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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Will process survive election challenges?

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Maybe I worry too much but I remain concerned over lawsuits that are virtually assured come election day. A memo leaked this week from the national Democratic Party outlines specific plans for challenges to "voter intimidation" on election day. The memo also discusses "pre-emptive strikes" toward challenges of voter suppression in thousands of heavily-minority voting precincts. Thus, the stage is now set for a legal battle that could potentially make the 2000 election seem organized.

The real story about the presidential election in two weeks seems to surround the razor-thin outcome that is almost certain. The candidates are almost taking a backseat to the manipulation of the voting process and the wide split in approaches to government that now defines our nation. I've covered politics for over three decades and never have I seen the division that now exists. In some ways, that's healthy - in other ways, it's dangerous.

I spoke Friday with Secretary of State Matt Blunt, the Republican candidate for governor in Missouri. Blunt was cautiously optimistic, as the state's top election official, because he said unlike 2000, thousands of observers and lawyers will be posted in precincts to assure voting integrity. The lawyers will also be present to mount rapid responses to questions of improper voting.

But the prospect of having thousands of lawyers involved on election day is less than comforting to me. That seems to lay the groundwork for legal challenges throughout election day and well into the night. Though the outcome may eventually fall into the hands of the courts, I don't believe that's the process the American public wants or expects.

Today's column will be distributed throughout the state of Missouri by Monday morning. I ask any resident of Missouri to tell me of one single incident where a voter has been denied the right to vote. I want to know if there is one voter who was legitimately registered and had proper identification at the proper precinct who was then denied the right to vote. I don't believe a case can be made. There have been delays caused by heavy turnout or by large numbers of voters who were confused, not registered or at the wrong voting precinct.

There's a new study out this week that actually concerned the 2000 election and the 2002 mid-term election. The study detailed "spoiled ballots" where mistakes were made by voters themselves. Multiple candidates received votes in the same race, for example. In that study, the "spoiled ballots" were nearly three times more likely in specific precincts where large numbers of newly-registered voters were present. Those "spoiled ballots" are not counted. But that is not, I repeat is not, voter suppression. It results when functionally illiterate voters cast ballots.

In this nation, we print ballots in dozens of languages, we provide assistance for any voter at the polls and we make the process as convenient as possible. If the voter is intellectually unable to follow these simple rules, is it the role of society to physically vote this ballot for these individuals? I think not.

When you hear charges of voter suppression, just remember that someone benefits from making that charge. Look beyond the campaign rhetoric and explore the motives of those who seek to cloud this election.

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