FW: Vote fraud and voter intimidation (apropos Justice Stevens' refusalto stay the Sixth Circuit decision)

Sanford Levinson SLevinson at law.utexas.edu
Tue Nov 2 12:36:35 PST 2004


-----Original Message-----
From: Douglas Laycock [mailto:DLaycock at law.utexas.edu] 
Sent: Tuesday, November 02, 2004 2:32 PM
To: slevinson at mail.law.utexas.edu
Subject: FW: Vote fraud and voter intimidation (apropos Justice Stevens'
refusalto stay the Sixth Circuit decision)

	Could you forward this to Con Law list?  My new e-mail isn't
registered yet. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Douglas Laycock
Sent: Tuesday, November 02, 2004 1:58 PM
To: 'Volokh, Eugene'; CONLAWPROF at lists.ucla.edu
Subject: RE: Vote fraud and voter intimidation (apropos Justice Stevens'
refusalto stay the Sixth Circuit decision)

	I was a poll watcher in Cook County in 1970 and 1972, once in a
mostly working black precinct on the south side, once in an affluent and
white suburban precinct.  That's not much of an information base.

	I had three jobs.  One was to watch for any violation of the
rules by the election judges, to look at the machine when it was opened
and confirm the count, generally to watch for any evidence of cheating
within the precinct.  One was to challenge voters not on the precinct's
list of registered voters, a situation that never arose.  The third,
most important, was to check voters off as they voted.  The party
committee had a list of "plus voters" -- voters in that precinct who had
indicated they were going to vote for our side.  Plus voters who had not
voted first got phone calls, offers of rides, and then people knocking
on their door to bring them to the polls.  The white suburbanites who
had not seen this operation before were a bit paranoid about it; they
seemed to think I was "getting the names" for some nefarious or
intimidating purpose.

	I gather that what is at issue in Ohio is partly the same but
mostly different.  They may still challenge voters who are not on the
list, some of whom are not registered and some of whom showed up at the
wrong precinct.  More important, they plan to challenge voters who are
on the list, claiming that their registration is improper in some way --
they don't live where they claimed to, they are also registered
someplace else, they aren't who they say they are (if you register dead
people, some live person has to go vote for them or it doesn't do any

	This is a classic problem of Type I and Type II error.  Both
parties have hired companies to register voters; these companies have
hired casual workers; there may be fraud from these workers cheating
their employers or from voters, or party workers, trying to cheat the
electoral system.  If everyone votes without challenge and no one ever
checks, there is no deterrent to that sort of thing.

	But the challengers can abuse their power by challenging
indiscriminately, and by racial profiling.  They are only doing this in
minority precincts.  Some guy in Georgia apparently challenged every
voter in the county with an Hispanic name.  A challenge brings the whole
voting line to a halt while it is resolved.  One poll watcher bringing
many challenges can create huge backups and cause many properly
registered voters to give up and abandon the line. 

	The voter when challenged may or may not have with him what he
needs to refute the challenge.  Every voter should have ID, but no doubt
some don't.  He may not have proof of current address or whatever else
is at issue.  

	We need a way to resolve these disputes without stopping the
line of voters, but we can't staff that; we barely have enough
volunteers to staff the polling places, and many of those are
inadequately trained.  There is no right answer here; there is the vote
fraud of registering ineligible voters, or eligible voters multiple
times; this is surely going on a little bit and might be going on a lot.
And there is the vote fraud of stopping the line with multiple
challenges based on little or no evidence.

-----Original Message-----
From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu
[mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu] On Behalf Of Volokh, Eugene
Sent: Tuesday, November 02, 2004 12:47 PM
To: CONLAWPROF at lists.ucla.edu
Subject: Vote fraud and voter intimidation (apropos Justice Stevens'
refusalto stay the Sixth Circuit decision)

I worry both about vote fraud and voter intimidation, but I'm afraid I
know little about what in practice poll-watchers and other observers can
do and actually do (either good or bad).  Can anyone who is more
knowledgeable on the subject enlighten us?  I ask this on this list
because this factual backdrop would surely be relevant to the
constitutional questions related to whether such practices ought to be
allowed or forbidden.  Many thanks,

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