Voter Fraud Watch: A Primer on What to Watch For

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Poll workers voting for voters

There are few things as nasty as election officials cranking their wishes into a machine instead of the voters.  Remember, however, that voters can have anyone assist them, even going so far as to push the screen or buttons – even an election official.  This is a right under Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act. Yet some states prohibit election officials from casting a ballot or pushing the screen for voters. This is an unresolved conflict in the law in some places. Either way, be aware when election officials are pushing ballots.

Software glitches

I am entirely unconvinced that the software on machines sometimes has candidate choices pre-marked. I believe this is an urban myth spawned by unfamiliarity with the machine inputs. Even Sasquatch may be more common. But I reserve the right to be wrong. Obviously if you encounter this, move slowly, don’t touch buttons, call for help, and then call Pajamas Media.

Counting errors

One of the worst ways to run an election is with paper ballots. We want to minimize the human inputs in our elections.  Electronics are the way to go. When paper ballots are counted by humans, humans get to decide so many things -- like which box is that “X” really in. Or, that isn’t an “X,” that’s a stray mark, so the “X” is really meant for this candidate. Get my point?  Dishonest clerks can find lots of discretion in paper ballots. Lord over them while the count goes on, if the law allows.

Politicking inside the room

Another terrible behavior is when people are chatting, talking, or carrying on and telling others how to vote. A modern version of this is cell phones in the booth. In most states, one may not make calls on the phone while voting. Typically, down ballot contests see people break the law and chat -- “Who should I vote for city council?”  Sometimes they even call a friend. This is not allowed in most places and observers should alert election officials while it is happening.

Would you like to vote a straight party ticket?

Many places in America still see large amounts of straight party ticket voting. In places where this fading behavior is more common, election officials tend to improperly ask the question of voters getting assistance from the election official. In fact, I have never once heard the Republican version of this illegal behavior. “Would you like to vote a straight Republican Party ticket” are words I have never heard an election official improperly ask a voter. In fact, “Would you like to vote a straight Democratic Party ticket” is something being uttered all over Houston in early Texas voting right now.  If you hear it happen, write down who said it, write down what you heard right after you heard it, and call election officials at the headquarters -- then reach out to Pajamas Media.

That should get everyone started. This year has seen an amazing amount of citizen interest in standing watch against voter fraud. Even if you don’t see it, remember, those who stand watch also serve. Go volunteer with your local political party. Ask a candidate if you can serve as a poll watcher. Make Election Day the active, participatory, national event it was meant to be.

A final note. Too often political parties cobble together a poll watching operation at the last second. And the training is weak, with folks being thrust into the field with no wisdom or experience. This is changing. Groups are establishing systemic training well before the election.  The old way of a political party doing things is fading. A New Model Army of poll watchers is taking the field this election, totally separate from political parties, with an eye toward deploying thousands of highly trained watchers in 2012. Next Tuesday is just the beginning.

Join PJM/PJTV's Voter Fraud Watch