May 11, 2009
Having lived away from Columbus and Lowndes county for many years and recently returned, I find it interesting to see the intensity of emotions and unequivocal stands taken for the election of local leaders here.
In the recent primary election I had the pleasant opportunity to be appointed a "poll watcher" at one of our smaller polling stations. The officials in attendance were dedicated and concerned people struggling to ensure a fair election. However, one incident that caught my attention still amazes me. This was the appearance of a young man who gave his name and address and said he had voted at that precinct regularly and was present to vote. His name was not on the list at the polling place.
As instructed, the attendant called "voters'' headquarters" to see if his name and address were on file as a registered voter. She learned that the name and address given were on file. As per her instructions, the young man was told that he must "vote by affidavit" and so he proceeded to fill out the forms to do so.
He handed back the duly completed form, and to my great amazement, he was not asked to positively identify himself. Was he really the person he said he was? Could he have been someone else who knew that the real person would not appear for any number of reasons: deceased, away, or somehow unable to come to the poll to vote?
Moreover, I have heard from other poll watchers about minivans full of people that appeared at other polls, and of many affidavit votes that were thus processed.
The absence of verification strikes me as strange. I see here a way whereby the free and fair election process could easily be compromised. Certainly everyone qualified to vote should have the opportunity to do so. However, a process of individual verification should be in place to assure that voting is properly administered.