Dan Tokaji's Blog
Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Tuesday, November 22
 
Challenges to Voter Eligibility
Yesterday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer has this report on GOP challenges to voter eligibility in Washington state. They're targeting voters whose registration address is a private mailbox or commercial storage unit. This follows the razor-think 2004 gubernatorial election, in which Democrat Christine Gregoire narrowly edged out Republican Dino Rossi by 129 votes (out of some 2.9 million cast), over claims that some ineligible voters' ballots had been counted. Republicans claim that their goal is to prevent voter fraud, which Democrats claim that their goal is intimidation. Republicans are now challenging some 1,944 voter registrations.

My take: What's most remarkable about this story is how underwhelming the evidence of "fraud" in Washington's election is. Despite the microscopic scrutiny to which the State of Washington's election system has been subjected, even GOP doesn't assert that they have evidence of deliberate fraud by voters. The most that they claim is less than 2000 people who registered at addresses they don't consider to be valid -- not necessarily due to any fraud or misrepresentation, and possibly because that's the mailing address they use. It's conceivable that some of these folks could be people who are homeless or for some other reason lack a permanent mailing address, and are therefore using a private mailbox.

While the evidence of fraud is scant, don't be surprised if partisan challenges to voter eligibility become a lasting part of the election landscape. This was a big issue in the weeks leading up to the 2004 election, and it's likely to recur in the future. At present, it doesn't appear that states have found a satisfactory way to safeguard voters' rights while at the same time allowing legitimate challenges to the few voters who really are ineligible.

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Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University