The Annals of Election Fraud

This is a bit of a personal anecdote, but it’s relevant to some of the mumbo-jumbo about election fraud out there. As you know, I’m in the process of moving to a condo I recently bought. As part of that process, I just used the US Postal Service’s convenient online change of address application that quite neatly lets you forward your mail. It would be possible for a country that was really committed to running sound elections to put a step in that process where you can check a box to change your voter registration. Then if you checked the box, the information would be conveyed to the relevant authorities and just as your mail would start magically showing up at your new address, so, to, would you suddenly be registered to vote at the new place.

But of course we don’t live in a country like that. Instead, we live in a country where in order to vote I would need to separately change my information with the DC Board of Elections. Except I can’t actually change my registration because it’s too late. Consequently, Matthew Yglesias, a United States citizen over the age of 18 and lacking a felony record, nonetheless doesn’t seem to have any pathway to legal voting. A country with a modern constitution would probably establish an affirmative right to vote for adult citizens, requiring that election administrators make it possible for all qualified voters to cast legal ballots. Instead, we began as a country with a sharply restricted franchise. Over time, we’ve created various rules saying you can’t disqualify a voter for certain reasons. You can’t disallow my vote on the basis or race, religion, or gender. Nor can you decide that I’m too young to vote. But there’s no amendment protecting the right of people who’ve moved recently to vote.

At any rate, my plan for Election Day is to bike over to my old polling place and cast a ballot there for president and for citywide offices. I won’t vote in anything local, because I’m moving to a new Ward and a new ANC. My conscience is going to be clear about this. As far as I’m concerned, American citizens are entitled to vote in elections. But somewhere a Republican is going to be bleating about voter fraud, fraud that’s mostly caused by the fact that the United States makes it unduly difficult to vote legitimately in the first place.

Meanwhile, of course, the day after Election Day I’m going to forget about the whole thing and there won’t be another election to vote in for two years. 18 months or so from now, the whole subject of moving is going to be far from my mind. Will I even remember to change my registration information in time, or will I wind up needing to cast a “fraudulent” ballot again because I miss the deadline? Only time will tell. But it would be easy enough for a country that took voting seriously to keep track of this stuff. You can’t, after all, just get out of paying your credit card bills by moving — the banks can find you, and so could the Board of Elections if we bothered to care.