Monitoring who votes

I don’t know if this is happening everywhere, just in the battleground states, just in Virginia, or just in states that require election officers to audibly repeat the name and address of voters as they check in. But this practice disturbs me. From Parties Assign Lawyers to Watch Polls, Turnout –

A training manual that the Virginia Democratic Party distributed to hundreds of lawyer volunteers instructs them on the Obama campaign’s get-out-the-vote effort, called the “Houdini Project.” Lawyers will periodically enter into a database the names of those who have cast ballots so that campaign staff can contact those who have not voted, almost in real time.

“The research that has been done is extremely professional and really unbelievable,” said David Traynor, 24, of Ireland, who traveled to New Mexico to volunteer in the Obama campaign and has blogged on the subject. “It could have a significant effect on the vote, perhaps 2 to 3 percent.”

The training manual instructs volunteers stationed inside the polling places to “mark down targeted voters as they vote.” They will be able to get voters’ names, because Virginia law states that officers of election must repeat “in a voice audible to party and candidate representatives present, the full name and address” of the voter. (If the officer of election does not do this, the manual also instructs volunteers “to politely remind them of their obligation to do so.”)

Then twice during the day, at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., volunteers inside the polls are supposed to pass the list of voters who have cast their ballots to the lawyers outside the polling place. They, in turn, will call in to a central database and enter four-digit codes assigned to each voter. The names of those who have voted will be removed from the voter database created by the campaign — their names will disappear, hence the name Houdini — so that campaign workers can knock on doors and call those who haven’t voted.

The concept of the secret ballot should be more than just a technical requirement having to do with the content of one’s votes. It should be a principle that governs the whole rite of voting. I’m not even going to tell any exit-pollsters how I voted. I realize that might throw off the networks’ early predictions, but there it is.

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About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.