Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Will 2010 be the wake-up call for serious election reform?

After you fill out your ballot and it goes into the machine that accepts your vote, you exit the polling place brimming with pride and confidence that you performed civic duty, assured your vote is tallied.

Ideally, that should be the case. However, during 2010, there are not guarantees.

This year’s elections are marred by reports of voting irregularities, again raising questions about voting integrity and shaking the confidence placed in the election system.

Our neighbor to the south, Illinois experimented for the first time with absentee balloting not requiring an excuse. WLS-TV Chicago reported that a county election official admitted hundreds of thousands of Illinois voters expecting to receive requested ballots in the mail could be disenfranchised.

The station says 404,000 registered Illinois voters received vote-by-mail requests that were sent by the Illinois Democratic Coordinated Campaign (IDCC). Some voters contacted the station after noticing the return address was a PO Box for the IDCC instead of their local electi
on officials. IDCC’s response was it was entering ballot request information into its database before sending the mailings on to election authorities that mail voters their ballots. The process leaves open the possibility of ballots not being counted on time. In many cases, the IDCC entered the wrong birthdates on the registered voter's form.

A headline called the Illinois problems a glitch.   Do you think that might be an understatement? 

Imagine Joyce Ferrara’s surprise upon attempting to vote early at Clark County, Nevada. According to the San Francisco Examiner, Ferrara wanted to vote for U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle, a Republican. However, her touch-screen voting machine had the name of Angle’s opponent Democrat Harry Reid already checked. Ferrara's husband had the same experience. So did other voters casting ballots at the same time as the Ferrara’s.

Poll workers at a location in Harris County, Texas reportedly instructed voters they could only vote Democrat at that particular polling place.

Voting machines are imperfect.
During the past decade, millions of dollars have been spent nationwide on new electronic voting systems to improve accuracy and dependability with the intent of eliminating hanging chads and miscounts. Lawrence Norden, a senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University gave a less than reassuring assessment during an interview with National Public Radio.

“These machines run on tens of thousands of lines of code, so inevitably, there are going to be software bugs,” said Norden. “What we haven't done nearly as much as we should be doing is, frankly, keeping track of these problems, following up on them and making sure that they're thoroughly investigated and that word gets out to all election officials when there are real problems. We don't have a federal agency that keeps track of most of the problems on the systems and is empowered to investigate them.”

Norden confirms, “There are all kinds of problems. The most serious problems are problems where voters are disenfranchised, where votes are not totaled correctly, where votes are dropped, where what are called phantom votes show up on the tally service. Whenever something like this happens, I think it, unfortunately, can shake people's faith in their voting systems.”

Generally, Norden believes most voting systems across the country work well with votes being counted accurately. However, the odds are that with so many machines in place, some inevitably break down causing long lines and tense situations in polling places.

Some may downplay the issue of voter fraud, but arrests have been made, prosecutions successful, violators caught on tape, and evidence is mounting in the form of voter registration cards containing false, incorrect, or duplicate information. Add it all up, and voters are angry, skeptical, even scared, scared their votes are being stolen.

A lessening of faith in our coveted election system, the best in the world, is a huge chink in our democracy armor. Voting only works with the system error-proof and honest. Citizens that cast ballots with qualms their votes may not be part of a final count illustrate a process that is broken and in need of repair.

America realizes it has voting problems. Unfortunately,  the locations of the breakdowns are difficult to predict. States must take proper precautionary measures to prevent serious errors. The serious problems of 2010 should serve as more than a wake-up call to once and for all clean up our elections, and clean them up before 2012.

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