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Friday Sept 1st: This week's program, Block The Vote examines how efforts to prevent voter fraud may disenfranchise many minority, poor, elderly, and disabled voters. Segments include  
Personal Essay: Democracy in the Deep South
, America's 11 Worst Places to Vote, Spencer Overton's book "Stealing Democracy", and others.

Check here for local listings. In Seattle, NOW airs on KCTS 9 Fri 9/1 8:00pm, Sun 9/3 11:30am, and Tues 9/5 2;30am.


Things are goofy nationwide. While most of us have been fighting the secret vote count done on electronic voting and counting machines, there's activities on other fronts. Like the new statewide voter registration databases and new requirements for voter identification.

Fortunately, in Washington State, at this moment, we're doing "okay" on both fronts. There was some recent brouhaha over our voter registration database, which I'll explain below. And we don't yet require voters to show photo ID.

Of course, all that can change in a heartbeat. So remain vigilant.

Like else where, Washington State has a new statewide voter registration database (VRDB) to comply with HAVA. This can be a really good thing. Vote fraud does happen. Things like dead people voting, duplicate voting, and husbands voting for wives. We should take reasonable steps to prevent vote fraud. One step to ensure the VRDB is up to date and accurate.

However. One of the methods proposed to scrub our database was overzealous (silly). What's typically done is you compare the names and addresses with other databases, like the list of felons and ex-felons, death certificates, USPS address change forms, and the DMV.

How you do these comparisons is really key. Normal industry practice is to use a combination of rules (heuristics) and statistics (probabilistic record linking). (We provide this kind of service to our customers, to help ensure patients don't get the wrong medications. So I can go into nauseating technical detail, if anyone asks.)

What our Secretary of State was proposing is using an exact match when comparing against the DMV records. Unfortunately, that would result it way too many false negatives. Data quality is always an issue (e.g. errors keying in names), some people use different names (like a hyphenated last name), and so on.

Fortunately for us in Washington, the Brennan Center did a lot of the heavy lifting on this issue. You can read about Washington Association of Churches et. al. v. Reed. The good people from Whatcom Fair Voting have an upcoming panel discussion, where reps from Brennan will be talking about this topic.

You can also visit Statewide Voter Registration Databases to see what's going on elsewhere. Happily, I just noticed FEDERAL JUDGE PROTECTS THE RIGHT TO VOTE IN FLORIDA: Court Blocks Law Creating New Obstacles to Voter Registration. (Poor Jeb, he just can't get a break any more.)

On this issue of requiring voters to have photo ID, I have exactly zero problem with it if everyone's given photo ID for free and there's some way to accommodate the elderly, disabled, and poor. Maybe by using provisional ballots.

If the photo ID isn't provided for free, then no deal. Because that's a poll tax.

Originally posted to zappini on Fri Sep 01, 2006 at 06:57 AM PDT.

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