Registering to vote is easy. It can be done online, by mail, at the Department of Motor Vehicles (in some states), Registrar of Voters offices, post offices, fire stations, and through various non-profit or political organizations during sponsored voter registration drives. While document requirements vary by state, a valid state-issued ID is usually one of the accepted documents. If registering in person, the person registering will normally ask to see identification. If registering online or by mail, the person filling out the form merely enters an ID number on the form, and this information is then verified. The exact process again varies by state.
On Tuesday, a voter ID law in Pennsylvania was blocked for the 2012 election. Given recent concerns about voting fraud, perhaps the best ways to register to vote may not be via mail, electronic or otherwise, but the old-fashioned way: in person.
For the purpose of this article, I will make an assumption that the identification presented by a person registering to vote at a government office, a Registrar of Voters office or a DMV is most likely their own. Accepting that assumption (and I realize some will not) would mean that most voter registration fraud is done by non-profit or political organizations.
Registering dead people, multiple registrations by the same person using various names, or convincing people to register under false pretenses are not the sole property of one side of the political spectrum. Recently, ACORN is the best known from the left side, while Sproul & Associates has earned notoriety on the right.
Addressing voter fraud has become a priority in this country since 2000. States are working to prosecute cases of voter fraud and do a better job of clearing deceased and non-citizens from voter rolls.
But if voter fraud is primarily an issue of poor registration procedures, perhaps that is where our efforts should be focused. If non-profit and political organizations are the primary source, the function of voter registration might have to be limited to government offices where documents can be physically reviewed and data bases checked to catch dead people and some non-citizens.
Mail-in and online registration may not have been such a good idea. Yes, it makes registering to vote convenient and increases voter rolls, but records still need to be verified. Given processing time, in-person registration could result in faster verification. To counter the argument that some people will be prevented from registering, the Registrar of Voters in each state could set up temporary offices in convenient locations 90 days before elections to register people.
Voting fraud does occur, though not in any material amount. Part of the argument why showing ID at the polling booth is not needed is that identification is established at time of registration. However, with mail-in and online registration, and registration by non-government agencies, identification is not always verified until after a vote is cast. If we tighten up identification verification at time of registration, maybe we’ll solve the problem.