Thursday, October 9, 2008

Federal "Help" Becomes Election Hindrance

Talk about a letdown.

One of the top stories in today’s New York Times takes you from 60 to 0 in about 11 seconds, by promising much more than it delivers -- which might create misperceptions for people who glance at a headline, gasp at the implications, but don’t bother to actually read the story.

“States' Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal” is how the story is headlined. And the lead promises something big: "Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times."

There’s a qualifier in there, the word “appear,” which might make one wary of jumping to conclusions. But otherwise, this seems like dynamite in print. Yet in the story’s second paragraph, for those who get that far, the dynamite turns into a dud, as the Times explains that this isn’t the result of some dark partisan plot, or a dirty tricks operation run out of RNC headquarters, but due to bureaucratic errors and – ironically -- the convolutions of a 2002 effort by Congress to improve elections integrity!

“The actions do not seem to be coordinated by one party or the other, nor do they appear to be the result of election officials intentionally breaking rules, but are apparently the result of mistakes in the handling of the registrations and voter files as the states tried to comply with a 2002 federal law, intended to overhaul the way elections are run,” concedes the Times – leaving this reader feeling mislead, but also enlightened.

The real story here is that the so-called “Help American Vote Act of 2002" (passed by Congress in an overreaction to the Florida voting debacle), by trying to create a federal fix for a state-administered voting system that wasn’t, by and large, broken, is creating more problems than it solved. Far from “helping” America vote, the act has become a hindrance. And if the outcome of this election ends up in court, Washington's meddling, not hanging chads, will be to blame.

Washington, in trying to “help,” made our lives a little harder.

But that isn’t news, is it?

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