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Voting by Mail: A Dead Issue?

QuickPoint!

Ten years ago Oregon became the first state to vote exclusively by mail. How is it working? Cascade Policy Institute commissioned a study of registered voters in Oregon. We compared the Social Security Master Death List to the Oregon Voter Registration List. We matched first and last names with dates of birth and last known Oregon zip codes. We excluded any duplicate names and any questionable results.

We found 6,142 people on the voter rolls who were reported as being deceased. 4,033 had died in 2006 or before, 2,130 in 2004 or before, 1,210 in 2002 or before and 659 had passed away before 2000.

We shared our findings with the Oregon State Elections Division, which promptly went to work investigating our list. They found that 1,144 were active names and were mailed ballots this month. They called 37 (or 3%) of those names and determined that 16 were alive and 21 were deceased. They then concluded that 650 dead voters may have been mailed ballots; however, they could not know if any of the 16 had fraudulently registered as a dead person.

Cascade’s only motivation for conducting this survey is to help clean up what is obviously sloppy record keeping by the state. The Secretary of State’s defensive reaction has created even more concern. Secretary of State Bill Bradbury said Cascade is trying to throw dirty water on the election and that mail-in balloting is more secure than voting in person. Mr. Bradbury is “dead” wrong. In Indiana alone, ACORN was accused of registering hundreds of dead people. In that state voters would have to show up to vote with ID, while in Oregon they just need to mail in the ballot with the same signature that they would have put on the bogus registration card.

Cascade implores the state to follow up and track those ballots and then, if any of them are cast, to take appropriate legal action. This brings into question the voter registration system itself. Anyone can register to vote in Oregon, even if no ID is presented, allowing illegal immigrants to get a voter ID card. Perhaps it’s time Oregon took another look at its election process.

Jeff Alan is Chief Investigator at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market research center.

© 2008, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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