Letter to Senator Schumer on Federal Elections

Jan. 10, 2013
Senator Charles Schumer, Chairman

US Senate Committee on Rules and Administration
305 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Schumer:

I am writing to you because of your committee’s responsibility for Federal elections. We need new legislation to prevent a re-occurrence of efforts to deny the right to vote in the Nov. 6, 2012 election to citizens without drivers’ licenses. Other reprehensible actions to deny the right to vote included reducing the hours and number of early-voting days that polls were open and limiting the signing-in of potential voters so that very long lines resulted.

The citizens who waited patiently for hours in order to vote are the real patriots of our nation. They, as well as the rest of us, deserve to be spared in the future from such anti-democratic practices of partisan officials. To end these heinous attempts, each citizen 18 years and older who does not have a driver’s license deserves to receive, free of charge, a photo-based identification card that will guarantee acceptance for voter registration. To charge for this card would be like a poll tax, forbidden under a Constitutional amendment.

To implement this concept, I ask that you consider the possibility of establishing, through Federal law, a National Interstate Database of Vote-Eligible Citizens. I identify this database as “interstate” because states would remain in charge of registration but, through this system, they would be able to interchange registration data through a standard system of electronic messaging (often referred to as EDI, electronic data interchange). Under this system, each citizen of the US would be assigned a unique voter-identification number similar to, but not identical with, the Social Security Number. (The latter could not be used under current Federal law.) The national voter-identification number, included in the database, would aid in the tracking of citizens as they move between states, and would prevent duplicate voting from second homes in another state. The Social Security Administration could be extremely helpful in establishing such a database, and the database could be managed by the Election Assistance Commission (or some other agency acceptable to Congress.)

A subject worthy of your committee’s attention is the partisanship shown in some states in managing Federal elections. We saw this in Florida in 2000 with the actions of a partisan Secretary of State, and we have seen it in Ohio in 2012, as well in 2004, when the Secretary of State was co-chair of his political party’s campaign, One result of partisanship in State legislatures is extreme gerrymandering of Congressional Districts. The use of computers is responsible for this extreme ability to maximize a political party’s representation beyond its actual plurality; manual methods cannot be as diabolical. While, now, only Maine and Nebraska assign their electoral votes by Congressional District, establishing this method in larger, more significant and highly gerrymandered states, could deny majority voters their due in assignment of electoral votes.

A possible remedy to this partisanship is to require each state to administer its Federal elections and to devise the boundaries of Congressional Districts by a bi-partisan commission.

Thank you for considering these ideas.


Roy G. Saltman

Note: The writer is author of the book The History and Politics of Voting Technology, Palgrave Macmillan (2006), and is author of the NIST report Accuracy, Integrity, and Security in Computerized Vote-Tallying (1988). The latter report called for abandonment of the pre-scored punch-card voting system used in many states including Florida in 2000. His 1988 advice was ignored until 2001, after the election debacle validated his recommendation.

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