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Ghost Voting – How Your Elected Representatives are Stealing from You

US History
US History
September 1, 2023
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With the modern political landscape in America being essentially a dumpster fire that is also somehow radioactive, there exist a great number of lies and tricks that politicians use to scare their constituents into voting for them. One of the more nefarious issues that continues to be the bogyman of American politics during the run up to an election year is Voter Fraud; the theft of votes great enough to change election outcomes… But what the people banging on their podiums really mean is Voter Impersonation, the intentional theft of one vote by someone pretending to be someone else. 

Voter Impersonation is the basis for a lot of State and Federal Voter ID laws or proposals, which starts to muddy the water of good sense. Between 2000 and 2014, with over 1 billion votes cast, there have been 31 potential cases of Voter Impersonation. Potential cases. This seems more like a solution without a problem, but that’s a discussion for another time. Instead, let’s look at Voter Impersonation’s vile older brother, Ghost Voting.

In the Houses, Senates, and Assemblies of State and Federal government entities in the United States, hundreds if not thousands of bills and measures are voted on every year. A hand count in these situations is often untenable as a solution to recording their votes. Instead, since as early as the 1930’s each member’s station has some variation of a series of buttons for “Yes”, “No”, and “Abstain”. Once a bill is brought on the floor and voting opens, they simply reach forward and push the appropriate button. 

Or sometimes they don’t, and the button gets pushed anyway.

There are many verified instances of representatives voting while they are in the bathroom, on planes, and on at least two occasions, dead. This reality is where the term “Ghost Voting” finds its origin. As it turns out, while some systems currently have literal activation keys, and Oregon has a biometric confirmation, few have verification systems as complex as your debit card which would require a PIN, if they have any at all. Once voting on a bill, measure, or amendment begins, the chamber becomes a free for all of representatives rushing to push the buttons of missing members, and sometimes even those members who are present but distracted (sometimes pushing someone else’s button.) When there is no way to ensure only the person assigned to that set of voting buttons can use them, there is no way to ensure the integrity of the vote. 

The next thought you may have would be “surely, ghost voting must be illegal.” Well, some places yes, (though that doesn’t stop it from happening anyway), some places no, and don’t call me Shirly. In most places it is not illegal so much as it is prohibited, which is the difference between committing a crime and being fussed at by your mum. 

According to Peggy Kerns, Director for the Center for Ethics in Government at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver, “Most state legislatures prohibit ghost voting… Whenever someone votes for someone else, there is a chance that a wrong vote will be cast, accidentally or intentionally. The opportunity for misuse is quite great. The public’s expectation is that their elected legislator casts their own votes.”

Despite these prohibitions, there are few if any actual repercussions for breaking it, and Ghost Voting is “not the rule, but the custom”. In Texas, the ‘custom’ is that allowing someone to vote for you is acceptable if you are within the chamber’s green carpeted floor; in the same state where several votes were cast in 1991 for a member who had died earlier that morning. In Tennessee, lawmakers use sticks of wood to reach other member’s buttons, even those present on the floor, if not at their desks. Wisconsin, both Carolinas, Pennsylvania… 

Video evidence exists of legislators ghost voting in many states; and when they are called out for it? Oh, well we work 20 hours a day. We need bathroom breaks. We need a sandwich. Suffice to say, even if that was believable, the answer cannot be ‘break all the rules you want if your job is hard’, or every service member in the United States would be a mafia boss. Have a manageable legislative schedule so that the members understand what they are voting for and are working reasonable hours. Have meal breaks or send an aide to get your sandwich. Only vote when all persons are present in the room. Not to mention the fact that often legislators are paid very high salaries, and there is no reason they can’t be at their appointed place of duty to do the one activity they were hired to do. 

All these factors combine to make us question why legislators who say Voter ID is necessary to fair and free elections also believe securing the statehouse vote is just too difficult. This idea is ludicrous on its face, but then consider that these statehouses only have a few hundred members at most. They only need to secure the votes of a list of vetted people inside a secured area where biometric systems could be installed easily. For each vote, a fingerprint scan and a PIN number gets entered or the panel stays dark. With this sort of verification and authorization system in place, only the present, authorized, living legislator can cast a vote.

The 2024 US Presidential Election is fast approaching, and between the usual clown show of candidates, the multiple court cases of some, the confused messaging of others, well over 150 million votes will be cast in the next election. Ensuring that every eligible voter has access to their voting rights and can identify themselves at their polling place is an essential part of the democratic process… But even more critical is that state and federal legislator’s votes, for every law this country enacts, must be informed, accurate, and secure. If Ghost Voting is happening in your state, make sure your representatives know they will be held accountable. Without their constituents keeping them honest, we might as well be a dictatorship, so take the stand.

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