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Friday, October 04, 2002

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My POSSLQ had her letter published in the Los Angeles Daily News today, attacking Prop 52.

Proposition 52 would allow election-day voter registration in California, and from among its numerous flaws Sandi chose to focus on the following:

Dirtier campaigns

Bruce L. Bialosky is correct that Proposition 52 won't solve the low voter-turnout problem ("Easier registration won't bring more voters," Opinion, Oct. 2). But he misses the worst effect that this measure will have - dirty, deceptive, highly emotional campaigns. Campaigns have become dirtier and more fraught with emotion in the past few decades, and Proposition 52 will only raise that to a fever pitch.

We need more informed voters, voters who care enough to read the literature and study the issues. Not voters who don't care until the very bright advertising people who run modern campaigns insert an emotional appeal in the last days before the election, when it is too late for any counterarguments and too late to refute lies.

Sandi Webb
Simi Valley

This is no small problem with the proposition. I can easily imagine some of the last minute scaremongering that will be used to try to panic people into registering and voting on election day. Push polls and slander will become commonplace tactics (e.g., "Do you agree with candidate X that all the members of your ethnic group should be tatooed on their foreheads so police can identify them? If not, we'll give you a ride down to the polling booth today, so you can register and vote against this Nazi who wants to kill all your firstborn children."). After all, if a candidate is behind in the polls, what does he have to lose by resorting to such tactics?

I have other major concerns with Prop 52. The opportunities for fraud are enormous. No photo ID is required for registration, and same-day registrants do not cast provisional ballots.

Normally in California if a question arises at the polling place as to whether a person is eligible to vote, that person is allowed to cast a "provisional ballot", which is sealed in an envelope containing all pertinent information and explanations on the outside. After the election the County Registrar checks the voter's eligibility (e.g., is the signature on the outside legitimate, was the person properly registered in that county and city, etc., etc.). If it is determined that the voter was indeed eligible, the envelope is unsealed and his or her vote is counted along with the remaining absentee ballots. The system works quite well. But under Prop 52 that firewall against fraud and error doesn't exist. Votes of same-day registrants will be mixed in with everyone elses. So if fraud occurs, there is no way to identify and remove the illegally-cast ballots, and no way to rectify the problem except by invalidating the entire election.

My other objections to election-day voter registration are philosophical. I see no value in encouraging inattentive citizens to vote. High turn-out purely for the sake of high-turnout does not make for better government. Californians have ample opportunities to register to vote prior to the election; we have postcard-registration forms and Department of Motor Vehicle registration. If some people are too damned lazy or uninterested to bother to register ahead of time, then I don't want them making uninformed decisions about who should be elected to office or what laws should be adopted.

I know a lot of Libertarians who are all in favor of Prop 52 on purely pragmatic grounds. They want to appeal to disaffected citizens who are turned off from voting by the corrupt Demo-Republican duopoly. They think that someday they can replicate Jesse Ventura's astonishing success, such that hundreds of thousands of non-voters will suddenly be inspired to flock to the polls, register on election day, throw the rascals out, and elect the Libertarian candidates instead.

It's a nice pipe dream, but in real life it almost never happens that way (and Jesse himself has turned out to be quite a disappointment even to his most ardent former supporters). The people who don't bother to register generally don't care about politics, and making it easier and easier for them to register isn't going to change that, nor will it somehow magically turn them into responsible and thoughtful and well-informed voters.

No, what it does is dilute the votes of those people who do care about government and public policy. I know this isn't the Politically Correct thing to say. But I take my vote very seriously. I don't want it negated by the votes of stupid or ignorant people, or by the politicians who manipulate those people, or by the criminals who want to commit election fraud.

Didn't we learn anything from Palm Beach, Florida? Why should we encourage that crap in California?








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