NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Will Innovative Voting Procedures Encourage Fraud?

November 7, 2000

More than 20 states have turned to "early voting" periods or liberalized absentee-voting procedures to promote Election Day turnout by giving citizens wider voting options. All told, says Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, perhaps one-fourth of the 2000 presidential electorate will have cast ballots in places other than the traditional election booth.

That is more than twice as many as used alternative voting procedures two decades ago, Gans says.

The proliferation of alternative voting procedures may make it easier for unscrupulous political activists to engage in vote fraud, critics warn.

Oregon's widely-publicized shift to voting entirely by mail is well known. But here are some other experiments which have raised questions:

  • The Pentagon has launched a small experiment in Internet voting to help overseas military personnel exercise their franchise.
  • Citizens far removed from polling places in Alaska are being permitted to vote by fax -- even though that may compromise the secrecy of their ballots.
  • Internet voting -- which Arizona Democrats experimented with in their primary -- has officials worried about tampering by computer hackers.

But even more on the minds of political strategists this year is traditional chicanery.

  • In Arkansas, several counties in heavily Democratic areas reportedly opened their polling places on Sunday and began receiving voters bused in straight from church -- a practice which state law forbids in all but one county.
  • A local news crew in Milwaukee has videotaped a Democratic Party donor handing out cigarettes to apparently homeless people who agreed to accept rides to the polls.
  • West Virginia officials admit that there is a "tradition" in southern parts of the state of trying to get around election laws.

Source: Glenn R. Simpson and John Harwood, "New Ways to Vote Reprise Old Problem: How to Avoid Plague of Election Fraud," Wall Street Journal, November 7, 2000.


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