The 2012 election will be one of the hardest-fought in U.S. history. It is also likely to be one of the closest, a fact that highlights serious concerns about voter fraud and bureaucratic incompetence in the conduct of elections. If we don’t take notice, we could see another debacle like the Bush-Gore Florida recount of 2000.
Who’s Counting? exposes serious problems with our election system, from voter fraud to a slipshod system of vote counting that political scientist Walter Dean Burnham calls “the most careless of the developed world.” To reduce fraud, states ranging from Florida to Wisconsin have passed laws requiring a photo ID be shown at the polls and curbing the unrestrained use of absentee ballots. The response from Obama allies has been to belittle the need for such laws and to attack them as a rising racist tide in American life.
But voter fraud is a well-documented reality in American elections. Who’s Counting? recounts recent cases like a 2010 state representative race in Kansas City, Mo. that was stolen when one candidate received illegally cast votes by citizens of Somalia who did not speak English and were coached at the polls. The margin of victory? One vote.
While Americans frequently demand observers and best practices in the elections of other countries, we are often blind to the need to scrutinize our own elections. We will pay the consequences in 2012 if a close election leads us into partisan battles and court fights that will dwarf the Bush-Gore recount wars.