At the risk of boring everyone, including myself, I just have to get this election-related blog off my chest.

So there’s an article in this morning’s Oregonian about people who are trying to prevent voter fraud by standing over the shoulders of county elections officials whose job it is to verify the signatures on all the mail-in ballots.  (All Oregonians vote by mail now; there are no polling places.)  It started with a group of paranoid Republicans, then the paranoia spread to include a “non-partisan” organization called Every Vote Counts (or something), and eventually Democrats got in on the act as well.  Which means there are a whole bunch of random citizens in the county elections office watching employees verify signatures.  Some people are there just to watch the watchers.  They write down their concerns and submit them later, but they can’t say anything during the process itself, which irks them.  Naturally.Call me naive, call me apathetic, but can it get any stupider than this?

Voter fraud is a problem, and definitely circumstances are ripe for it in
Oregon, where nobody votes in person anymore.  People are right to be concerned about voter fraud, but for crying out loud–it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the fraud is in the registration, not so much the voting itself.  People get ballots who shouldn’t have ballots.  People get duplicate ballots.  That’s a problem.  But let’s consider how many different scenarios there are in which someone is going to get someone else’s ballot, vote fraudulently in that person’s name, and forge the person’s signature.  Someone could steal the ballot out of the person’s mailbox.  I guess.  A really civic-minded thief might bypass all the checks and decide to rock the vote instead.  That’s possible.  A new resident of a residence could receive the ballot for an old resident.  That’s also possible.  A person could get two ballots and decide to give one to his non-documented worker friend or his teenage son.  That’s also possible.  But to perpetrate a fraud on the elections office, the illegal voter would still have to successfully forge the signature of the legal voter.  In our first two scenarios, that would be difficult indeed.  If the duplicate-ballot-receiving voter were of a mind to commit a fraud, he could just vote twice, or allow his illegal voter friends to vote and sign his name to their ballot(s).  All of this is unlikely, but possible nevertheless.I should think, or I would hope, with technology being as advanced as it is, that officials could detect multiply-voting voters.  Apparently that’s not the case so much, but even so, what does verifying the freaking signature do to prevent that from happening?  The elections office has already said that as long as the signature matches, the vote counts.  They do verify the ballot signature against the signature on the original registration.  If they match, the ballot gets counted.  If they don’t match, they go in a pile marked “suspicious,” and they deal with them separately.  They don’t throw them out.  They deal with them separately.

So the idea that phony signatures are a big part of voter fraud is, in my mind, just ridiculous.  To believe this you would also have to believe the following:

1)  One or more of the county elections officials in charge of verifying signatures is crooked and highly motivated to break the law.

2)  Someone who works as a county elections official is ambitious enough to break the law and risk prosecution in order to effect the outcome of the election.

3)  All of the people supervising the signature verifiers are of the same party as the crooked signature verifier(s) and they too are also crooked and ambitious enough to break the law and perpetrate a fraud on the entire state.

4)  All of these crooked county elections officials can look inside the sealed ballot envelope (and sealed privacy envelope) with their x-ray vision and know how someone voted so they know whether or not they should keep the ballot or toss it.

Call me an innocent, call me a bureaucrat-lover, but I trust that the people at the county elections office are not all that corrupt.  And I believe they’re probably reasonably competent despite the fact that they work for the government.  I also suspect that none of them have super powers.  I hardly think a bunch of busybodies with nothing better to do than sit on trained professionals’ laps and second-guess their signature verifications are going to do a single thing to prevent voter fraud during this election.

This is a classic example of misplaced outrage.  What people should be outraged about is the fact that we’re all on the honor system when it comes to registering to vote, at least in
Oregon.  Sure, it’s illegal to lie on a voter registration form, but does anyone freaking care?  Apparently not.  A 16-year-old was on the TV news last night showing us that he received a ballot in the mail after illegally registering to vote.  Number one:  How hard is it, really, to verify that a person exists and that he’s not 18 years old yet?  Number two:  Did anyone catch the “illegal” part of “illegally registering to vote”?  Is this 16-year-old going to get any of that threatened fine (up to $100,000) and imprisonment (up to five years)?  If he’s appearing on the evening news, that means he’s either really dumb or elections officials really don’t freaking care if you lie on your registration form or not.

The county elections office sends out reminders that people intending to vote in a federal election need to submit identification that shows a current name and address with their registrations.  In the Oregonian article I mentioned earlier, the elections office basically admits that they aren’t too persnickety about that one either.  Can someone please explain to me what’s wrong with requiring proof of identity, especially when you can send a freaking photocopy in the freaking mail for thirty seven cents?  Why are people in other states, for that matter, so queasy about requiring people to show photo ID at their polling places?  Where’s the denial of civil rights, assuming that the person in question is in fact entitled to vote in that state?  I don’t get it.  Please help me.

As long as I’m all worked up about elections fraud, someone also tell me why people who can’t be bothered to follow the directions on their ballots deserve to have their votes counted.  “Use blue or black ink.”  “Fill in the circle completely.”  “Vote for one only.”  How hard is this?  But I speak as a person who never turned in a ballot with a hanging or pregnant chad, either.  I was geeky enough to take that admonition about making sure one’s ballot card was completely punched through seriously.  I understand not everyone is as anal as I am.  Call me an elitist, call me a freaking nazi, but I guess that makes me in favor of disenfranchising the severely non-anal.

Rant over.  Remember to vote Nov. 2.  Early and often.