Sunday, October 29, 2006

Another Failed State

The Boston Globe has detailed the findings of a report entitled: "Voting in 2006: Have We Solved the Problems of 2004?" by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Century Foundation, and Common Cause. The report documented many developments that would make America qualify for 'rogue state' status. The report uncovered the following:

Hurdles to voter registration. Several states, led predictably by Florida and Ohio, have added criminal penalties for voter-registration efforts that violate deliberately complicated rules . In Florida, the Legislature added fines for nonpartisan groups that turn in registration materials late. This put League of Women Voters volunteer efforts in many minority areas out of business.

In Ohio, where the notorious secretary of state, Ken Blackwell, is also the Republican candidate for governor, technical violations of complex voter-registration laws are now felonies. Republicans even tried to disqualify Blackwell's opponent, Ted Strickland, from running, on the ground that he had voted in past years from two different Ohio addresses (where he lived).

Excessive ID requirements. In states that require voter ID, common-sense documentation such as a utility bill or tax receipt has long been accepted. Other states have accepted a signed affidavit or signature match, and experienced no fraud problems. But in several Republican-controlled states, such as Florida, Georgia, and Missouri, photo-ID requirements have been added, disqualifying people -- mostly poor, elderly, minority (and likely to vote for Democrats) -- who lack driver's licenses or passports or special voter cards. In Florida, the requirement could disqualify 300,000 voters.

Impediments to voting. In Arizona, an anti-immigrant ballot initiative passed in 2004 requires voters to bring proof of citizenship. In the first two months after the initiative passed, 70 percent of voter-registration applications in Maricopa County (Phoenix) were rejected for lack of adequate documentation. In Ohio, where voters in heavily Democratic and minority precincts waited for as long as 10 hours and countless gave up because of mysterious shortages of voting machines, the state belatedly required roughly equal allocation of voting machines. This remedy takes effect in 2013!

Polls have Ohio Democratic Senate candidate Sherrod Brown leading Republican incumbent Mike DeWine by about eight points. But one Ohio activist told me, "We put the margin of theft at about seven points."

Mechanical manipulation. Immense problems remain with voting machines, most notoriously "touch-screen" machines that leave no paper trail . If you want to be really terrified, check out a nine-minute video produced by three computer scientists at Princeton, which shows how to hack into a Diebold machine to change the recorded vote (See itpolicy.princeton.edu/voting).

A state that ignores basic democratic rights, abuses human rights and has an aggressive tendency towards others........sounds like a failed state to me.