In 2008, Montana was the canary in the coal mine. About a month before the election, a local citizen named Jacob Eaton formally challenged Kevin Furey’s voter registration, swearing that he was no longer eligible to vote. Furey had asked the post office to change his address from Helena to Missoula. Eaton asked local election officials to take Furey off the Helena rolls. Eaton did not, presumably, know that his target was 1st Lieutenant Kevin Furey, an Army Reserve officer deploying to Iraq. Lt. Furey had asked the post office to send his mail to his mother in Missoula while he was overseas. His legal residence never left Helena, and his right to vote there never changed. Had the challenge succeeded while he was deployed, Lt. Furey would have lost the chance to vote for his own commander in chief. Lt. Furey was not alone. Amateur “sleuths” challenged the voting rights of more than 6,000 other Montanans, based on a blunderbuss attempt to scan data records for ostensibly suspicious activity. When something looked suspicious (to them), they asked officials to cancel the offending registrations. In Montana, the challengers looked for postal records that didn’t match the voter rolls; other amateur detectives deployed different variations elsewhere.
The mass challenges were predictably replete with error. In Montana, they included a challenge to a woman whose address was listed as “905 S 5th St W,” on one set of records and “905 S 5th St W” on another. Can’t see the difference? The comma after her street address had apparently triggered the challenge because one address did not “match” the other. It took a federal lawsuit to shut the challenge down.
Now the challenges — and the errors — are back. In the final days before the election on Nov. 6, “voter integrity” groups have begun to object to the participation of voters they find suspicious. Civic participation in our electoral process is not only welcome, but necessary. But excess zeal and an absence of accuracy turns volunteers into vigilantes.
Full Article: The Danger of Voter Fraud Vigilantes – NYTimes.com.