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« How Does One Paint a Martian Princess? | Main | Race and More »

October 08, 2008

My House: 2 Residents, 6 Registered Voters

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A few days ago I answered the doorbell for a neighbor lady who said she was checking the voter registration list for the neighborhood. I probably should have asked who she was doing this for, but didn't; instead I simply provided information.

Listed at our address were me, my wife and four others. Only my wife and I actually live here.

One of the other names belonged to a former renter. That's understandable; it isn't ideal, but it's true that some names remain long after the person moved to another precinct.

Another name was that of Nancy's daughter-in-law who lives in California.

Another was Nancy's former husband (they divorced around 25 years ago) who lives in Oregon.

Yet another was my former wife who lives 70 miles away.

None of the last three ever lived at my address.

From time to time we get junk mail addressed to former renters and spouses. This makes me wonder if a commercial mailing list was used to fatten up the voter registration roles. (Or maybe a commercial list was extracted from a fattened registration list. I don't know how this list stuff is done.)

Seattle is solidly Democratic. In the race for governor four years ago, every time the Republican candidate pulled ahead, a few thousand votes for his opposition (the current governess) appeared as if by magic from someplace or other in Seattle. Now I'm about as far as one can get from being a conspiracy theorist, but those continual injections of votes from Seattle in late stages of the vote count gave me pause.

It will be interesting to find out if those four extra "residents" at our place will be voting early and often in our precinct come November 4th.



posted by Donald at October 8, 2008


Really? This surprises you? Dead people have been voting for decades on both sides of the fence. On the Dem side, ACORN's been doing a bang-up job of padding the books (when they don't get caught), while the 'pubs own Diebold who makes the electronic voting equipment that's....well, now it's stacked in warehouses because the states have taken notice to how a toddler with a paperclip can hack them to give any result you want. 'pubs, interestingly, always do significantly better in areas that have those electronic voting machines. Even better than they ever had in the past. But, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, either or I'd find it a little odd that exit polls in those elections were landslides for the Dems.

Posted by: Uptate Guy on October 9, 2008 10:12 AM

Upstate Guy -- Yes, I've been hearing about the problem for years and years, but this is the first time I've experienced it "up close and personal."

Agreed that computerized voting can be hackable and should not be used. Exit polling can be (and is) error-prone for reasons explained by polling experts; results always should be used with caution.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on October 9, 2008 10:24 AM

I reminded of an article that was on The Onion a while back. It was "Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early." (

Posted by: Jonathan Schnapp on October 9, 2008 1:08 PM

I'm the guy you're talking about, Donald. I'm a Washington native that's voted in that state every election since I turned 18, except once when I was living in Portland.

I've been living in NYC for over two years now, and I'm still voting in Washington. Alert the FBI! With all the phantom voting and outright coercion and fraud that goes on, I don't feel bad voting in the state that I still consider my home... I care much more about what happens in Olympia than in Albany, and I follow the issues there much more closely.

Incidentally, as far as that Rossi-Gregoire vote went, any time it's that close, the loser will have cause for suspicion.

You phrased it "every time the Republican candidate pulled ahead, a few thousand votes for his opposition (the current governess) appeared as if by magic"

... .someone on the other side (not me) would probably phrase it "every time a few thousand votes for the Dem came to light, the Republican candidate found some more votes and pulled ahead as if by magic. " N'est-ce pas?

Posted by: daniel on October 9, 2008 3:49 PM

The Republican Party has been putting an extraordinary effort into finding ghost voters during the last decade or so, and if there have been very many of them I'm pretty sure they would have found them.

In most places, whether someone voted is public information, though of course not how they voted.

Posted by: John Emerson on October 9, 2008 3:56 PM

The Republican Party fine-tuned its election techniques during Reconstruction. The Democrats learned from the masters.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on October 9, 2008 10:25 PM

This reminds me, why isn't McCain talking about ACORN, instead of Ayers?

Posted by: Lester Hunt on October 10, 2008 10:50 AM

There was a recent story about some "ACORN fraud" in Missouri. Something like 300 out of 40,000 or so signatures were fake names, fake addresses, or duplicates. Less than 1%, anyway. Duplicates are automatically tossed out and aren't really fraud at all -- it's people who can't remember if they're registered.

To me, registering 40,000 voters is a good thing, and 1% error/fraud/duplication isn't that bad. The way it works, some contractors get a quick buck on a per-signature basis. They're really cheating ACORN, and in the past ACORN has cooperated in prosecuting them.

Some states purge their rolls efficiently, and some don't. (Oregon's "vote by mail" makes that easy.) This has been true forever.

In order for this to be a serious problem, you have to show that some people are voting multiple times (at two different addresses) or that someone is voting the fictitious voters. Just having them on the rolls is no harm, no foul. To vote a lot of fictitious voters, you have to have a crew of people going from one precinct to another under a series of fake names. maybe one person could vote 15 times in a day, so to get 100 votes you'd need 60 people voting all day long. That would be hard to hide. (Or else you could have a lot of fake people writing in for absentee ballots, which leaves a paper trail and can easily be checked.)

To me, for ghost voters to be a significant factor you'd need a lot of people, a lot of organization, and officials turning a blind eye. A lot more than just ACORN registering fake people.

This whole thing is part of an organized, long-term, multi-faceted, nationwide campaign of voter discouragement. Steps taken to prevent voter fraud always end up preventing legit voters from voting too, so when talking about this issue you need to balance the ill effects of fraud against the ill effects of voter exclusion.

Republicans do better with low turnout, so for them voter exclusion is a good thing (their anti-fraud effects are in Democratic areas), but from most other points of view voter exclusion is a bad thing.

Posted by: John Emerson on October 10, 2008 1:02 PM

John's exactly right. The number of voter registration errors and fraud may be in the thousands, but is still extremely small relative to the millions of registered voters. The amount of proven actual voter fraud--people voting multiple times, truckloads of ballots mysteriously turning up, etc.--is almost non-existent. Every election cycle teams of mostly Republican lawyers go digging in Democratic precincts desperately trying to come up with those apocryphal legions of dead voters, but they never come up with more than a couple of isolated cases.

When you think about it, most elections would require thousands of fraudulent votes to swing it one way or the other. That's pretty tough to pull off with paper ballots. On the other hand, if you use black-box voting machines with no paper trail....

Posted by: Steve on October 10, 2008 5:51 PM


Not as tough as you'd think.

Posted by: Bill on October 10, 2008 6:51 PM

Bill, did you actually read the article you linked to? "There has been no evidence of voter fraud yet..." It's the difference between registration fraud and actual voter fraud, which goes to my point. Every election cycle they run stories like this, and every cycle the evidence of real voter fraud somehow never turns up.

Posted by: Steve on October 10, 2008 7:38 PM


Yes, I read the article and also watched the follow-up on CNN. You said to impact an election, it would require thousands of votes. Hence, my link to the article.

And I appreciate your point that this involved registration fraud, not voter fraud. But unless bogus voters are registered, a "fattened registration list" as Donald called it in his post, there can be no voter fraud.

This was one instance in one county in one state involving a not insignificant total of 5000 bogus registrations. And the only reason it was uncovered was because they were submitted by ACORN, an organization currently under intense scrutiny.

I'm just not as optimistic as you that this is hard to pull off and doesn't occur on a widespread basis.

Posted by: Bill on October 10, 2008 8:53 PM

There is only "voter registration fraud" - not voter fraud. Yeah Right. Geez you pathetic partisans -- who scream bloody murder for years when your side can't manage to cast its votes properly.

I bet ACORN and the rest of these liberal shits that are out there breaking the laws are doing it for practice; they dont have a horse or should i say whore in this race. Yeah right.

Posted by: sN on October 10, 2008 10:45 PM

Acorn has been around for awhile, registering mostly low-income voters in Democratic areas. This issue comes up every two years before the election and always fizzles out after the election, for the reasons I explained. The reason the Republicans are worried is because ACORN registers a lot of legit voters. It's not the fraud, real or imagined, that bothers them.

sN, "partisan" is not the word you should use, because either you're a republican partisan yourself, or else just a kneejerk loudmouth.

You didn't respond to a single point I made with anything other than namecalling and huffing and puffing. You pathetic shit.

Bill, I'm very confident that there is no significant amount of voter fraud coming out of this. This has been a major Republican issue for ten years or more. A few years ago they mobilized the whole US Department of Justice to find and prosecute voter fraud. (That's why Iglesias, a Reublican, got fired, because he wouldn't prosecute a NM voter fraud case fast enough.)

The massive DofJ effort came up with a very small number of prosecutable, winnable cases involving a very small number of voters. They really had to dig deep to find some of the cases and there may have been some bogus prosecutions.

Granted that a large number of bogus registrations COULD lead to a large number of bogus votes, but there's no evidence that that's happened and as we've said, it would be difficult to pull off.

I can't remember whether I've mentioned this, but one of the significant cases, a voter registration drive threw out half of the cards they received -- the Democratic cards. This is significant because a certain number of people lost their right to vote AND because one party profited at the expense of the other.

Posted by: John Emerson on October 11, 2008 10:04 AM

The political consultants who advise the GOP favor lower turnouts, presumably because the higher one is on the economic ladder the more likely one is to vote which means lower overall turnout increases GOP percentages. Among factors leading to this is salaried employees who take time off to vote are not penalized while hourly wage earners often lose income when they take time off work to vote. Similarly the Dems are advised to shoot for high turnouts because it generally means more working class, elderly, poor, and young voters who tend to trend Dem-ward.

Thus the GOP, especially its right wing, has been mounting various efforts to decrease voter participation. These range from purging voter lists of registered voters based on questionable data (see Katherine Harris as Sec. of State in Florida in 2000) to distributing material that indicates voting might lead to arrest (see Virginia Senate race 2006) and finally to efforts to crack down on fraudulent voter registration. In elections since 2002 there have been roughly fifty known cases of voters casting multiple ballots due to fraudulent registration, hardly likely to have much impact on election outcomes.

Last night while changing channels I caught John Stossel doing a piece on efforts to encourage younger voters become registered and vote. He was essentially arguing that the best thing they could do for democracy was NOT to vote due to their being insufficiently informed about the issues. One guest came close to calling for voting to no longer be a right and responsibility for all citizens of voting age, but rather that voting should become an earned privilege that would require passing some type of examination.

If one fears that we are being overrun by hordes of immigrants who are being illegally slipped into the voter lists, swinging the outcome of elections to the left, one gets agitated by reports of voter registration fraud. If one believes the elite right are intent on maintaining a grip on their power by suppressing votes, especially by working class, elderly, poor, and young voters, one gets agitated by the chilling effect these overblown efforts to find examples of voter registration fraud can have on actual registration and voting.

As a free speech advocate, I believe the best answer to hate speech and various expressions I might consider dangerous or misguided is not censorship, but speaking out against them with counterarguments and alternatives. Similarly I believe more eligible citizens should register and vote, not fewer, and thus applaud efforts to that end and dislike efforts to keep people from voting. As someone who has never belonged to a political party I also believe we need to move to instant runoff voting to break the hold the two major parties have on the political process.

Posted by: Chris White on October 11, 2008 11:11 AM

Mr Emrerson, I did respond to your points; I am able to pack a lot into a few words; read my response and try again.

You don't know how many fraudulent votes are cast, and govt. prosecutions on the matter are not something that would give me comfort one way or the other.

Now, how about if I take your vote away. Come now Mr Emerson, you glorious shit. I can bury you in data that your vote does not matter at all, so give it up, old boy. Will you? It has never mattered in a race, so... why not?

One case of voter fraud cancels out someone's vote. Let us see if your cavalier attitude applies when it is your vote?

This is the basis of democracy; it is not stealing chewing gum at 7-Eleven. That is why we take any infraction seriously -- even if it does not matter to the outcome ---repeat -- even if it does not matter to the outcome. Do you get that?

Also, these groups are gettting federal dollars to help with the fraud, which complicates matters further -- giving people the real impression that they are being disenfranchised by both criminals and THEIR GOVT., which makes it a much more serious case.

You should be screaming for these ACORN nuts to be put in prison. We all should --whether it affects any actual political outcome or not. Instead, you want to play lawyer games. Pathetic.


Posted by: sN on October 11, 2008 3:45 PM

sN, at this point it's really up to you to show that a significant amount of actual voting fraud occurred. There's been a tremendous effort both by Republican-affiliated organizations as well as the US Department of Justice and many state Departments of Justice to find it, and they've pretty much failed. That's enough for me, and I don't see why it's not enough for you -- there was no coverup, because the investigators strongly desired to find fraud.. There may be a lot of fraud in your imagination, but things in your imagination can't be prosecuted.

The chance that there a big chunk of secret voter fraud out there is close to zero.

Posted by: John Emerson on October 11, 2008 8:04 PM

OK, Mr Emerson, we will never agree. My problem is I find any tampering with the system to be a serious crime -- that includes phony registrations. I would think that in the sensitive world of voting, both sides would agree to take all infractions seriously.

One last thing, if ACORN does want to be in the vote fraud busines (Pat Caddell -Democrat Pollster---everyone in Washington knows ACORN is in the vote fraud business)- If ACORN or someone else wants to commit voter fraud, they have to start with phony registrations. So your argument is so far these groups are not effective at it. So, yes, let us all wait until they are effective. That makes perfect an insane world.


Posted by: sN on October 12, 2008 12:29 AM

sN - Where is your righteous anger at the efforts to keep people from voting? Where is your righteous anger at the efforts to use easily hackable Diebold voting machines? Where is your righteous anger at overzealous efforts to purge voters from the rolls? Where is your righteous anger at the disparity in the ratio of voting machines between districts that have led to excessive waiting in districts that trend Dem rather than Pub?

If repeated investigations by DoJ and others who for partisan reasons want to find fraudulent voter registration and fraudulent voting have failed repeatedly to find any significant evidence that it is taking place, why is this a major issue for you?

Posted by: Chris White on October 12, 2008 9:00 AM

I'm not really trying to persuade you, sN. There are more people than you and me reading this thread.

Caddell plays a Democrat on Fox but it's been a long, long time since Democrats accepted him as one.

You have not responded in any way to what I said about the Republican strategy of voter discouragement, which uses multiple legal and illegal tactics to reduce turnout, especially in Democratic areas, nor have you responded to the fact that the hooplah about voter fraud is part of this Republican strategy, nor have you responded to the fact that the fraud in these cases is fraud against ACORN, which ACORN helps prosecute, nor have you responded to the fact that an enormous effort by the Republican Department of Justice found a very few very small cases to prosecute.

And don't you ever call anyone partisan again.

Posted by: John Emerson on October 12, 2008 10:18 AM

The question here seems to be: Which party is more corrupt? The answer is neither. Both parties engage in fraud, and I'd wager they both do it to the same degree.

We're in the midst of one of the most godawful financial scandals in the history of the country. Both parties participated in bringing us to this castastrophe. Both the Clinton and the Bush administrations pushed for sub-prime mortgages for minorities who had no hope of ever paying back their debts. Clinton did it to get black votes. Bush did it to get hispanic votes.

I worked for a decade for a corporate law firm that played a huge role in orchestarting and funding Democratic candidates. When it came to campaign contributions, they paid equally into the Democratic and Republican parties. This experience purged me of the belief that one or the other parties is the party of the "little guy." Since my lawyer bosses were among the richest people in the world, the experience also disabused me of the notion that the Democratic Party is the party of working people.

When it comes to illegal immigration, which may be at the core of voter fraud issues, both parties are equally detestable. On a personal level, both Obama and McCain advocate unfettered illegal immigration. There is no difference.

Both presidential candidates are equally unattractive. Both are up to their necks in the current financial grand theft. How the posters to this site find something to differentiate between the two, or between the two parties... well, it beats me.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on October 12, 2008 11:32 AM

Amazingly this is one of the times I find ST saying something I agree with and applaud. Our opinions about what we might best do to solve these problems may be vastly different but we heartily agree on one fundamental point, both major parties are creatures of the same elite.

I resent the position we have been put in as citizen voters. Our only viable choice is between the two major parties. This is merely deciding which faction of the status quo elite will be given the gavel. This is why my quixotic political campaign is for instant runoff voting.

Rather than tossing out any other bones of contention, let me offer ST a beer ... local microbrew, of course.

Posted by: Chris White on October 12, 2008 12:30 PM

I'd wager they both do it to the same degree.

That's what most Republicans think. "We're no worse than they are" is their bottom line.

The financial meltdown is not the result of home loans to minorities. It's the result of leveraging bad loans, only a small percentage of which were made by Fannie Mae or Freddy Mac.

Posted by: John Emerson on October 12, 2008 1:24 PM

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