The presence of voter fraud, as with beauty, is firmly fixed in the eyes of the beholder. The parties on both sides of the political aisle claim to be able to recognize it when they see it, but it can don a different garb depending on which party has the bigger dog in the fight.
Those of us who reside in Boone County are happily immune to any significant departure from honest and ethical application of voter integrity. This is made possible by several factors, not the least of which is the competence and character of the county’s chief election official, Wendy Noren. Her election procedures and training programs over several years as the Boone County Clerk have not only guaranteed honest and fair elections but have also instilled an uncommon dedication to excellence, duty and pride among her poll workers, many of whom remain in harness for reasons of loyalty alone.
I am certain that most of Missouri’s counties enjoy much of the same procedural amenities, as the communities are, for the most part, closely knit entities with a family-and-friend atmosphere, which creates very little opportunity for fraud. Boone County was used as the primary example because, as one of Ms. Noren’s long-time election officials and poll workers, I have acquired a working knowledge of the process and have come to admire her honest and nonpartisan ethic.
Unfortunately, folksy, family-style politics seldom exist in the metropolitan areas of our state. The dense populations — which include an abundance of the lesser-affluent, least-educated and most-defenseless people — naturally attract a criminal element and provide a fertile ground for the incidence of fraud. In Missouri, allegations of fraudulent voting and election irregularities have been concentrated in St. Louis and Kansas City.
Naturally, both major parties differ as to the prevalence and the policing of, and solution for, voter fraud allegations. One of the most recent allegations of fraud was the 2006 nationwide activity of one of the usual suspects — the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which claimed to have registered 540,000 low-income or minority voters, many from Missouri. A glut of reported irregularities resulted in federal indictments in Kansas City, with similar findings in St. Louis.
The registration irregularities came from duplicate, questionable and unreadable forms, names, addresses and Social Security numbers not matching official records and multiple voter applications signed by the same person. In St. Louis, cards in alphabetical order and obviously signed by the same person appeared to have been lifted from the phone book. ACORN admitted some discrepancies, but dismissed most as merely the product of sloppy work by a few temporary hires. That may have been the case; however, when weighed against its transgressions in other states and that it is funded largely by the decidedly conservative-unfriendly AFL-CIO, ACORN has earned a closer scrutiny.
One effort to curb voter fraud was Missouri’s voter identification law requiring a photo ID. This legislation, opposed entirely along party lines, provided for ID cards at no cost for those without drivers licenses or similar documentation and additionally authorized waiving the requirement for those whose disabilities precluded issuance of the photo ID. Illogically, the Missouri Supreme Court sided with the opposition in declaring the law unconstitutional, citing that it imposed an undue hardship on minorities, women, the poor and the elderly.
Our secretary of state claims there is no recent evidence of voter fraud and that the voter ID law would disenfranchise 200,000 voters. The 2004 audit by her predecessor, which pointed to massive voter fraud and the discovery that the election official who signed the request to keep the polls open late in St. Louis in 2000 had been dead for several years, renders that claim questionable to say the least. It would appear more prudent to assume that possession of a photo ID would halt this real or imagined disenfranchisement.
J. Karl Miller retired as colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.