Vox Populi
A Letter to the Editor

Voter Registration in Oklahoma
Friday, September 10, 2004

by Bob Filer

My friend took his daughter to register to vote when she turned 18 years old.

At the registration place the daughter was allowed to register, but no proof of age, citizenship or anything else was asked from her or her faher. How is that possible? How can our election process be meaningful if aliens are allowed to register?

This should be an enforcement issue.

Bob Filer,

Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:

Good point!

I'm trying to remember from the last time *I* had to register to vote (this would have been a little less than a dozen years ago once I had moved back to New Jersey after having lived in New York City's Borough of Queens for an appreciable length of time-- I last voted in New York State re: the 1992 Presidential Election and was already voting in New Jersey in the June Primaries for 1993 [a year in which my new/old State was electing its Governor]) and I don't recall having had to produce any proof of citizenship, or even age-- nor can I recall even being asked to present any kind of personal identification! (At the time I re-registered to vote in New Jersey, I did not yet have a New Jersey drivers' license [the closest thing I would have had to an ID card] and, of course, my then-still-unexpired New York State drivers' license would have been useless re: proof of residence).

If I correctly recall, I went to the local municipal building and, from the Borough Clerk (I live in a "borough" which, in New Jersey, is the equivalent of what might be called a "village" or a small "town" in other States), was given a form to fill out that, once properly completed, would be sent to my county's Board of Elections for processing. A few weeks after my visit with the Borough Clerk, I received a Voter Registration Card in the mail from the County Board of Elections (dog-eared and tattered, that card is still in my wallet-- though I can't recall ever being asked to produce it in all the time I've had it! [then again, the usual poll-watcher at my local polling place has almost always been a next-door neighbor who obviously knows me!!]).

I suppose I assumed, back then, that things like my citizenship, my age, my legal residence, etc. were to be checked out by the County as the form I had filled out at the Borough Clerk's office was being processed by them. My experience with local governmental officials through my work with 'The Green Papers' long since, however, suggests that this "ain't necessarily so"!

Mr. Filer's 'vox Populi' is interesting because, recently, I have also been receiving several e-mails complaining about persons allegedly having registered to vote in more than one State and then, as a result, being able to vote (presumably via absentee ballot) more than once in the same Presidential Election- clearly another concern re: our Nation's electoral process. There have also been more than a few accusations of organized voter registration drives encouraging out-of-State voters to "double-register" (that is, continue to vote in one's home State while casting an absentee ballot in another State in which they own a second home- again, this particular practice would only be of potential abuse re: a Presidential Election [the only "national" election in the United States-- "national" being in quotes here because one is, of course, really "appointing" Presidential Electors from each State and the District of Columbia ])---

the vast majority of complaints about such "double-registering" seem to involve the State of Florida (a State in which quite a lot of people have residences but live- and vote- elsewhere) and also seem to be politically motivated (Republicans will e-mail me citing statistics of Democrats purposely organizing such "double-registering", while Democrats will e-mail me about the GOP encouraging this practice; factor in Florida's role in the last Presidential Election and you have a rather politically-charged situation!) Thus, there is no way for me to verify the veracity of these claims, nor even for me to know just how widespread this practice might actually be.

All of this, from Mr. Filer's specific complaint to such things as "double-registering", are one of the unintended consequences of American Federalism and are part and parcel of the fact that Election Law is one of the so-called "police powers" reserved to the States through the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Even without that Amendment ever having been adopted, the original text of the Constitution made the sole requirement for voting in Federal elections the ability to vote for "the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature" (Article I, Section 2, clause 1)- implying that the registration of voters and conduct of even Federal elections were intended, by the Framers of that document, to be left to the States. But this is obviously subject to much potential abuse!

I often tell the story of my own electoral relationship to the 1976 Presidential Primaries: going into 1976, I was 19 going on 20 years old and had already registered, once I had turned 18, to vote in my hometown in Northern New Jersey but, at the time, was attending college in Boston (the 1976 Presidential Primary campaign happened to be during the second semester of my sophomore year). The Massachusetts Presidential Primary was held on Tuesday 2 March that year while the New Jersey Presidential Primary was not to be held until Tuesday 8 June.

Although I didn't do this, I could have registered to vote in Massachusetts in time to vote in that State's Presidential Primary and then (since I was back home in New Jersey for Spring Break a week later) re-registered as a New Jersey voter in time for being able to vote in that State's Primary (thus, I could have helped choose part of the complement of National Convention delegations from two different States!)--

or, perhaps, I might not even have had to re-register in New Jersey at all!--

New Jersey, like many States, wouldn't have removed one's name from the voter rolls unless one had missed a certain number of General Elections (which I hadn't-- I had voted in both the 1974 [my first] and 1975 General Elections by absentee ballot from Boston) and I seriously doubt (especially in that era, before PCs became ubiquitous) the Massachusetts election authorities would have even bothered to contact New Jersey to tell them I had registered up in Boston had I, indeed, taken advantage of this "loophole".

Let's put it this way: there seem to be a number of such "loopholes"- ones unethical, where not downright illegal- which, to this day, might well put pay to the notion of "one person, one vote", putting aside the issue of whether or not non-U.S. citizens might be voting in American elections. Mr. Filer's concerns, as expressed in his 'vox Populi', appear to be most legitimate!


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