Butterfly ballots, balky machines, absentee ballot scandals, felons voting, Supreme Court intervention–all these made headlines during the infamous 2000 Florida recount. Could it happen again in this year’s presidential election? The answer is yes, because not much has changed to improve our election systems, while both major parties are poised on a hair trigger to file lawsuits and challenge any close statewide vote. The issues may boil down to whether the margin of victory in any state exceeds the “margin of litigation.”
John Fund offers a guided tour of our error-prone election systems, which nearly half of Americans say they don’t trust. When some states have systems so flawed that you can’t tell where incompetence ends and possible fraud begins, it isn’t surprising that scandals have ranged from rural Texas to big cities such as Milwaukee and St. Louis. Fund dissects some anomalies of Florida 2000 and analyzes the bitterly protracted election for governor of Washington State in 2004. He spotlights the perils of “provisional ballots,” the flaws of the “Motor Voter” law that has allowed people to get absentee ballots for phantom voters, and the shady registration drives of the radical group ACORN. Meanwhile, the simple safeguard of a photo ID requirement is fiercely resisted on specious claims that it would disenfranchise poor and minority voters.
Stealing Elections presents a chilling portrait of electoral vulnerability, as a combination of bureaucratic bungling and ballot rigging put our democracy at risk.