Voter Fraud Possible with Registration Gap
Zach registered to vote in Nodaway County, where he attends Northwest Missouri State University. But, for almost a year, he also was registered to vote in Howard County, his home address. One person, two votes, because of three letters at the end of a name.
"Here he's registered under his full name, Zachary, up there he's registered under Zach," explained his mother. "There was no way for anyone to know that was the same person, and to me that just seemed so silly."
So, in late August, Eva Weston contacted the Secretary of State's Office which fixed the problem after a few emails. Zach accidentaly left a box blank on the form for previous registration information. A new system, from the National Help America Vote Act, was supposed to catch the duplication. Missouri started the Centralized Voter Registration Database this year.
"One of the goals of the Help America Vote Act was to allow states to implement systems in which they could identify duplicate registrants and to clean up those voter registration lists so that any attempt at doing something illegal could be thwarted at the very beginning of the process," said Betsy Byers of the Secretary of State's Office.
But Eva Weston said her son's experience worries her about what could happen on election day.
"It was accidental, it was not something he had planned. What if somebody planned that, what if somebody said we needed to swing a vote?" she said. "Right here in mid-Missouri, you could register to vote in Cooper County, Boone County and Howard County, and it would be very easy in one election day to cast a vote in all 3 places. The distance is very small."
The Secretary of State's Office admitted that's possible, although it's illegal.
"If they chose to do that, it would be committing a Class 1 election offense with their voting rights taken away forever," said Byers.
The Secretary of State's Office operates the CVRD, which local election authorities use through an Internet connection to check newly-registered voters' names and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers.
But, Zach Weston registered in 2005, before the CVRD was in place, so that's why the Secretary of State's Office said it probably wasn't caught. It's the counties' responsibility to make sure voters are registered only once, but Eva Weston said she's disappointed her son slipped through the cracks.
"If they're not going to check to make sure you're only registered in one place, maybe your vote doesn't count," she added. "And that's a sad comment to say about something that people have fought and died over, the right to vote."
The Secretary of State's Office said it will help counties.
"We'll send out reminders to them, we'll send out letters to them, we'll follow up with phone calls," said Byers. "And we think, by taking those steps, with our experiences with working with the counties on this, the issues get resolved."
Byers said Missouri law does not let the secretary of state penalize counties that don't correctly use the CVRD. There's no system yet to check on how many names counties removed from their voter registration lists since the beginning of this year. A lawsuit last year said 29 Missouri counties had more registered voters than the number of voting-age residents.
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