In the classic Preston Sturges political satire “The Great McGinty,” a sozzled bum spends Election Day wandering from polling place to polling place, making $2 a pop for casting votes under assumed names. After he racks up 37 votes for the local machine, the big boss is so impressed that he takes McGinty under his wing, and the bum ends up becoming governor.
That won’t happen here. D.C. doesn’t have a governor.
But with the District introducing same-day voter registration this year, Councilwoman Mary Cheh is expressing concerns about vote-buying and fraud. She has introduced legislation that could land violators in jail for five years, and fine them up to $10,000.
The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics plans to have five lawyers staffing an Election Day hotline to respond to fraud concerns, but Cheh thinks that number is “a little thin.” She wants BOEE to add more attorneys to the duty roster.
BOEE Executive Director Rokey Suleman, who has been making great strides in overhauling the board since taking the job a year ago, conceded that “same-day registration is expected to cause some ‘administrative difficulties,’” the Washington Examiner reported. But he said some ballot clerks will get special training in handling same-day registrants.
BOEE will also run a mock election on July 26 and 27, which will include a same-day registration simulation. That would give the board about six weeks to work out any kinks.
Same-day registration is an important step forward for D.C. In the pivotal mayoral primary four years ago, just 34 percent of registered voters turned out, and only 31 percent came out in November. Making it easier for people to sign up to vote can help boost participation.
But Cheh is right that detecting fraud is important. While 34 percent turnout is a shame, 105 percent turnout would be worse.