Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Roll Call Op-Ed: Crisis of Trust Over Voting Difficulties Must Be Addressed

Op-Ed from Roll Call, by Richard L. Hasen

"There is a partisan and racial dimension to the issue. John Harwood reports that 'just one-third of African-Americans call the vote "accurate and fair," while 91 percent of Republicans do.'"

"It is hardly surprising that the winners have more faith in the process than the losers. But just before the election, a Rasmussen Reports poll showed 59 percent of American voters believing there was 'a lot' or 'some' fraud in American elections."

"It should go without saying that free and fair elections are essential to a well-functioning democracy and that an eroding public faith in the electoral process is worrisome. Had the margin in Ohio been 100,000 votes closer and the outcome determined by a set of provisional ballots to be judged and counted post-election by partisan election officials, we would have seen crowds in the street as we saw in the Ukraine."

"Part of the solution to the fraud-and-legitimacy problem is additional resources to minimize election administration incompetence. But the more fundamental question is that of trust."

"In many parts of the United States, the chief elections officer of the state is a secretary of state who runs in a partisan election and is involved in partisan activities. This is intolerable. How can Democratic voters in Ohio trust Kenneth Blackwell, the Ohio secretary of state, who co-chaired the Ohio campaign to re-elect President Bush? How can Republican voters in California trust Kevin Shelley, California's secretary of state, who is accused of taking federal money earmarked for voter education to promote Democratic causes?"

It bears repeating: Voter-verifiable audit trails seem to be an essential component in a system voters will trust.

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