When the polls open this upcoming Election Day, you may be seeing UN affiliated monitors at your local voting place, particularly in places like cities with large minorities. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), for example, will be sending 44 observers.
This comes at the request of leading liberal groups such as ACLU, NAACP, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Conservatives are outraged, although monitors have been present since 2002 and a number of states directly allow for it. In what augurs to be a close election, every vote matters, and thus a wave of conservative attempts to ensure voting fraud is minimized. Civil rights organizations, on the other hand, worry about the disenfranchisement of minority votes, who are likely to vote for Obama.
Such groups are sending up to 15,000 monitors of their own, concentrating on 80 cities, to counter scores of conservative ones. Meanwhile, the courts have been consistently ruling against conservatives’ implementing specific eligibility requirements.
As I see it, both sides are justified in their concerns. We only have to recall the closely contested 1960 election of John Kennedy to the presidency with its large scale fraud in Illinois that altered the outcome. Fresher in our minds is the Florida debacle of 2000, decided only by Supreme Court intervention.
Elections shouldn’t come down to getting our guy (or gal) in by hook or crook. Voting lies at the heart of what we’re all about and should be free of intimidation and fraud.
How widespread is fraud? I think it substantial, given the worst in human passions that exist when it comes to politics. We live in a nation of an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. You can’t question their citizenship when they register at the local court house. And then there’s the problem of double voting among those who reside in two states over the course of a year, which includes many with winter homes or out-of-state students. Unfortunately, and ironically, we don’t have a national computer tracking system in place. As I pointed out in an earlier post, we can’t even track those who over stay their visas–and this after 9/11!
Personally, I favor a national ID card. While, yes, you’d have to provide proof of citizenship, I don’t grasp how opponents may consider this intimidation. After all, we require documentation for benefits such as Medicare and Social Security. And, yes, we require photos on passports. No honor system here! Drivers licenses aren’t sufficient, as an increasing number of states grant them to undocumented residents. ID cards are successfully employed by countries such as Germany.
Since both liberals and conservatives believe elections should be fair, surely both could find a better way to ensure the ballot is accessible and fair. Unfortunately, mistrust and rancor have so far preempted their bridging the impasse, exacerbating narrow self-interest.
I propose a non-partisan commission to study the problem and make recommendations to the Congress. This commission needs to take a look at the Electoral College with its winner take all approach as well.