MSNBC's Mellisa Harris-Perry suggested on her show this morning that voters who are registered in multiple states should not be purged from voter registration rolls. She argued that the chances of voter fraud were negligible since it was highly unlikely that anyone would get on a plane and travel to another state in order to vote twice, or three times. Apparently, she forgot that most states allow voting by absentee ballot and have no way to check whether someone who votes by absentee ballot is registered or intends to vote elsewhere, either in person or with another absentee ballot.
According to a 2004 article in Slate, three newspapers conducted investigations that revealed double voting was a serious problem in the 2000 election:
"The New York Daily News found that 46,000 New Yorkers were registered to vote in both Florida and New York....[B]etween 400 and 1,000 of these double-registrants voted in both states...Other investigations revealed similar results elsewhere. The Orlando Sentinel found that 68,000 Florida voters were also registered in Georgia or North Carolina (the only two states it checked), 1,650 of whom voted twice in 2000 or 2002. The Kansas City Star discovered 300 "potential" cases of individual voter fraud, including Kansans voting in Missouri and St. Louisans voting in both the city and the surrounding suburbs."
No one who lived through the 2000 election will ever forget that George Bush won Florida, and the presidency, by a final margin of just 537 votes.
Because there is little coordination and communication between states, who frequently have different mechanisms for running both local and Federal elections, it is not difficult for someone to register to vote in more than one state. In 2004 the Smoking Gun website revealed that filmmaker Michael Moore was registered to vote in both New York and Michigan. Registering to vote in a new state should trigger the cancellation of a voter's registration in the old state. Local state election offices are frequently understaffed, underfunded and many still rely on paper records to keep track of the voter registration rolls. It is not unusual for new voter registrations to not be reported to the election officials in the old state.
As is the case with dual voter registrations, most states prohibit a citizen from holding drivers licenses from two states simultaneously. When you apply for a driver’s license in a new state, your old state is automatically notified of the new license and your old license is invalidated. If your license in your old state has been suspended or revoked the new state will be notified of your disability and you won't be issued a new license. If this kind of national computerized network can be accomplished to prevent drivers’ license fraud, the same thing can also be accomplished to prevent voter fraud in Federal elections. In fact, many if not most states allow citizens to register to vote when they get a new drivers license or identification card. Creating a national computerized network to centralize voter registrations in Federal elections may be the only way to suppress the persistent problem of multiple registration voter fraud in presidential elections.
Voter fraud cuts both ways. It hurts democrats, republicans, independents and anyone else who believes in free and fair elections. Reasonable voter fraud regulations should be encouraged, not vilified and ridiculed.