John Fund, a member of the Wall Street Journal's editorial board, has followed election fraud over the past decade-and he suggests that, with the advent of "provisional voting," the potential for election crisis is greater than ever. He outlines the dangers in Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy (Encounter Books, 2004).
WORLD: Some journalists make it seem as if protecting against voter fraud is merely a matter of mechanics and ballot engineering. Your first chapter, "A Conflict of Visions," explains far better than anything I've seen why the current mess stems from dueling ideologies. Could you briefly describe the battle for our readers?
JF: A conflict of visions and values exists between those who believe that having as many people as possible vote is the highest value in our democracy and those for whom the rule of law is paramount. The latter believe voting involves both rights and responsibilities, including the need for security measures that must be followed before a cast ballot becomes a legal vote.
WORLD: Since there's plenty of sin to go around, why are Democrats these days more likely than Republicans to commit voter fraud?
JF: The Republican machines in Philadelphia or Long Island, N.Y., that used to commit voter fraud have withered away. Today, Democrats simply have more opportunity to commit fraud. In addition, voters who might commit fraud for a few bucks in street money are more likely to be found in inner cities and poor rural areas dominated by political bosses.
WORLD: Parts of the new Help America Vote Act appear to break what should be the prime directive for members of Congress as well as for doctors: "Do No Harm." Why is provisional voting likely to create more election confusion? Will "margin of litigation" become part of our Election Night vocabulary?
JF: Provisional votes must be verified and counted only after all other ballots have been tabulated. That means both sides in a close race will know how many votes they need among the provisionals to win. Each ballot then becomes a potential lawsuit. We are in danger of having lawyers take away elections from the voters and throw them into courts.
WORLD: How have the Motor Voter Law and the ease of absentee balloting added to the problem?
JF: Some 30 percent of voters will cast absentee and early ballots this year. That is too high, if for no other reason than absentee ballots are the easiest way to commit fraud since they are paper ballots cast outside the scrutiny of an election official and may not be secret.
WORLD: Can anything at this point be done to reduce the likelihood of a derailment on Nov. 2, or must we just sit and watch?
JF: We should agree on the rules in place now, have an open public discussion of them, and then have monitors from all parties at the polls to check each other. That will minimize the chances of people trying to change the rules after the election is over, as was done in Florida in 2000.
WORLD: Please list the five states (and rank them, if possible) that are most likely to have ballot wars if the presidential vote is close. What November surprises (such as polling places differentially kept open late) should we watch for on Election Day?
JF: New Mexico, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. All of these states have jurisdictions where there are more registered voters than the number of adults over 18 found by the Census Bureau. Such registration "deadwood" is an open and engraved invitation for voter fraud. There will also be endlessly imaginative lawsuits on Election Day to keep polls in selected areas open and also to let voters cast provisional ballots in precincts far from their home area.
WORLD: How many lawyers on both sides are ready to parachute into contested states? Is much of the press likely to say, "The GOP won last time, give it to the Dems this time"?
JF: Some Democrats are looking for payback for what they see as a stolen 2000 election. They will have a sympathetic ear in certain media quarters. They will also have some 10,000 Democratic lawyers ready to file lawsuits and flood reporters with accounts of how the vote count can't be trusted.