Every voter can be a poll watcher

By Editorial Board

From a reputed 10,000 deceased Chicago voters casting ballots for John F. Kennedy in 1960 to two election workers being convicted of fraud in spring 2010 for violating voter privacy by collecting ballots, it’s no surprise “vote early, vote often” has become our facetious motto. The city is infamous for voter fraud. Stories of dead voters, double voters and ballots sent to family pets have circulated so much that voter fraud has become a joke. But it is still a real concern individuals and officials need to take seriously.

As part of his campaign, Republican senatorial candidate Mark Kirk organized and funded a “voter integrity” program. The program will place GOP observers at polling stations Kirk called “vulnerable precincts,” to watch for malfunctioning machinery and check voters’ signatures. Kirk mentioned the South and West sides of Chicago, as well as Rockford and Metro East, as places where GOP observers would be located. He was unknowingly recorded saying these are places where “the other side might be tempted to jigger the numbers.”

The aforementioned are the four most African-American areas and Kirk’s plan received backlash from critics, who argued he was trying to suppress the black vote without evidence these polling spots have been fraudulent in the past. Many argued the plan would create “voter intimidation” in polling centers. In a recent debate, Kirk counteracted criticisms by suggesting his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, should send monitors out to polling stations as well.

While Kirk’s suggestion to Giannoulias is a step in the right direction, the ideal solution would be to have more non-partisan poll watchers present on Election Day. The attitude nearly two-thirds of Illinoisans have toward state government is one of skepticism and distrust, according to a Pew report released on Oct. 6. To have campaign volunteers from the Kirk or Giannoulias campaigns work as additional poll watchers would further that distrust and is detrimental to the integrity of both parties.

The most effective form of poll watching, though, takes responsible awareness of all voters. If a voter suspects fraud at his or her polling place, he or she should seek out election officials immediately. Voting multiple times under different names or addresses, buying votes or altering tally sheets are common ways to falsify election numbers.

To tamper with a vote is to tamper with the voice of a community, state or nation. It is in every voter’s best interest to preserve the accuracy of that voice.