Since yesterday’s debate, Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher has been warmly embraced by the right wing. Likewise, Wurzelbacher has adopted several of the movement’s talking points. However, Wurzelbacher may soon fall victim to one of the right wing’s favorite crusades — against so-called voter fraud.
On Tuesday, a federal court ruled in favor of the Ohio Republican Party, allowing Ohio poll observers to force all voters whose registrations don’t match other state databases to fill out provisional ballots, which are “used to record a vote if a voter’s eligibility is in question and the voter would otherwise not be permitted to vote at his or her polling place.” As a result, “more than 200,000 registered Ohio voters may be blocked from casting regular ballots on Election Day.”
Linda Howe, executive director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, said a Samuel Joseph Worzelbacher, whose address and age match Joe the Plumber’s, registered in Lucas County on Sept. 10, 1992. He voted in his first primary on March 4, 2008, registering as a Republican.
Ms. Howe said that the name may be misspelled in the database.
Provisional ballots greatly increase the chance a voter’s ballot will not be counted. In Ohio’s March primary, the Cleveland Plain Dealer found that 20 percent of the provisional ballots — approximately 20,000 ballots — were rejected, even though “many people shouldn’t have lost their votes.”
Widespread voter fraud is a Karl Rove myth; voter disenfranchisement, however, is a real nationwide problem. The Sixth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals’s verdict chose to give weight to the Ohio Republican Party’s specious argument that voter fraud “drives honest citizens out of the democratic process and breeds distrust of our government.” But as Michael Waldman, the executive director of the Brennan Center for Justice, Joe the Plumber is a “perfect example” of why these voter fraud laws are more harmful than helpful:
Purging voters or blocking their registration because of data errors is disenfranchisement by typo. Joe is a perfect example. If he were a new voter, he would be being challenged right now as not eligible to vote. … Joe the Plumber is not committing voter fraud by having his name spelled differently on two different lists.