- The Washington Times - Friday, November 24, 2000

Stuffing the ballot box on Election Day is "as American as apple pie," but charges of voiding absentee military votes, trading smokes for votes and cheating by chad in the presidential campaign are new to American elections.
Historically, voter fraud was an organized activity directed by the campaign through the local political machine. With the disintegration of the machine, individuals have taken it upon themselves to give their favored candidate a little extra help, political historians and observers say.
"It is so easy to do now, virtually any individual acting on their own can have an impact on an election's outcome," said Deborah Phillips, chairman of the Voting Integrity Project.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, plans hearings next year on voting practices and procedures in this year's federal elections.
The hearings will focus on ballot integrity, poll closing times, ballot format, the timeliness and accuracy of vote counting, the state of voting equipment throughout the country, and overseas and military voting.
More than 1,500 overseas absentee ballots most believed to be cast by military personnel have been rejected by Florida officials because of technicalities, including missing postmarks.
Hand recounts in three heavily Democratic Florida counties have drawn charges of ballot fondling to dislodge chads dangling pieces of paper not completely severed from the ballot to swing the vote in favor of Vice President Al Gore.
Republicans say chads have been found on the floor and that some are being eaten by ballot counters to hide the evidence.
The discombobulated definitions of the chads and handling of ballots is of specific concern to legal scholars.
There are dimpled chads, pregnant chads, hanging chads, swing-door chads and tri-chads by three corners, which are being examined by vote counters in Florida by holding ballots to the light to determine the "intent" of the voters.
"It's obvious in the interpretation of the chads there appears to be no standard to determine voter intent based on hanging chads," said Todd Gaziano, a senior fellow in legal studies at the Heritage Foundation.
"Even if consistent standards are applied, different people have the ability to interrupt it, and the intentional or unintentional bias is something to be concerned about," Mr. Gaziano said.
"Everyone who watched the disputes and counter-disputes now understands how standards and subjective hand counts is why we went from hand counting to machines to begin with," Mr. Gaziano said.
Eliminating paper ballots in favor of machines was one way to eliminate voter fraud. Party officials would trade half-pints of whiskey or $10 to $20 in cash for ballots and votes.
So blatant was the practice that after Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown lost a Democratic primary bid to Wallace G. Wilkinson in 1987, a county coordinator in Mr. Brown's campaign called the Louisville Courier-Journal to complain on the record that Mr. Wilkinson's campaign had unfairly raised the price of a vote from $20 to $25 on Election Day.
The most popular form of voter fraud is through a voting chain or by precinct captains stuffing the box after the polls close.
The voting chain begins with one voter substituting his ballot with a blank sheet of paper in the ballot box. The voter delivers the blank ballot to a campaign official waiting outside the polling place and is paid. The official marks the ballot for the specific candidate, then gives it to another voter, who drops the marked ballot into the box and gives his blank ballot back to the official in exchange for money, thus continuing the chain.
Ballot boxes are stuffed after the polls close. The campaign notifies the precinct captains how many votes the candidate needs to win the precinct.
If the total is not reached, officials cast additional ballots under the names of those on the voter list who did not show up to vote, including those known to be dead.
An oft-repeated quote from Louisiana's late Gov. Earl Long sums it up: "When I die, bury me in Winnfield Parish, because I would still like to vote."
"Cheating in the past involved voting the dead, voting early and voting twice, but you generally could not vote after Election Day not even the dead," said one political strategist, speaking on the condition of anonymity of his name, party affiliation and Southern home state.
"We've reached the 21st century and we are still cheating in ways they didn't even dream of in the 18th century. There has to be massive reform next year," the strategist said.
In Milwaukee, WISN-TV reported on Nov. 5, two days before the election, that volunteers for Mr. Gore's campaign used free cigarettes to entice homeless men to follow them to election offices and cast absentee ballots. The Gore campaign told the station the volunteers were acting without authorization and stopped the practice.
The call for more money to purchase new equipment to stop voter fraud has already begun in Washington and on the grass-roots level in Florida. Pundits and politicians predict it will cost millions to upgrade election procedures throughout the nation to protect the integrity of votes.
Some old dogs learn new tricks. The Voting Integrity Project assisted in a case that led to the Nov. 30, 1999, conviction of former U.S. Rep. Austin J. Murphy, Pennsylvania Democrat, for violating the state's election code.
Murphy and others were accused of putting fraudulent votes in the names of nursing home patients in his 1997 re-election bid. Murphy denied any involvement with election tampering.

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