Under the Silver Dome

Voter Security: A Right Precariously Balanced

by Nannette Moffett

mericans want their ballots to be secure, secret and anonymous. How difficult should it be to vote? Should anyone be able to fill out a form without proof of age, citizenship or birth? In 1993, Bill Clinton and congressional Democrats made motor voter registration a top priority and subsequently passed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. President Bush had previously vetoed it. Republican lawmakers argued that it would result in fraud and would impose federal mandates with out adequate funding.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, also known as the motor voter bill, requires all state agencies offering public assistance (welfare, unemployment, etc.) to also act as voter registration bureaus. Each motor vehicle driver’s license application also serves as an application for voter registration. There is no requirement that the application be filled out in person and it is specifically forbidden for any state to require "notarization or other formal authentication" of the information on the registration form.

According to an article in The Review and Preview of Congress Today the INS turned over to Congress a list of more than 500,000 people who were not legal citizens on Election Day in 1996 but who appeared on voter registration files for Orange County, California in the battleground race between Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D) and former Rep. Robert Dornan (R). Dornan is still adding up the fraudulent ballots in that election. Vote fraud is rampant in California where mail-in ballots are used extensively. The man accused of killing Mexican presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was a Mexican citizen who was registered to vote in two California cities.

In Nevada, we can now register to vote by mail which makes us more vulnerable to becoming a state riddled with fraud. The only difference from California is that Nevadans must show up in person at the polls for the first election after registering by mail, but no identification is required at that time. One could conceivably register under several names and vote the same way since no ID except a signature is needed.

In this last legislative session, Assembly Bill 117 contained a section that would have allowed a city or county to conduct a special election or recall election by mail. It flew through the Assembly but was defeated in the Senate when several Nevadans joined me in testifying about the problems associated with mail-in ballots.

The Washoe County Registrar of Voters was fired as a result of his action during the mail-in presidential preference primary. He erased signatures from mail-in ballots and explained that he was only trying to secure the privacy and secrecy of the vote.

Secretary of State Dean Heller is a staunch advocate for the mail-in voting system. He believes a procedure that increases the number of voters and makes it easier to vote is a good thing. In March of 1996 he sent a letter to the Clark County Commission castigating Clark County Registrar of Voters Kathryn Ferguson for her comments saying that the mail-in process has the potential for fraud.

Ferguson is promoting the electronic voting machine system in Clark County which many experts claim is also replete with fraud capabilities. In an interview with Dan Rather (CBS Evening News) computer expert Howard Strauss of Princeton University said, "When it comes to computerized elections, there are no safeguards. It’s not a door without locks, it’s a house without doors." When Rather asked if a national election could be fixed, Strauss replied "Get me a job with the company that writes the software for this program. Then I’d have access to one-third of the votes. Is that enough to fix a general election?"

The paper ballot process still serves as the most verifiable system in that it leaves a paper trail via a filled-out ballot. Proponents of the electronic system say that there is a paper trail because a tape somewhat resembling a cash register receipt is printed. But if it’s possible that the software can be tampered with and the tape is not backed up by a ballot, then how can a vote be substantiated?

Hal Furman, former congressional candidate, expressed his concern over mail-in ballots when he cited incidents wherein unions ordered their members to show up at a certain time and place to fill out their ballots together—coercion?

Attorney General Janet Reno was asked by GOP Rep. Ed Royce to investigate non-citizen voting in California. But Assistant Attorney General Sheila Anthony wrote that "there is no federal law that expressly requires voters to be citizens."

Nevadans would be well served to question and vote against any movement making Nevada a mail-in ballot state and/or allowing electronic computers to replace the paper ballot. In this case, "new and improved" is neither better nor best. u

Nannette Moffett is columnist and hosts "Other Point of View" on Carson Access TV CAT-10 and in Reno on SNCAT. She is also a member of Voter Integrity Project.


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