On October 29, 2002, President Bush signed into law the Help America Vote Act, a large legislative response to the pandemonium that led to his narrow victory of the White House.Â The act was authored by Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut with information from a congressional report co-chaired by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.Â HAVA mandated accessibility for the disabled, provisional ballots for people whose names do not appear on their polling list, that voter registration be held in statewide databases, that voters show identification before receiving a ballot and that voting equipment be shown to function properly before elections.Â It also brought millions of dollars to states (the state of Iowa received $30 million) to update voting equipment, set up voting centers and train election officials.Â HAVA was to be fully implemented by January 1, 2006, so this coming general election should be the first true measure of its effectiveness in a presidential year.
However, in the weeks leading to the national election, voter misrepresentation has been cited and a case regarding voter fraud has been taken before the Supreme Court, showing that our election system is fragile and manipulable even before the actual voting takes place. North Carolina’s convoluted ballot has given rise to “undervotes” in the past two elections, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The ballot gives the option for straight-ticket voting, but does not include that party’s presidential selection. In the 2000 and 2004 elections, 3.15 percent and 2.57 percent, respectively, of all ballots turned in did not include a choice for president, and there have been allegations from election officials in North Carolina that this mistake is being made again in early voting. With polls reporting a difference of less than 3 percent between candidates in the state, this logistical folly could have serious implications for the state’s fifteen electoral votes.
In the swing state of Colorado, Denver’s Channel 7 News reported that because of a technical error with their data file, Sequoia Voting Systems documented sending 21,450 ballots, while the U.S. Postal Service only reported receiving 10,364 ballots.Â The error is being corrected and ballots are being sent to the remaining 11,000 voters, but they will receive them within five days of their return deadline.
The desirable swing state Ohio has seen legal drama reaching all the way to the Supreme Court. The Associated Press stated in an article from October 17, 2008, that the state GOP filed suit against Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, after discrepancies in 200,000 new voters’ records were found. The secretary appealed the court’s decision to fix these discrepancies within an impossibly short range of time, claiming that most of them were negligible clerical errors, for instance a misspelled name or missing initial, not worthy of potentially disenfranchising voters. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Brunner, but without commenting on Ohio’s upholding of voter reform laws. It found instead that the law does not permit a body like the GOP to file such a suit against the secretary of state.
In the midst of this, ACORN, a community organizing group foucsed on help low- and middle-income families that reported registering 1.3 million new voters this year, is under an FBI investigation for alleged fraudulent registrations.Â This has made the group a target of ire for Republicans, who have attempted to tie ACORN to Barack Obama’s history of community organizing. Of the 1.3 million registrations, 400,000 of them have been flagged as fraudulent and will not be accepted, according to a New York Times interview with ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring.
This activity seems to be part of the finalÂ crescendo as America heads into the climax of this theatrical election cycle with one party citing voter suppression and the other voter fraud.Â If the results on Election Day are close or contentious, expect an acrimonious legal battle – and, hopefully, an accurate count – to follow.