The 2000 presidential election was plagued
by the sorts of problems that are typically encountered only in
struggling democracies. Now, four years later, with another
election approaching, reports are beginning to surface that
indicate many of these issues have yet to be addressed, or worse,
are knowingly being exacerbated. Thankfully, private individuals
and several nongovernmental organizations are volunteering their
time and resources to monitor the process. In Michigan, the state
Democratic Party announced Tuesday that it will organize hundreds
of volunteers, mostly lawyers, to monitor the November elections.
Though partisan, this effort should help Michigan voters confront
difficult and potentially disenfranchising Election Day issues.
Florida of all places should have used these four years
effectively to fix the glaring flaws in its electoral system.
Shockingly, problems still abound. Secretary of State Glenda Hood,
in a move reminiscent of her predecessor, Katherine Harris, has
refused to let those residents who have signed an oath pledging
their citizenship vote, but forgot to check a second box confirming
the same thing. Twenty-two thousand blacks, the majority of whom
may very well be Democrats, were recently disqualified from voting
as alleged felons. Many of these individuals turned out not to be
felons in 2000.
These problems are not isolated to Florida either. Tuesday,
KUSA-TV, an NBC affiliate in Denver, reported that 719 voters were
registered fraudulently across Colorado. Many more in the swing
states of Ohio and Michigan have been found to be similarly
Having trained professionals at Michigan polling sites is a
desperately needed service. Beyond holding officials legally
accountable, these volunteers will be able to answer voters’
questions concerning complicated election law. Issues concerning
registration, identification and districting can often lead to
disqualified ballots and confused voters.
Comments like that of State Rep. George Pappageorge (R-Troy),
who told the Detroit Free Press this summer that the Republican
victory depended on “suppress(ing) the Detroit vote,”
only make the necessity of these measures more apparent. The
Democrats’ plan on sending most of their volunteers to
districts with high levels of minorities and students — two
groups that have historically been subject to undue or illegal
voting restrictions and whose right to vote should not be
discouraged or inhibited.
Admittedly, a political party is not the ideal impetus for such
an initiative. Yet, the situation is dire. Embarrassingly, seven
U.S. activist groups have asked for U.N. elections monitors —
who normally operate in developing democracies — to watch
over the November elections. Such cynicism toward the electoral
process in this country is a symptom of the sorry state of the
election system in this country. This increased scrutiny is an
important part of the cure.