August 31, 2005

Purging Fraudulent Registrations Problematic

Look at this excuse for the prevalence of fraudulent registrations in NYC.

Mr. [John] Ravitz [the executive director of the NYC Boad of Elections] responded yesterday to the officials' calls for investigations, saying: "If people really think two weeks before a primary that I can now have all my entire staff look throughout the voter rolls and look at an address that might be suspect on the face, it's an unrealistic feat."

He earlier said the board does not independently conduct systematic reviews of the voter rolls but will probe questionable registrations if someone brings specific charges to its attention. He added that it would be nearly impossible to investigate all registrant names that appeared suspicious, lest someone really named "Lou Gehrig," to use Mr. Ravitz's example, be subjected to unfair and undue scrutiny.

Moreover, Mr. Ravitz said, many of the dubious registrants and those who registered at questionable addresses would not be voting in this election, because their failure to cast ballots in the last four years rendered them "inactive" and thus ineligible to vote.

"I don't want anyone to think there are going to be Elmer Fudds voting in the primary," Mr. Ravitz said.

In other words, the city doesn’t look for fraud. More to the point, the board doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings because they have a name that looks suspicious. Besides, Ravitz explains, it would cost too much money to actually investigate the voting rolls to detect fraudulent registrations and voting.

Elected officials are calling for action.

A candidate for Manhattan borough president and a member of the City Council, Eva Moskowitz, Democrat of the East Side, said the board must be "proactive."

Calling the board's approach "ridiculous" and "government at its worst," Ms. Moskowitz said investigating and rooting out potential irregularities in the voter rolls "is the Board of Elections' job."

"They don't have too much to do other than prepare for elections and make sure the lists are clear and honest," she said.

Mayor Bloomberg and some of the public officials trying to unseat him this year, meanwhile, responded by declaring their affection for the democratic process.
"Voting is a sacred right and responsibility," Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement sent by e-mail. "Abuse of this fundamental right is unacceptable. ..."

One of his Democratic challengers, C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan borough president, said in an e-mail: "Placing false names and/or addresses on voter registration forms and other documents undermines the city's democratic process. Therefore, the entire election process - from signature collection to the actual act of voting - must be taken very seriously.

"For its part, the Board of Elections must work to improve its efforts to weed out false names and addresses. The board has an important role to play in this process and it cannot afford to be asleep at the wheel," the statement read.

The Democratic mayoral front-runner, Fernando Ferrer, said in a written statement that voting fraud disenfranchises everyone "and must be vigorously prosecuted."

The statement from the former Bronx borough president also said: "We must also be vigilant that efforts to crack down on voter fraud do not result in an illegal purging of legitimate voters from the rolls."

Maybe we will see some action – or is this all window-dressing?

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