Watch­dog finds state’s records ripe for po­ten­tial polling fraud

‘Woe­fully in­ad­e­quate voter list main­te­nance’ caus­ing prob­lems

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY VALERIE RICHARD­SON

Cal­i­for­nia says that nearly 78 per­cent of its el­i­gi­ble res­i­dents are reg­is­tered to vote, but elec­tion fraud watch­dog Linda Paine in­sists the fig­ure is sig­nif­i­cantly higher.

Her group, the Elec­tion In­tegrity Project, said in a re­port re­leased Thurs­day that, when in­ac­tive vot­ers are fac­tored in, an un­re­al­is­tic 98 per­cent of el­i­gi­ble Cal­i­for­ni­ans are ac­tu­ally reg­is­tered.

Com­bine an es­ti­mated 5 mil­lion in­ac­tive regis­trants, who have typ­i­cally died or moved out of state, with Cal­i­for­nia’s lack of a vo­teri­den­ti­fi­ca­tion re­quire­ment, and you have a sce­nario ripe for polling-place scam­mers in­tent on cast­ing il­le­gal bal­lots, she said.

“It’s crit­i­cal that every el­i­gi­ble Cal­i­for­nia cit­i­zen who wants to vote can eas­ily reg­is­ter,” said Ms. Paine, the six-year-old group’s founder and pres­i­dent. “But the state’s woe­fully in­ad­e­quate voter list main­te­nance is cre­at­ing mis­lead­ing sta­tis­tics for our law­mak­ers and putting the votes of law­ful vot­ing cit­i­zens at risk for voter fraud.”

Her group called it the “big dirty se­cret of Cal­i­for­nia’s voter rolls.” But while the Golden State’s 98 per­cent fig­ure is eye-pop­ping, it isn’t nec­es­sar­ily an out­lier when it comes to out­dated voter rolls.

A 2010 Pew Cen­ter on the States is­sue brief found 24 mil­lion, or 1 in 8, voter regis­tra­tions were no longer valid or were “sig­nif­i­cantly in­ac­cu­rate”; 1.8 mil­lion de­ceased vot­ers were on the rolls; and 2.75 mil­lion peo­ple were reg­is­tered in more than one state.

Every state is re­quired by law to keep miss­ing-in-ac­tion vot­ers on in­ac­tive sta­tus for two fed­eral elec­tion cy­cles be­fore purging them, which means that the rolls are al­ways in flux, said David Becker, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Elec­tion In­no­va­tion and Re­search.

The 98 per­cent reg­is­tra­tion fig­ure? “That’s not nec­es­sar­ily a high num­ber, be­cause in­ac­tive records are records that are in a tran­si­tional phase of the list main­te­nance process,” said Mr. Becker.

“They don’t nec­es­sar­ily rep­re­sent vot­ers — they rep­re­sent that Cal­i­for­nia is main­tain­ing its list, as it should, and has rea­son to be­lieve those vot­ers are no longer el­i­gi­ble to vote in Cal­i­for­nia, most likely be­cause they moved to another state,” he said. “It would not be a good prac­tice to add actives and in­ac­tives to­gether and sug­gest that num­ber rep­re­sents reg­is­tered vot­ers.”

But Ms. Paine said some Cal­i­for­nia coun­ties do com­bine ac­tive and in­ac­tive vot­ers on the same list at their polling places on Elec­tion Day.

“All one need do is look at the posted list, mem­o­rize a name and ad­dress, re­peat it to the poll worker, and re­ceive that per­son’s bal­lot, no ques­tions asked,” said the EIP in its press re­lease.

The state main­tains that in­ac­tive vot­ers are not sent elec­tion ma­te­ri­als, but Ms. Paine cited anec­do­tal ev­i­dence to the con­trary.

“We get calls from peo­ple whose loved ones have passed away, many of them older women, and they call us say­ing, ‘Why would they not take my hus­band off the voter rolls?’” she said. “They’ve called, they’ve gone down there. Peo­ple have truly gone the ex­tra mile to get their loved ones off the voter rolls, and yet they re­main year af­ter year.”

The re­port said that eight of Cal­i­for­nia’s 58 coun­ties now have more than 100 per­cent voter-reg­is­tra­tion rates, based on fig­ures posted Feb. 10 by Sec­re­tary of State Alex Padilla on his web­site — a sign that some county clerks may not be keep­ing their lists cur­rent.

The state has been be­dev­iled in re­cent years by flagging voter turnout, which law­mak­ers have sought to com­bat with bills low­er­ing the vot­ing age in some elec­tions, mak­ing Elec­tion Day a paid hol­i­day, and merg­ing lo­cal and state elec­tions.

“The state Leg­is­la­ture con­tin­ues to pass laws to in­crease voter turnout,” Ms. Paine said, “but they’re look­ing at the wrong prob­lem.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Elec­tion In­tegrity Project said in a re­port re­leased Thurs­day that when in­ac­tive vot­ers are fac­tored in, 98 per­cent of el­i­gi­ble Cal­i­for­ni­ans are reg­is­tered.

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