Voting Happenstance… Or Enemy Action?

Voting booths in Portsmouth. Photo credit: Virginian-Pilot
Voting booths in Portsmouth. Photo credit: Virginian-Pilot

My sister Mary Bacon walked into the Precinct 101 voting station at the St. James Armenian Church in Richmond around 7:45 a.m. today. She was working through her ballot when a woman in the voting booth next to her exclaimed, “Hey, half my ballot is filled out!”

The two-sided paper ballot, which had state and local races on the second page, had all the local races marked. The woman complained, the local electoral volunteers gave her a new ballot, and that was that. No one else voiced a similar problem while Mary was in the room, and no one got exercised about the incident.

Except Mary. “I was stunned,” she told me. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

She called the Richmond registrar’s office to lodge a complaint, or pursue whatever procedure would get the incident on record. The receptionist told her that there was nothing she could do. There were no mechanisms to file a complaint. The precinct manager would take care of it.

In all likelihood, the incident was a fluke. If you want to tamper with the election, you don’t do it by slipping filled-out ballots to voters who, like the woman in Precinct 101, would raise a hue and cry.

But who knows for sure? Mary didn’t think to ask which candidates were marked on the ballot. Given the intensity of the City of Richmond mayor’s race, it would be interesting to know which mayoral candidate had been pre-selected. If anyone was playing hanky-panky with the electoral process, that would be the first place I’d look.

If anyone else has witnessed something like this, let me know. As Auric Goldfinger told James Bond, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”


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5 responses to “Voting Happenstance… Or Enemy Action?”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    My first thought was to agree with Bacon then I thought – how do we know the lady making the accusation was telling the truth and not making it up…??

    and if you had 3 or 4 folks who wanted to seriously undermine a precinct – they’d all agree to go in at different times and each one making the same claim so that the “news” said there was a “pattern” of irregularities at that precinct?

    Democracy is truly a fragile thing – and we’re all finding out just how easy it is to claim it’s “rigged”… and seriously damage it…

    1. Darned right. Easy to damage, hard to rebuild.

      In theory at least, the federal aspects of Election Day have us merely engaged in choosing representatives to send to the Electoral College, in such manner and with such instructions as each State may prescribe. Entirely as a matter of convenience we also elect our Congressmen, and (since 1913) Senators at the same time. The Constitution provides that Congress could regulate further the way the States handle federal elections, but Congress has never done so. Therefore we have the confusing hodgepodge of State election laws in place today that make our election administration so decentralized and localized and seemingly arbitrary; but that very fact also means it is not under any one political party’s control, at least not nationwide.

      Should we change all that and have one federal election bureaucracy with one set of rules applicable everywhere? For President, should we eliminate the Electoral College and elect directly (1) by plurality in each State, or (2) by plurality of the national popular vote, or (3) by some other formula? I’m afraid to tamper with what we have today, simply because today it works and any attempt to rationalize it risks messing it up in the process. But looking next door at NC, it’s embarrassing what certain of our States have managed to do when given the discretion to rig things, and in the process, damage that fragile trust in the fairness of the outcome.

      As for voter fraud, that is the big buzzword this election, but I’m still not convinced the threat is that substantial, or that efforts to preclude fraud are anything but counterproductive when it comes to that essential element of trust.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    I vote for the decentralized system – warts and all – because while it’s not immune to fraud and related localized skullduggery – it’s much harder to manipulate a bunch of them in one direction or the other via some kind of conspiracy.

    I support paper ballot/optical readers and not electronic without a paper copy for each vote – that can be recounted … easily …

    I support photo ID but I think once registered – voting should be easy and I support early voting.

    And the “problem” of “low information” voters is – in large part in the eye of the beholder although government has gotten too complex for the average person to understand – things like health insurance, immigration, rules for IRA, 401K, FEMA, EPA, TRADE, education, etc…

    there’s a big information divide on many issues and institutions both govt and private have lost the support of the masses.

    but Democracy even with low info voters is way, way, way ahead of what’s in second place… which is found in many 3rd world and developing world countries.

    but we do have problems – when even local voters apparently have no clue when local govt goes bad and bankrupt. Makes me worry that they may be even less informed – higher up the govt ladder.

    Too many, for instance, think the POTUS is the one responsible for the deficit and debt… good gawd o’mighty!!! if they can’t get that part right… geeze

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I like and respect Mary and she must have concerns. But I have been on a news assignment today that has not exactly turned up massive voter fraud. Hillary did not game the system. The Donald did not send muscle in to do his will. I maybe wrong.

    1. This was one isolated incident. It was very strange, but I wouldn’t — and Mary wouldn’t — draw any conclusions from it unless similar incidents were reported. So far… nada.

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