Lost amidst the streaming confetti that followed Tuesday’s big liberal victories in Mississippi and Ohio were two potentially disastrous voter referendum results. One was Ohio’s decision to “block” the American Care Act’s individual mandate, which my esteemed colleague explicated in great detail earlier this week. The other was Mississippi’s strict voter ID law, now the eighth of its kind in the country. The new law is simple: Except for some religious objectors and residents of state-run care facilities, voters will henceforth need to present government-issued photo IDs to place ballots. (Interesting side note: Because IDs will now be dispensed free of charge, the state estimates it will lose $1.5 million in yearly revenue.) Every time such an ID law is proposed, proponents justify its merits by citing the dangers of voter fraud. Opponents counter that the laws are nothing more than brazen attempts to disenfranchise young and minority voters. Who’s right?
Next November more than 5 million Americans will not be allowed to vote because of a criminal conviction in their past. Nearly 4 million of these people are not in prison, yet they remain disenfranchised for years, often for decades and sometimes for life.
States vary widely on when they restore voting rights after a conviction. Maine and Vermont do not disenfranchise people with convictions; even prisoners may vote there. People with felony convictions in Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia are disenfranchised for life, unless they are granted clemency by the governor. The rest of the country falls somewhere in between.
The new group Americans Elect is trying to ease the path for an independent presidential candidate chosen by voters in a national Internet primary to appear on the election ballot in all 50 states. This is a tall order — achieving national ballot access for a third-party candidate to run against President Barack Obama and the Republican nominee is complicated and expensive.
Enthusiasm for this group is growing. But it could be misplaced. Tom Friedman said in The New York Times that Americans Elect will do to the two-party duopoly “what Amazon.com did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music [and] what drugstore.com did to pharmacies.” Perhaps.
Rather than gush about this group, I fear many aspects of it: its secrecy; the uncertain security for its Internet election and, most important, the lack of democracy in its system for electing a presidential nominee.
Republicans have spent 2010 overhauling voter laws to design their ideal electorate. Last night, voters in Maine fought back, approving Question 1, which restores Election Day registration. It won easily by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent.
As I detailed in the November issue of the magazine, when Republicans gained control of Maine’s legislative chambers and governor’s office, they set their sights on building a permanent majority by passing restrictive voter laws. They failed to push a voter-ID bill through the legislature, but Republican Governor Paul LePage signed a repeal of Maine’s Election Day registration this summer.
On Nov. 8, the Star Tribune published a commentary by Dan McGrath that depicted Minnesota as a haven for those bent on voter fraud (“Ellison would export loose voting laws”).This from the mouthpiece of Minnesota Majority, a group whose articles of incorporation specifically state that it has no members and whose donor list is in the low single digits. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is right in promoting Minnesota’s system of voting, one of the cleanest and most transparent in the nation. But McGrath plays loose with the truth.
So in the interest of Minnesota fair play, humor me while I lay out the facts. First, there were indeed approximately 140 ex-felons convicted of voting while on parole. However, that number included no people convicted for impersonating a voter — the crime that voter ID purports to stop.
Today millions of people will go to the polls to vote in state and local elections. As they cast their ballot, they cast a vote for the most treasured aspect of our democracy. The voting booth is the one place where we are all equal — all Americans are able to have an equal voice in determining the shape of our government. That sacred right is now under the largest assault we have witnessed in more than a century.
Through a spate of restrictive laws passed in Republican-led state legislatures, a disproportionate number of African-Americans, Latinos, people with disabilities, the elderly and the young will find voting difficult and in many cases impossible. These laws require a state photo ID to vote, limit early voting, place strict requirements on voter registration and deny voting rights to Americans with criminal records who have paid their debt to society.
Earlier today I dared the Internet to send me examples of voter fraud — particularly of a scale that would justify erecting barriers against whole groups of voters through photo ID requirements and other such pernicious nonsense.
The Internet obliged, weakly.
A few readers reminded me that the conservative columnist Ann Coulter wasaccused of voter fraud in 2009, for voting by absentee ballot in Connecticut in 2002 and 2004 despite the fact that she was living in New York. The Connecticut Election Commission investigated, but decided to take no further action since Ms. Coulter was a registered voter in the state and did not vote elsewhere. I never imagined defending Ms. Coulter, but this does not seem like a threat to our democratic way of life.
As campaigns gear up, citizens are starting to pay attention to the upcoming election, wondering which Republican will be the nominee or figuring out where candidates stand on the issues important to them. Yet the most important thing that American voters should do is figure out the new restrictions on their eligibility to vote in the next election. Throughout the country, Republicans have passed harsh and unjust voter restrictions that will make it more difficult for millions of people to vote, and indeed, might have already decided the election a year before it takes place.
A recent New York Times report catalogues the new voting restrictions that have been passed throughout the country this year. Wisconsin, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas have passed laws requiring voters to bring a government-issued photo ID to the polling booth. The Brennan Center for Justice has estimated that these measures will impact 3.2 million voters, and it is likely that the voters without identification will be poor and minority voters.
In cities across the state, North Carolinians are going to the polls this week to exercise the most fundamental right of our democracy: the right to vote. The underlying principle of our democracy is that we are all equal in the voting booth: black or white, young or old, rich or poor. When we cast our ballot, we all raise an equal voice to determine the shape of our government.
Sadly, some North Carolina legislators seem determined to reduce the chorus of voices that will be heard in the 2012 elections. Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed an onerous bill to make voters show a government photo ID when they vote. It may seem like a common-sense requirement, but more people than you may imagine don’t drive or have a photo ID — and they are disproportionately people of color, the elderly, low-income citizens, women who change their names and the young. For example, a match-up of motor vehicle and election databases shows that while African Americans are 22 percent of N.C. registered voters, they are 32 percent of the roughly 500,000 registered voters without a state-issued ID.
In the 2008 election, Barack Obama benefited from extended voting hours and early voting days, as well as rules allowing citizens to register and vote on the same day. It’s pretty obvious why: students, the elderly, and hourly-wage workers who can’t queue for hours without making the boss angry, tend to favor Democrats. Florida – which became a byword for Banana Republicanism and electoral corruption 11 years ago – has been positively zealous in attempts to restrict voting rights on the grounds that easy voting leads to waste, fraud and abuse. One lawmaker pitched a hissy fit, claiming that dead actors (Paul Newman, for one) constantly turn up on voter rolls and that “Mickey Mouse” had registered to vote in Orlando. State senator Mike Bennett wants to make voting “harder”; after all, he said, “people in Africa literally walk 200 or 300 miles so they can have the opportunity to do what we do, and we want to make it more convenient? How much more convenient do you want to make it?”
Florida Republicans addressed the problem of “convenience” earlier this year by cutting early voting days from 14 to eight, cutting budgets for expanded polling places and eliminating Sunday voting: African American (and some Latino) churches had successfully run a post-sermon”Souls to the Polls” operation, getting out the vote in 2004, 2006 and 2008. Florida has also attacked civic-minded people trying to register new voters. Jill Ciccarelli, a teacher at New Smyrna Beach High School, wanted to foster a sense of citizenship amongst her pupils, so she helped the ones who were old enough register. She didn’t know she was breaking the law. Now, all individuals or groups must file a “third party registration organisation” form with the state, and instead of having ten days to deliver the paperwork,they must now do it in 48 hours. Failure to comply could draw felony charges and thousands of dollars in fines.
A year from now, the people of Wisconsin will be going to the polls to exercise one of the most cherished rights of our democracy: the right to vote. It is the fundamental pillar of our democracy that in the voting booth we are all equal – black or white, young or old, rich or poor. When we cast our ballot, we all raise an equal voice to determine the shape of our government. Wisconsin legislators would deny that right. Strict new voter identification laws were proposed in 34 states, including our own. Wisconsin’s new voter identification restrictions, which passed the Legislature this year, are now the strictest in the country.
Wisconsin’s new law requires voters to produce a non-expired Wisconsin or federal government-issued photo identification, prohibiting use of many forms of identification that effectively verify voters’ identity, such as student IDs, state employee IDs, out-of-state licenses, expired licenses and even a voter registration card. Touted on the guise of addressing so-called voter fraud, these laws are expensive to implement, disenfranchise voters, create long lines at the polls and do not prevent the very voting problems they purport to address.
The technology of voting has changed substantially since ancient Athenians tossed coloured stones in jars and scratched names on pottery shards. Today it’s paper ballots that seem ancient and outdated.
Poor turnout by voters in Manitoba and Ontario this month has prompted renewed calls for online voting. “We have to do something,” vowed Greg Selinger, recently elected premier of Manitoba, referring to his province’s depressing turnout numbers. “We’re going to take a look at e-voting.” Elections Canada plans to test electronic balloting in a federal by-election
by 2013 sometime after 2013. Many municipalities across the country are already using the new technology.
The appeal of online voting is obvious. Voter turnout is poor across the board, but particularly dismal among the youngest cohort of voters. Since this generation has grown up immersed in online communications, its members might be enticed to vote in greater numbers if the ballot was in a format familiar and convenient to them. Voting at home via a smartphone certainly seems more attractive than walking down the street to a public school or community hall, standing behind a cardboard screen and putting an X on a piece of paper.
And yet it is not clear online voting actually has the power to draw more people to the polls, whatever their age. From the municipal election evidence in Canada, it appears online voting may boost the number of people who vote in advance polls, but does little to change overall voter turnout. A large-scale experiment in Britain was abandoned in 2007 after numerous technical glitches and no appreciable improvement in turnout. All of which suggests online voting provides already-committed voters with a more convenient means of voting, but fails to address the underlying apathy of those who don’t.
Voter identification — considered a safeguard against fraud by some and an effort to disenfranchise voters by others — was a hot topic in state legislatures this year. Twenty states that didn’t have requirements requiring voter ID at the polls at the beginning of 2011 considered legislation this year. Two states — Kansas and Wisconsin — so far have enacted new voter ID requirements, statistics posted on the National Conference for State Legislatures indicate.
Governors in Minnesota, New Hampshire and North Carolina vetoed voter ID bills in 2011, but backers in Minnesota vowed to pass a similar ID bill next year that would skip the gubernatorial step and take the matter to the voters instead, similar to what the Oklahoma Legislature did in 2009 and 2010. Mississippi voters will weigh in on a citizen initiative proposing voter ID in November. Of the 30 states with voter ID laws, 14 require a picture ID of the voter.
The view from the Tunisian city of Sousse is good. Voters are enthusiastically queuing up to cast their vote. However, the importance of the poll in Tunisia is not which party wins the popular vote for the constituent assembly. The true significance will be whether Tunisia votes, and “which” Tunisia votes for which party or list.
Three questions must be addressed: Will Tunisians vote? What are Tunisians voting for? To whom are they giving their vote? Most political observers and media pundits have turned the bulk of their attention to al-Nahda, a moderate Islamist party. Here in Tunis, the focus is on al-Nahda and many assume that they will win. Islamists define all things political in the Arab world. This applies to extremist Islamism as well as to civic Islamism.
Get ready for a battle royal over the integrity of elections in Colorado — and just in time for this state’s apparently pivotal role in the 2012 presidential race. If the clash shapes up as expected, lawmakers will have to choose sides between a would-be election priesthood exempt from public oversight — I’m referring to the county clerks — and advocates for a fully open and accountable government.
The clerks, you see, are in a panic about a recent appeals court ruling that says voted ballots are public documents under the Colorado Open Records Act, so long as “the identity of the voter cannot be discerned from the face of that ballot.”
The court’s definition should include the vast majority of ballots, assuming election officials and voters follow the law. But if you listen to the clerks, you’d think the opposite. Embracing Chicken Little as their role model, the clerks’ association issued a statement after the ruling, claiming it “has removed the curtain from our voting booths. Most Coloradans believe their votes should be a secret from their friends, coworkers and even spouses, but today’s ruling means Coloradans’ personal choices can be seen by anyone who asks.” The clerks’ statement is either contemptible fear-mongering or an admission that they supervise a system that comprehensively thumbs its nose at the state constitution’s mandate of anonymous ballots.
Initiatives aimed at registering poor Americans to vote is un-American, or at least that is the conjecture Matthew Vadum made early last month in acontroversial article published by American Thinker. Vadum, the author of Subversion, Inc.and Senior Editor for the non-profit watchdog group Capital Research Center, argues that leftist groups are trying to use the poor as a “battering ram” to advance redistributionist policies. The poor masses, Vadum suggests, are the tools with which Obama and like-minded organizations plan to drag America further from small government ideals. Vadum essentially asserts that voter registration is infringing on his American Dream.
The progressive radio host Thom Hartmann went toe-to-toe with Vadum shortly after the article was released. On the Thom Hartmann ProgramVadum defended the views he put forward in the article arguing that, given the chance, welfare recipients would vote for their own interests. Hartmann, expressing concern for the one in seven Americans below the poverty line, argued that everyone, not just the poor, votes for their own interests. Vadum had no substantive response to Hartmann’s prodding.
Editorials: Voter ID proponents should have to answer for the ugly history of Jim Crow | Slate Magazine
An elderly black woman in Tennessee can’t vote because she can’t produce her marriage certificate. Threatening letters blanket black neighborhoods warning that creditors and police officers will check would-be voters at the polls, or that elections are taking place on the wrong day. Thirty-eight states have instituted new rules prohibiting same-day registration and early voting on Sundays. All of this is happening as part of an effort to eradicate a problem that is statistically rarer than heavy-metal bands with exploding drummers: vote fraud.
Many commentators have remarked on the unavoidable historical memories these images provoke: They are so clearly reminiscent of the Jim Crow era. So why shouldn’t the proponents of draconian new voting laws have to answer for their ugly history?
Proponents of reforming the voting process seem blind to the fact that all of these seemingly neutral reforms hit poor and minority voters out of all proportion. (The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that while about 12 percent of Americans don’t have a government-issued photo ID, the figure for African-Americans is closer to 25 percent, and in some Southern states perhaps higher.) The reason minorities are so much harder hit by these seemingly benign laws has its roots in the tragic legacy of race in this country. They still work because that old black man, born into Jim Crow in 1940, may have had no birth certificate because he was not born in a hospital because of poverty or discrimination. Names may have been misspelled on African-American birth certificates because illiterate midwives sometimes gave erroneous names.
Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has a novel strategy to preserve state election changes that would disproportionately hurt minority voters: Get the courts to end the federal process in Florida that could prevent the changes from taking effect in Hillsborough and four other counties. A three-judge court in the District of Columbia should not fall for the misdirection play, and it should not approve the discriminatory voting practices embraced by the governor and the Legislature.
The state first went shopping over the summer when it asked the federal court — rather than the Obama administration’s Justice Department — to sign off on four controversial provisions of a new elections law that would particularly hurt the poor and minorities. Adopted by the GOP-controlled Legislature this year, the changes reduce the number of days for early voting, make it harder for people who move to cast regular ballots at their new polling places, and put up new roadblocks for voter registration drives and citizen petitions.
Editorials: Who Stole the Election? Dominating many state legislatures, Republicans have launched a full-on assault on voting rights | American Prospect
When Charles Webster was a member of the Maine House during the 1980s and 1990s, he and his Republican colleagues routinely proposed bills that would create restrictive voting laws—or, as Webster sees it, legislation to tamp down on the rampant threat of voter fraud. “Every year we tried to solve this problem,” he says, “and it was always a partisan vote,” with Democrats supporting laws intended to increase turnout. As a result, Webster says, “We have one of the most loosey-goosey, lax election laws in the country.”
Others would call Maine’s voting laws a striking success. Most states struggle to get citizens to the polls; national turnout for a presidential election hasn’t topped 60 percent since 1968, and turnout for midterm elections hovers in the 30s. That puts the United States far below the participation level in other Western democracies. Yet for the past four decades, Maine has stood apart. With an array of regulations that encourage voting—the state has allowed voters to register on Election Day since 1973—Maine consistently places among the top five states for turnout. Seventy-two percent of the eligible population voted in 2008 when Barack Obama carried the state.
Republicans like Webster, who now chairs the state GOP, argue that too many people are voting in the state—at least, too many illegal immigrants, out-of-state college students, and people who live in hotels. “What I don’t want is somebody coming in stealing elections who doesn’t live in the town,” Webster says.
A healthy civic society requires protecting citizens’ fundamental right to vote while ensuring the integrity of our electoral system. Sadly, this goal is being jeopardized by a coordinated, nationwide effort to enact voter ID laws that will not solve the challenges facing our electoral systems and will instead disenfranchise voters and infringe upon the fundamental American right to free and fair elections.
Proponents of voter ID laws claim that they will reduce fraud. We agree that preventing voter fraud is extremely important. That is why dozens of states and the federal government have created safeguards to ensure voter integrity and passed laws imposing stiff penalties on individuals who commit voter fraud. We should vigorously enforce those laws.
However, it is a grave mistake and a waste of precious resources to enact voter ID laws that target only one extremely rare type of voter fraud — Election Day polling place impersonations — and leave in their wake millions of disenfranchised voters.
Even as Americans use their free-speech rights through the Occupy Wall Street movement to express frustration with the less affluent’s having to bear the brunt of a poor economy, their ability to generate change through their votes is being shamefully attacked.
In 14 states controlled by Republican legislators, voters face new restrictions that “could make it significantly harder for more than 5 million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012,” says a new study from the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice.
The restrictions will harm specific groups: students and the elderly, the poor and disabled, urbanites, and minorities. They are the folks less likely to have drivers’ licenses or other forms of state-issued identification, the most popular restriction in the laws. The absurdity of photo-ID rules is clearest in Texas, where a handgun license is an acceptable form of identification, but a student ID card is not.
It has been a record year for new legislation designed to make it harder for Democrats to vote — 19 laws and two executive actions in 14 states dominated by Republicans, according to a new study by the Brennan Center for Justice. As a result, more than five million eligible voters will have a harder time participating in the 2012 election.
Of course the Republicans passing these laws never acknowledge their real purpose, which is to turn away from the polls people who are more likely to vote Democratic, particularly the young, the poor, the elderly and minorities. They insist that laws requiring government identification cards to vote are only to protect the sanctity of the ballot from unscrupulous voters. Cutting back on early voting, which has been popular among working people who often cannot afford to take off from their jobs on Election Day, will save money, they claim.
None of these explanations are true. There is almost no voting fraud in America. And none of the lawmakers who claim there is have ever been able to document any but the most isolated cases. The only reason Republicans are passing these laws is to give themselves a political edge by suppressing Democratic votes.
1. We need state voter ID laws to prevent fraud.
According to Barnard political scientist Lorraine Minnite, most instances of improper voting involve registration and eligibility, such as voters filling out registration forms incorrectly or a person with felony convictions attempting to register. Neither of those issues would be prevented by a state photo ID requirement. According to George Washington University law professor Spencer Overton, a former member of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, “a photo ID requirement would prevent over 1,000 legitimate votes (perhaps over 10,000 legitimate votes) for every single improper vote prevented.”
Well over a year before the 2012 presidential election, there’s a battle going on over next year’s ballots—how they’ll count and who will get to cast them. At stake is an attempt to distort the voters’ will by twisting the rule of law. Most recently, Pennsylvania has been the focus of this battle. Dominic Pileggi, the state Senate majority leader, wants to change the way the Keystone State distributes its electoral votes, divvying them up according to how each presidential candidate performed in each congressional district, with the remaining two electoral votes going to the candidate who won the popular vote.
So while Barack Obama’s 55 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania in 2008 netted him all 21 of its electoral votes, the Pileggi plan would have shaved that figure to 11 electors. (Nationwide, Obama won 242 congressional districts while John McCain got 193.) The change would be even sharper as Pennsylvania’s new congressional map is expected to have 12 of the state’s 18 seats drawn to favor the GOP. Obama could win a majority of the Keystone vote again but only score eight of the state’s 20 electors. Do we really want to bring gerrymandering into presidential elections?
Steven Hill is not on San Francisco’s November ballot, but few actual candidates have been as influential, or controversial, in this year’s election. Mr. Hill, an author and public speaker, is considered the guru of ranked-choice voting, a system that creates an instant-runoff by having voters select their top three favorite candidates in order of preference. The system was adopted in San Francisco in 2004, but this election is the first time it will be employed in a competitive mayoral race in the city, since Gavin Newsom ran without serious opposition in 2007.
Mr. Hill, who travels the world promoting changes in electoral systems, said that ranked-choice voting improved turnout, saved money by avoiding expensive, and usually poorly attended, runoff elections and encouraged politicians to reach out to more-diverse constituencies. “You need both a strong core of support to avoid being eliminated in the first round, plus a broad base,” Mr. Hill said.
The system has made campaigning more complex. If no candidate gets a majority, the person at the bottom of the poll is dropped and the second and third choices of his supporters are added to the tallies of the remaining candidates. This continues until someone reaches 50 percent. In some cases, candidates who were not the first choice of a large majority of voters have been elected.
Editorials: Pennsylvania, Nebraska Republicans want opposite electoral vote changes | Detroit News Online
Republicans in Pennsylvania and Nebraska want to change the way their states award Electoral College votes, moves that could hinder President Barack Obama’s re-election chances. Lawmakers in the Democratic-leaning battleground of Pennsylvania are weighing whether to give the presidential nominees one electoral vote for each congressional district they win, rather than giving all its votes to the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote, like Obama did in 2008. In GOP-tilting Nebraska, lawmakers want to go to a winner-take-all system four years after Obama won the 2nd Congressional District and its single electoral college vote.
It takes 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency out of 538 up for grabs. Every vote matters in a close election and every sign points to a competitive 2012 race as an incumbent Democratic president who most people still personally like tries to win a second term in tough economic times.
“Any electoral vote is important in these elections,” said Michael Mezey, a professor of political science at DePaul University in Chicago. “When you start dealing with large states, it can make a difference. And also you’re not just dealing with Pennsylvania; other states may follow suit.”
Seduced by technology’s ability to facilitate the mundane tasks of daily life, many Canadians are finding the act of going out and voting too disruptive. With the exception of a slight uptick of around three per cent in the most recent federal election, voter turnout continues to decline.
What can be done to compel more people to take part in this fundamental function of a healthy democracy? Elections Canada is now exploring the possibility of “e-services” such as internet voting. Yet, as we wade into considerations of altering our voting practices, we must ask ourselves an important question: In addressing the participatory deficit plaguing our democracy, should our primary focus be on making voting more convenient?
In its report on the 41st general election, Elections Canada is careful to identify its core mandate: to ensure that Canadians can exercise their democratic right to vote or to run as a candidate. Note that its mandate is not to increase voter turnout. Nevertheless, the federal agency wants to meet Canadians’ expectations of convenience by exploring new options such as internet voting, and it is seeking approval to experiment with this method in a 2013 by-election.
Twenty-five years ago, as election officials around the country were discovering wondrous new ways to tabulate votes, a group of computer scientists got together in Boston for an impressively titled “First National Symposium on Security and Reliability of Computers in the Electoral Process.”
The session aired concerns about the integrity of computer-based voting methods and machines. In addition to computer scientists, the participants included election administrators from around the country, academics and equipment vendors. The subject remained fairly esoteric for several years until the 2000 presidential election, when voting machine irregularities and related incidents in Florida cast a bright light on the security of votes.
Could Bill Clinton have it right — that we’re seeing the most “determined effort” in half a century to limit Americans’ right to vote? That the new wave of restrictions are the worst, as the former president puts it, “since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting”?
Alarmingly, the evidence supports Clinton’s position. Bills to require government-issued photo identification at the polls have passed this year in several states where Republicans control both the governorships and legislatures — Texas, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Alabama, Kansas and Tennessee. And they’re being advanced in several more GOP-held states.
The alleged reason: serious voter fraud. But the facts beg to differ. The Brennan Center for Justice reports that actual prosecutions, arrests or findings of voter malfeasance are exceedingly rare. Kansas reports more sightings of UFOs than voter-fraud charges. Realistically, there’s no significant problem.
The national trauma of the 2000 presidential election and its messy denouement in Florida and the U.S. Supreme Court made, for a brief moment, election reform a cause célèbre. The scrutiny of election administration went far beyond the vote counting and recounting that dominated headlines. The Florida saga cast a harsh light on the whole country’s archaic and fragmented system of election administration, exemplified by a state where hundreds of thousands of citizens were disenfranchised by incompetent and malicious voter purges, Reconstruction-era felon voting bans, improper record-keeping, and deliberate deception and harassment.
The outrage generated by the revelations of 2000 soon spent itself or was channeled into other avenues, producing, as a sort of consolation prize, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, an underambitious and underfunded law mainly aimed at preventing partisan mischief in vote counting. The fundamental problem of accepting 50 different systems for election administration, complicated even more in states like Florida where local election officials control most decisions with minimal federal, state or judicial oversight, was barely touched by HAVA. As Judith Browne-Dianis, of the civil rights group the Advancement Project, told me: “The same cracks in the system have persisted.”