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http://www.latimes.com/HOME/NEWS/ORANGE/t000070567.html

Right to Vote Doesn't Mean Right to Cheat

Elections: Recent steps taken in Sacramento supposedly to increase turnout will actually invite fraud at the polls.

By DICK ACKERMAN
Los Angeles Times, Orange County
August 8, 1999

Voter fraud has swept through the country in the last several years, illustrating the dire need for reform. Last November, Miami's Mayor Xavier Suarez was removed from office and a city commission candidate was jailed after violating Florida election law.

One month earlier, 16,000 fraudulent voter registration cards were discovered in Los Angeles County, of people who did not even exist. These are not isolated cases; they are simply examples of a crime that is easily committed and nearly impossible to prove. Last year, a Northern California community newspaper published an expose detailing how it was able to register a fictitious voter named "Sandra L. Klaus." California law stipulates only that potential voters must give a name and address and declare that they are eligible to vote. Even if the mailing address is in another country, the individual will be given the option to vote by absentee ballot without ever having to show proof of identity.

There have been attempts in the Legislature over the past few years to pass measures requiring proof of identity to vote in this state. These bills were killed by a Democrat-controlled Legislature before they ever made it to the floor for a vote.

Although preventing voter fraud may not be a priority for some in the Legislature, it is appalling to see the recent steps actually taken to invite voter fraud under the claim of increasing voter turnout. The Assembly Republicans were unable to prevent these bills from passing into the state Senate, but it is crucial that such harmful legislation is stopped before permanent damage is inflicted on California's election process.

For example, AB 1094 would allow same-day registration for all voters. Currently, a person must be registered to vote at least 29 days before an election, with the exception of new citizens, who may register and vote on the day they take their citizenship oath. In addition, this bill would allow anyone claiming to be registered to vote, even if that claim could not be immediately verified, to cast a provisional ballot.

Certainly, this is one bill whose potential for abuse far outweighs any convenience it may bring to same-day voters.

Another such measure, AB 1426, would permit political parties to gather absentee ballots and deliver them to the polls. Current law allows only family members to complete this task.

This bill will cross a dangerous line between the campaign and electoral processes, and it will be a temptation for those political operatives who may be motivated to utilize a voter's ballot for their own party's gain.

The integrity of California's election process hangs in the balance. The barriers currently in place have not been sufficient to deter major voter fraud from being committed in this state, and laws making it easier to defraud the system will certainly destroy the minimal safeguards we have left.

If these bills become law, irrevocable damage will be done, leaving us to wonder about the validity of our future elections. These bills must be stopped so we can start focusing on how to protect the power of those who legally are entitled to vote by safeguarding their rights and privileges.

Dick Ackerman Represents the 72nd Assembly District, Covering Anaheim Hills, Brea, Fullerton, La Habra, Placentia and Yorba Linda

Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved

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