Easier voting can also mean easier fraud
Voting in the Nov. 3 general election in Ohio probably could have been easier.
For instance, in the name of voting ease, several states mailed ballots ahead of the election to every registered voter.
To help make the process more convenient, some countries across the globe now even are experimenting with online voting.
But adding ease and conveniences like this undoubtedly also adds opportunity for improper voting or, to use the current favorite buzzword of our president and his supporters, voter fraud.
The connotation that comes with the term “voter fraud” often leaves people thinking large-scale Russian interference or some other mass conspiracy to rig electronic voting systems. While those are valid examples of voter fraud, I believe other instances of voter fraud take place more frequently on a significantly smaller scale with participants who think their actions are innocuous.
Still, they add up.
We now know for certain that in the Mahoning Valley alone, hundreds of voters attempted to cast ballots illegally during the Nov. 3 election. Let me be clear: Those ballots might have gone either way — Republican or Democrat.
About 186 provisional ballots were rejected in Trumbull County for unregistered voters. Another 16 people voted early and then voted by mail; and 25 more voted early and then went to their polling location on Election Day to vote again.
Mahoning County Board of Elections found 330 ballots cast by unregistered voters. A dozen others voted by mail and then showed up at the polling locations trying to vote again.
Many more ballots were rejected locally for other reasons.
During a meeting with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose last week, I asked if the hundreds of local ballots tossed was unusually high.
LaRose said generally Ohio actually has a high rate of approved provisional ballots. That’s acceptable, he said, because those ballots’ authenticity is determined individually by a bi-partisan board of elections in each county.
He wasn’t sure, yet, about overall Ohio numbers and reasons for disqualified provisional ballots because he said data analysis is still underway. But at the end of the day, he seemed proud of the security system and success of the checks and balances built into Ohio’s voting systems.
In the states where ballots were sent to everyone, we keep hearing about ballots sent to former addresses of residents who have relocated or even who may now be deceased.
Undoubtedly, that’s a problem that comes with attempts to make voting convenient.
Even in Ohio, where absentee ballots had to be specifically requested, who’s to say many people didn’t obtain and complete the absentee ballots of their friends or family members? That would be hard to combat and head off, short of requiring only in-person voting and eliminating the convenience of absentee voting.
Some might argue simple approaches really are better.
Several years ago, I traveled to India during the national election there. I witnessed dedicated citizens waiting in long lines to cast ballots. In such a densely populated Third World country, how could the nation’s election system keep track of the millions upon millions of voters, over days of voting? For sure, voters were not casting ballots using computer touch screens.
Instead, each voter’s forefinger is stained with a strip of violet-colored indelible ink that remains bright for about 10 days. All voting must be done in person, and the ink ensures that no one shows up more than once.
For certain, that’s simple — probably not the best way to track votes, but it works for them.
Voters believe (or sincerely want to believe) in America’s election system and are hopeful that the good catches like those made at local boards of elections represent all instances of improper voting.
Is that realistic? Probably not, but I’m one of those voters who sincerely wants to believe it’s a good majority.
I also believe every registered voter must be able to cast a vote. So absentee voting remains a must. But I also believe some limits to ease and convenience must remain if we also are to limit opportunities for voter fraud.