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'Bounties' for voters should be outlawed

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Both major political parties have acknowledged that they are offering incentives to workers trying to register voters for the upcoming November general election. In some cases, the incentives involve cash. Other "prizes" for registering voters include concert and movie tickets. Regardless of the incentives, the practice is ripe for abuse and should be outlawed.

Most of those registering new voters are unemployed and use the registration drives as an employment opportunity. Though understandable, the system would benefit more from volunteer party members soliciting the new voters instead. The current system - which is an equal-abuse opportunity - is just too primed for fraud.

If a person gets a "bounty" for registering a predetermined number of voters, he may be faced with a difficult choice. Already an inner-city registration drive in Kansas City has resulted in the dismissal of five workers. One worker simply made up names to collect the bonus. Another worker intentionally double-registered voters. And we all know that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

An earlier report last week indicated that a Democratic party group was hiring convicted felons to conduct voter registration drives. Since that first news report, changes have been made in that group's efforts.

To register mass numbers of voters takes time and lots of effort. And apparently volunteers are not willing to make the sacrifices needed to be successful. Thus the parties have resorted to hiring workers. But when you include a bonus or other incentive for high registration numbers, abuse is just a step away.

Missouri has already received a black eye for questionable voting practices in St. Louis. One pundit told me last week that the St. Louis abuses would make the Chicago fiasco of 1960 look like child's play. That's not encouraging.

There should be restrictions on hiring workers to conduct what is among the most precious and serious rights in this nation. We should end the practice of providing incentives for registering voters. And when fraud is uncovered, all of those names collected should be tossed to the wind.

If a volunteer is unwilling to make the sacrifices needed to support their party or candidate, then perhaps that says volumes about the party and the volunteer.



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