The New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran has provided 64,000 registered voter names to the New Mexico State Police for fraud examination. This represents about 5.3% of all registered voters and about 7.7% of voters in the 2010 election. No details were given on how these voters were identified, but that represents an enormous number of records to work through. No process was identified for how the New Mexico State Police would examine the records or how long it would take to review them. More information about this story can be found here.
The article mentions the possibility of administrative errors. This is very likely. My own experience with working with voter registration files is that they are somewhat dirty. By that I mean the file consists of missing data, incorrect data, duplicate entries, etc (also see an excellent report on the quality of voter registration files by Stephen Ansolabehere and Eitan Hersh).
What is the problem? A major part of the problem is that the data collection and entry process leads to data entry errors. Individuals register to vote in their own handwriting and then administrative staff interpret and enter the information into the electronic system. Obviously this is a process rife with numerous points for potential error.
One possible solution to this is to move to some sort of electronic registration, perhaps self-registration on-line and/or augmenting information in voter registration files with information from other state and federal databases to obtain more correct information. See for example the op ed piece by Mike and Dean Logan.
As the investigation progresses, it is worthwhile for us to understand the process. One thing we can learn from the process is where the problems exist and how to fix them. This is an opportunity for us to collect important data on administrative problems with the voter registration process.
I am listening to my old friend and colleague, Charles Franklin of the University of Wisconsin and pollster.com, on an NPR story right now about a voter registration lawsuit brought by the attorney general of Wisconsin. The program is Day to Day.
A tag line announced that my dear friend Tova Wang, Vice President for Research at Common Cause, and David Iglesias, the ex attorney general in New Mexico, are going to be on Fresh Air. The link takes you directly to today’s show.
The Boston Globe is reporting this morning that the Mass House did not take up the EDR bill that the Mass Senate had passed:
Major items that lawmakers neglected to take up included whether to allow residents to register to vote on election days, whether the state should ban trans fat oils in restaurants, and whether Massachusetts should join a movement to decide presidential elections using a national popular vote instead of the Electoral College.
This story in Politico just came across the wire, courtesy of Project Vote.
In brief, a law passed in 2005 meant to manage third party voter registration efforts is being challenged as overly restrictive and unconstitutional.
I am not sure about the constitutional arguments, but the defenders of the law are having a hard time defending some of its provisions, such as the requirement that voter registration forms be turned in in bundles of 50 and that all forms must be turned in within 48 hours of being collected. When asked where these requirements came from, one defender cited a single instance of 90 voter registration forms being stolen from an ACORN office in 2004. As to the bundling, no one seems to have a good reason for that requirement.
Violating the law does not only void the registration forms, but the individual or organization that collected the forms is subject to legal sanction.
In addition to the reports of fraud that I wrote about in the past few days, there are two additional ones that I ran across this morning.
The first comes from New York, from a report in the Daily News:
An aide to former Queens Assemblyman Jimmy Meng was charged yesterday with rigging voter addresses during a primary battle in 2004.
Simon Ting, 42, who was registering voters for the Flushing Democrat, whited out the addresses of Asian-American voters who lived outside the district and replaced them with addresses inside the district, according to Queens prosecutors.
The fraud wasn’t hard to detect: dozens of legitimate addresses were replaced with one of two addresses – either Ting’s former home or a bookstore Meng owns in Flushing, prosecutors said.
The second comes from Virginia, as reported in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
A former Gate City mayor who used absentee ballots as if they were marked cards to deal himself a 2004 re-election victory will spend 196 days in jail.
Charles Dougherty, convicted of 29 felony counts of vote fraud in two separate trials last year, was also ordered by the court yesterday to pay $51,500 in fines.
The sentence, handed down in Scott County Circuit Court, brings to an end an election scandal that rocked the town of 2,300, upset the political order and exposed an election process that may have been corrupt for years. During one of Dougherty’s trials, one woman testified she had always been paid a bottle of liquor for her vote.
A panel of judges agreed the election results were suspicious, threw out the votes and appointed a new Town Council. The council then appointed Jenkins mayor, and a judge appointed Botetourt County Commonwealth’s Attorney Joel Branscom as special prosecutor.
Branscom charged Dougherty with more than three-dozen counts of election fraud. In two trials, jurors agreed with Branscom that Dougherty had duped voters, many of them elderly and residents of an assisted-living complex, into applying for absentee ballots even though they didn’t qualify for them.
This has circulated the past few days, here’s an AP report on the allegations:
She worked in August and September as a voter registration recruiter for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as ACORN. She is accused of using another woman’s Social Security number to get hired by ACORN and Project Vote.
Davis also is charged with causing three voter registration applications with false addresses to be filed with the Kansas City Board of Elections Commissioners.