US & World

Political Parties Argue Over Voter Fraud

With Election Day coming up fast, Democrats and Republicans are playing one of their favorite political sports: voter fraud ping-pong. Each side claims the other is cheating over who gets to vote or over how the votes are counted. KPCC's Special Correspondent Kitty Felde has the first in a three-part series on election trust.

Kitty Felde: Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much – but many of them do agree on this: the other side is trying to steal the election. John Lindback is the director of elections in Oregon.

John Lindback: There's this big wind from the left over the efficacy of voting machines, and then there's this big wind from the right over voter registration.

Felde: And election officials are in the middle of the windstorm. We'll start with the wind blowing from the right. Doug Jones is a University of Iowa computer scientist who studies election technology.

Doug Jones: Republican concerns about illegal voting are longstanding. There are concerns that people who do not belong in the process will seek to use the right to vote. I think there is concern that people who aren't eligible to affect the process may take the opportunity to try.

Felde: Jones says Democrats worry less about eligibility and more about chicanery.

Jones: Democrats' concern about voting technology is not surprising and really can be traced back to the 2004 letter by the CEO of Diebold, who at the time was a fundraiser for President Bush and promised to deliver the state of Ohio for President Bush.

Felde: The University of Iowa's Doug Jones says that's the moment when voting technology changed from a policy issue to a partisan one. The Diebold official has since said that he regrets saying he would "deliver" Ohio to President Bush.

And there's no proof that tampering with voting machines has ever propelled a candidate to victory in a major U.S. election. Still, Democrats worry – although not always about the same things. Steve Rosenfeld is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting." He says worried Democrats are split into two groups.

Steve Rosenfeld: The two groups, the ones that focus on electronic voting and those who are more concerned about, basically, the civil rights side of the equation, the voter suppression side of the equation. They don't see eye-to-eye, they don't necessarily agree on what's important, they don't talk to each other, and it's a really big problem.

Felde: Rosenfeld says the split is generational. Older Democrats – the veterans of the civil rights movement of the 1960s – worry that election officials will purge the names of eligible voters from the rolls or turn voters away on Election Day. Younger Democrats worry about hackers breaking into computer voting systems.

Election suspicions – Democrat or Republican – are real, and the scenarios that fuel them plausible. But is election fraud on a scale that would flip the results probable – or even possible? Tomorrow, we'll ask the experts.