By Rob Roper
I voted three times last Tuesday. Or maybe I didn’t. My point is, you have no idea.
You see, I have two kids who recently came of voting age. They don’t care much about politics. They had no intention of voting in the Nov. 6 election despite my badgering them about how important it is, so I voted for them. Or I didn’t. You don’t know, and neither does any election official.
Both my kids are in school out of state. Just maybe, knowing that they had no intention of voting, I requested that their absentee ballots be sent to our home address here in Vermont. Or not. They would have no idea I did this, and they’ll never know because they’re not paying attention, and, for all practical purposes, neither are any election officials. They’re just happy that the statistics show these politically engaged young people voted. They’re doing a great job. Hooray! But maybe my kids didn’t vote. Maybe I did. Thrice.
I could have got my kids’ two absentee ballots, filled them out, forged their signatures, which would be easy enough, and sent them in to be counted as legitimate votes. Or not. Again, nobody has any a clue. And, I know nobody will ask any questions. Why would they?
If on the outside-the-orbit-of-Pluto chance someone did raise a question, I’d just say when the kids declined to vote I threw away the ballots. Someone must have taken them out of the trash and filled them out! How awful of them. Whoever they were. Go catch them. (Not for nothing, if this were what happened how would you catch them? You couldn’t, could you?)
So, I got to vote three times — one person, three votes! — canceling out the votes of two fellow citizens who think differently than I do, suppressing their votes as effectively as if I had tied them up in a basement on election day. More effective, actually, because they’ll never know it happened and so won’t complain and scream for justice. It’s as if they never existed. Poof.
Actually, I didn’t do this. But I could have. Easily.
The question we have to ask is, how many of the 95,000 Vermont votes cast by absentee ballot in the 2016 election (and probably more in this last election, and even more in the next election) were cast in an illegitimate manner similar to the one described above? Someone filling out a ballot for their spouse, or an elderly parent. Or all the patients in the Alzheimer’s ward of the local retirement community. Again, my point is we don’t know. And we can’t know, because no effective safeguards are in place to police this kind of absentee ballot voter fraud.
We have radically changed the way we vote, but we have not maintained the security measures necessary to protect the principals of one-person/one vote, or for that matter the secret ballot. Even if a small percentage of the total number of absentee ballots cast are thus illegitimate, this is a serious problem. We can pretend it isn’t. We can pretend that politics is an ethical business that brings out the better angels of our nature so that nobody would ever cheat, even given a clear and open opportunity to do so. But it does happen, and it is a problem. How big? We don’t know. And that’s a problem too.