reporters. But Ms. Vigil-Giron, whom Mr. Iglesias named to his task force, told me that "the U.S. attorney is the last person in line who should look at vote fraud. It's seen as Big Brother getting involved and won't help anything." Citing the burden on local election officials, a local judge has declined to overrule her decree that most new voters don't have to show ID even though he acknowledged the law is "clear" and "unambiguous."
The issue of photo ID has become symbolic of the clash of values on election standards between the two parties. Supporters say it is bizarre that 33 states don't require a photo ID to vote, at a time when one is needed to buy an airline ticket, rent a video or cash a check. A Rasmussen Research poll in June found 82% of Americans believed voters should show photo ID, including 75% of Kerry voters. But liberal groups insist that even laws that allow voters to use a paycheck or utility bill as ID discriminate against minority voters and could lead to "profiling."
When San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn announced last week that he would petition Congress for a bill requiring photo ID, he was denounced by the local League of Women Voters. Jesse Durfee, chairman of the San Diego Democratic Party, says photo ID requirements "target specific communities and are discriminatory." He calls them "a racist mechanism." Similar charges are being hurled at supporters of a November ballot initiative in Arizona that would require proof of citizenship to register to vote and apply for welfare.
But the reason photo ID and similar laws command such broad support is that citizens instinctively realize that in a highly charged election, some people will be tempted to violate the honor system on which our election rules are based. Should "anything goes" continue to be our ballot catch phrase, the nation may wake up to a crisis even bigger than the 2000 Florida folly. Perhaps then it will demand to know why more wasn't done to fix the system before it failed again. That's why officials need to enforce whatever safeguards we have this year and then lobby hard for better voter education and protections against fraud in the future.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor John H. Fund is author, most recently, of "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)
Comment on this column by clicking here.
09/13/04: I'd Rather Be Blogging: CBS stonewalls as "guys in pajamas" uncover a fraud
08/30/04: Tryout Time: The 2008 presidential campaign gets under way in New York.
08/23/04: Why we're refighting Vietnam: Blame McCain-Feingold
08/18/04: Silence of the Lamb: C-SPAN cancels 'Booknotes'
08/16/04: Louisiana North: Why New Jersey is a pit of corruption
08/02/04: Patriotic liberalism
07/28/04: Caught in the Web: How Democrats mobilized online and other campaign tales
06/28/04: Bad ACTors: If Dems want honest elections, why did a Soros-backed group hire criminals to get out the vote?
06/21/04: This Time, Get It Right: Instead of "lawyering up," both parties should be working to prevent another Florida
06/14/04: Don't Pardon Their French: "Good government" Californians embrace the system that produced David Duke
06/07/04: Freedom's Team: How Reagan, Thatcher and John Paul II won the Cold War
05/25/04: Don't Touch That Dial?
Radio hosts worry about the FCC's indecency regulations. What about political speech?
05/18/04: Anger Management: Dems start to realize that a campaign of hate won't beat President Bush
05/11/04: Will Sen. Kennedy turn out to be a political liability for John Kerry?
05/04/04: Buyer's Remorse: Dems start to worry that Kerry can't win
04/27/04: Arlen Specter's personality helps make him vulnerable in today's primary
04/20/04: Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks making laws should be a part-time job. He's right
03/23/04: Bragging of foreign support doesn't win many votes in America
03/16/04: The Vanishing Center: In both political parties, the defense of moderation is no virtue
03/09/04: A JFK-NBC Ticket? If Kerry wants to make things interesting, he'll consider Tom Brokaw for veep
03/02/04: As Virginia mulls a tax hike, all Americans should guard their wallets
02/24/04: Marriage of Inconvenience: Why same-sex nuptials make Democrats nervous
02/10/04: Republican Rot: Is Congress's GOP majority becoming as corrupt as the Democrats were?
02/03/04: Moore Trouble: Alabama's former chief justice may challenge Bush for the Religious Right vote
01/13/04: Rage of a Relic: Paul O'Neill is angry that the world has passed him by
01/06/04: Unintended Consequence: How Terry McAuliffe and James Carville created Howard Dean
09/03/03: The Anti-Dean: Why Hillary opposes the Democratic front-runner
06/27/03: The California jurist who may replace Justice O'Connor
06/02/03: Clinton the Hoover: Bill, Hillary and the Dems' political vacuum
05/27/03: Nerd Nirvana: Students are to the right of the faculty even at the U of Chicago
05/16/03: GOPers gain in the land of Humphrey and Mondale
04/28/03: With the war won, it's time for Bush to master the Senate
04/04/03: Is "diversity" on campus even a goal worth pursuing?
03/05/03: Sunday morning with the BBC
02/28/03: Shut Up, They Explained: If you can censor this, thank a teacher
02/21/03: Unmitigated Gaul:
Saddam isn't the only dictator with
whom Jacques Chirac is cozy
02/18/03: Growing number of black officials breaking ranks by calling for a more honest approach to race relations
01/31/03: Half and Half: Republicans have achieved parity among American voters
11/11/02: Sobering Thoughts: The GOP's cup runneth over? No, it's half empty
10/31/02: Blue Gray: California's governor answers a Nobel Prize winner with obscenities
10/14/02: Bad Hair Day: Did Montana Dems exploit antigay prejudice?
10/11/02: The kill-everything senate
09/30/02: Schroeder did what it took to win--but at what cost to Germany?
08/22/02: Buh-Bye Bob, So Long Cynthia : No amount of shouting could've saved Barr or McKinney
07/29/02: GOP: Get Over Panic --- Dems are vulnerable on corporate scandals, too
07/17/02: Not Just an Average Joe: A black GOPer may give Rep. Eliot Engel a run for his money
07/15/02: The McCain Mutiny-II
07/01/02: Opening the Schoolhouse Door: The politicians can't stop school choice now
06/20/02: The Body' Bows Out --- American politics will be duller without Jesse Ventura
06/06/02: It's time for President Bush to stand up to California's senators
05/16/02: A Court Intrigue: Procedural funny business in a racial-preference case
05/14/02: Thin moral ice: New revelations from a skater's Stasi files recall an oppressive era
05/09/02: Newark, Zimbabwe!?
05/02/02: Will Terror Leave Us No Choice? Teachers unions try to use Sept. 11 as an excuse for bad schools
04/23/02: The New Nixon? Al Gore plots his comeback
04/16/02: 'I, Uh, I Have No Comment': A union plays dirty in opposing an antitax initiative
03/31/02: Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!: Filibusters can help the Senate GOP get things done
03/14/02: Red-Light District: It's time to draw the line on gerrymandering
02/21/02: Slippery Slope: Can Dick Riordan beat California's Democratic governor?
02/14/02: Reform School: The Shays-Meehan incumbency protection act
02/07/02: Arizona Highway Robbery: Politicians make a grab for campaign cash
01/31/02: Disfranchise Lassie: Even dogs can register to vote. We need election reform with teeth
01/17/02: Dr. King's Greedy Relations: Cashing in on a national hero's legacy
01/10/02: Oil of Vitriol
01/04/02: The little engine that couldn't--and the senators who don't want it to
12/24/01: E-mail and low-cost computers could be conduits for a learning revolution
12/13/01: How Gore could have really won
12/07/01: Let our students keep their cell phones
12/04/01: Why the White House gave the RNC chairman the boot
11/12/01: A Winsome Politician: She won an election in a majority-black district--and she's a Republican
11/01/01: Bush Avoids Politics at His Peril
10/30/01: Cocked Pit: Armed pilots would mean polite skies
10/24/01: Chicken Pox: Hardly anyone has anthrax, but almost everyone has anthrax anxiety
10/11/01: Will Rush Hear Again? New technology may make it possible
10/04/01: Three Kinds of pols
08/24/01: Lauch Out: Who'll replace Jesse Helms?
08/08/01: Tome Alone: Clinton's book will probably end up on the remainder table
08/03/01: Of grubbing and grabbing: Corporation$ and local government$ perfect "public use"
07/31/01: Affairs of State: The Condit case isn't just about adultery. It's about public trust and national security
07/14/01: The First Amendment survives, and everyone has someone to blame for the failure of campaign reform
07/12/01: He's Still Bread: Despite what you've heard, Gary Condit isn't toast --- yet
07/12/01: Passing Lane: Left-wing attacks help boost John Stossel's and Brit Hume's audiences
06/25/01: Man vs. Machine: New Jersey's GOP establishment is doing everything it can to stop Bret Schundler
06/15/01: A Schundler Surprise? Don't count out "the Jack Kemp of New Jersey"
06/06/01: Memo to conservatives: Ignore McCain and maybe he'll go away
05/29/01: Integrity in Politics? Hardly. Jim Jeffords is no Wayne Morse
05/22/01: Davis' answer to California's energy crisis? Hire a couple of Clinton-Gore hatchet men
05/07/01: Prematurely declaring a winner wasn't the networks' worst sin in Florida
04/23/01: How to fix the electoral process --- REALLY!
04/11/01: A conservative hero may mount a California comeback
03/30/01: Can the GOP capture the nation's most closely balanced district?
03/06/01: Leave well enough alone
02/22/01: Forgetting our heroes
02/15/01: In 1978 Clinton got a close look at the dangers of selling forgiveness
02/12/01: Clinton owes the country an explanation --- and an appology
02/06/01: How Ronald Reagan changed America
01/16/01: Why block Ashcroft? To demoralize the GOP's most loyal voters
01/15/01: Remembering John Schmitz, a cheerful extremist
12/29/00: Why are all Dems libs pickin' on me?
Dubya's 48% mandate is different than Ford's
12/13/00: Gore would have lost any recount that passed constitutional muster
11/13/00: The People Have Spoken: Will Gore listen?
10/25/00: She's really a Dodger
09/28/00: Locking up domestic oil?
09/25/00: Hillary gives new meaning to a "woman with a past"
09/21/00: Ignore the Polls. The Campaign Isn't Over Yet
©2001, John H. Fund