I don't believe any legitimate voter that actually wants to exercise that right and takes on the according responsibility that goes with that right to secure their photo ID will be disenfranchised. As Mitt Romney said, 47 percent of the people that are living off the public dole, living off their neighbors' hard work, and we have a lot of people out there that are too lazy to get up and get out there and get the ID they need. If individuals are too lazy, the state can't fix that.
The state can't fix that. Someday, someone somewhere will write a book about voting rights and the election of 2012 focusing on the bigotry and ignorance of that remark. Today, it's enough to note that neither Congress nor the state of Pennsylvania has done anything recently to make electronic voting safer from fraud. According to VerifiedVoting.org, there are more than 45 million registered voters in America whose electronic votes will not be backed up with a paper record. In Pennsylvania, the vast majority of counties fall into this category. Speaking of which, how much do you trust the folks running your own state's electronic voting?
Let's stop and be clear now about what's happened here and why. When it comes to curbing "voter fraud," Republican lawmakers have had a choice this past decade. They could have protected the accuracy of electronic voting in combination with their voter-identification push. Or they could have done what they have done, which is to ignore the larger problem and focus on the smaller problem, a problem so small that, when Pennsylvania came to court this summer to defend its restrictive new voter suppression law, its lawyers didn't even try to prove in-person "voter fraud."
Maybe it won't matter. Maybe the election will break in the next two weeks in a direction that makes these concerns seem paranoid. Maybe the gaps in our election security won't be abused by dark political forces. There is no way to tell in advance, but there is little reason to be confident. We know that the presidential race has tightened in the wake of the first debate; we know that unabashed partisans like Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted still exert a tremendous amount of control over voting protocols; and we know that voting-rights advocates and election observers will be fending off conservative "poll watchers" all around the nation.
But whether we get lucky on Nov. 6 or not, this surely is no way for a country like ours to run its elections, and no way for a nation that prides itself on its democratic processes to leave the essence of that process in the hands of unelected, unregulated, unmonitored private corporations. What's scariest, today, is that even the 2000 recount didn't shame enough pols into fixing the problem. Tell me, exactly, what level of catastrophe will have to occur in 2012 for those same politicians to rise up and secure our electronic ballots? And what message does it send to the world?
Collier doesn't just take her shots without suggesting an answer. "A privatized, secret ballot count must be viewed as a violation of our civil rights," she writes, suggesting that America ought to look to Ireland and Germany for answers. Both countries dabbled with electronic-voting regimes, blanched at the inherent security concerns and susceptibility toward partisan abuse, and have chosen to do away with the use of such voting machines. Imagine that. We live still in the shadow of World War II, and most Germans today have a freer, more accurate vote than most Americans.
My suggestion for reform is somewhat less dramatic. Electronic voting is here to stay. There is no going back. But because the potential for electronic voter fraud is so great, the need for more government oversight is essential. Our electronic voting machines should have at least the same protection from hackers that our national-security apparatus has. Congress should amend the HAVA so that its oversight provisions are given teeth. Corporations which run our elections must be held more accountable. And our elections can no longer be trusted to craven officials like Husted.
Twelve years ago, in Volusia and Palm Beach and all those other Florida counties, we all were shocked to learn how shoddily our elections were run. Our national solution to the problem -- alas, a familiar trifecta -- was to blindly throw a lot of money at it, to naively trust dubious corporations to take care of it, and to shamelessly blame the poor and the dispossessed for it. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us. If the 2012 election explodes into chaos, if electronic votes disappear from close races, if democracy is thus subverted, Americans will have no one to blame but themselves.
* It is a shame that Harper's hasn't yet made this piece freely available online -- it would be a public duty to do so -- and I certainly hope it happens before Election Day.
** Along these lines, you may also want to read Craig Unger's new book Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove's Secret Kingdom of Power, in which he writes that the Republican operative has played "a leading role in drumming up a campaign against voter fraud by immigrants -- a phenomenon which is negligible at best -- in order to institute Jim Crow-like laws requiring government-issued photo IDs in more than thirty states...."