Saturday, November 27, 2004

Charges of irregularities abound. Did the ‘Help America Vote Act’ help?


Charges of irregularities abound. Did the ‘Help America Vote Act’ help?

November 27, 2004

The confidence of voters in the integrity of the nation's election system lies at the very heart of our republic. So it is encouraging to learn that the nonpartisan, highly professional Government Accountability Office has agreed to investigate the numerous reported glitches in the 2004 election. The investigation won't change the election results, but it can go a long way toward reassuring Americans that voting is a true exercise in democracy, not in futility.

The request to the federal GAO originally came in a Nov. 5 letter from Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Robert Wexler (D-Fla.). Wexler was born in Queens and now represents two centers of the electoral storm of 2000, Palm Beach County and Broward County. The movement later expanded to other members, including Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Far Rockaway).

Both the original letter and one sent Nov. 8 detailed a few of the many anomalies in the election: An electronic system in Ohio gave President George W. Bush an extra 3,893 votes in a district where fewer than 700 voters actually cast ballots. Voters using electronic machines in Ohio, Florida and other states tried to vote for Sen. John Kerry, but the machines seemed to be recording their votes for Bush. Citizens in some parts of Ohio stood in line for endless hours.

GAO investigators will have no trouble finding allegations of irregularities, which are flying around the Internet at astonishing speed. But they may have some difficulty in separating fact from exaggeration and determining whether the Help America Vote Act of 2002, a result of the fiasco in Florida in 2000, actually helped America vote in 2004.

This page believes it's time for a constitutional amendment that both does away with the Electoral College and allows Congress to set national standards for federal elections. One useful standard would be a requirement that each election district have a minimum number of machines for each increment of registered voters, so that we won't ever again have to witness lines so long that they keep people from performing the most basic duty of democracy.

If this investigation lives up to the GAO's reputation for fairness, that can only help the process of assuring Americans that every vote really does count.