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Every Vote Must Count

From Today’s Times Herald

The Montgomery County Election Board next month will hold a public meeting to review the county’s handling of the April 22 Primary Election.

“The goal is to fix any problems before the November general election,” said election board Chairman Joseph M. Hoeffel III.

Hoeffel has asked county voter services Director Joseph R. Passarella to prepare a written report prior to that meeting on any problems that cropped up during the primary elections and the county’s response to those problems.

Stephen Strahs, who heads the citizens’ Election Reform Network, said his organization found a “wide range of problems” at the polls on Election Day.

The Election Reform Network is a Montgomery County based organization “committed to protecting the integrity of our elections and strengthening our democracy

“We found significant problems in almost half of the 40 polls we monitored,” said Strahs.

These problems, as detailed by Strahs, included:

· Voters told they could not vote because they were not on the rolls.

· Election judges who failed to follow proper procedures.

· Under-staffed polls.

· County election staff who provided incorrect information.

· Voting machines that did not properly operate.

· The lack of signage indicating poll places.

· Difficulty experienced by the public in trying to reach either the voter registration office or the election board by phone.

Ok, these are inconveniences, to be sure, but I’m not sure any of these complaints rises to the level of “significant problem” much less true disenfranchisement, which is what Mr. Strahs’ self-important organization claims to be combating. Before the Pennsylvania Primary, the ERN’s big push was for poll workers to hand out paper ballots to any voter who had to wait longer than 15 minutes in line. They’ve since removed that mandate from their website, however they have not been entirely successful in removing the news headline: “The Onion Breaks Diebold Leak Story!” It is a matter of debate whether the Election Reform Network is aware that The Onion is a parody newspaper.

The most serious claim made by Strahs was that election judges failed to follow proper procedures in issuing provisional ballots. Because in Pennsylvania, you must be affiliated with a party in order to cast a vote for the candidates running in that party. Election judges are supposed to offer provisional ballots to those who are, for reasons of registered party affiliation or lack thereof, unable to vote in the primaries.

(County voter services Director Joseph R. ) Passarella said that, of the 422 provisional ballots filled out by voters on Election Day, some 75 percent were invalid because the voters were not registered in the party in whose primary election they voted.

Hmm…75% invalid. What could be the cause? A vast conspiracy to keep people from voting? Mistakes in data entry due to the huge volume of last minute registrations and changes of party affiliations this spring? Or simple voter ignorance?

Probably the latter two, but the ERN wants you to think differently.

Because there’s another kind of disenfranchisement out there and it’s a bit more invidious. It’s the type of disenfranchisement that organizations like the ERN are ignoring, and indeed, (inadvertently? purposely?) encouraging with their stance against Montgomery County’s Voting Machines and the requirement for Voter ID.

The machines we use in Montgomery County print off a zero tape at the beginning of the election. They then print off a total at the end of the election of all votes cast. That total must match the total number of voters on the Clerks handwritten sheet. Both the Minority clerk and the majority clerk are given copies of the tapes and one is posted for public viewing at the polling place. The disk upon which the votes are stored is immediately returned that night to the voting machine warehouse in Norristown. Results are typically available within a few hours, so unless there is a vast single party conspiracy down at the warehouse, fraud against the machines is a pretty tough thing to accomplish.

Voter ID seems like a common sense measure that will assure that 100% turnout in heavily democratic districts like Spring Garden in Philadelphia won’t happen again like it did during the 2000 election. I actually watched ward leaders brag about this on the local affiliate and no one batted an eye. 100% turnout, really? And all the dead rose up to vote for Al Gore, I suppose?

But I digress.

Every fraudulent vote that is counted disenfranchises a valid one. So how do we combat voter fraud? Well, machines are a part of it. Voter ID’s are another part of it. Yet these are the measures the Election Reform Network is working against with their paranoid fantasies of votes disappearing into “Black Boxes” and malicious computer hackers wiping out whole machines. It has been well documented that most voting irregularities occur through paper ballots or through improper identification.

The Election Reform Network claims that it just wants to make sure that every vote counts. I say, lets make sure that every vote that is counted is valid.

Because no squeaky wheel organization, no matter how small, can be ignored these days, Joe Hoeffel is taking complaints about the election at 610-278-3031. May I humbly suggest that if you had a positive experience at your polling place that you give him a call as well?

May 7, 2008 at 5:17 pm
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