BUFFALO, N.Y. – University at Buffalo Law School Professor
James A. Gardner today cautioned against giving too much importance
to charges of voter fraud in American elections and supposed
incompetence in administering elections. The process in the
overwhelming majority of elections, he says, is working well.
"We have to be careful about political propaganda being spread
about how voter fraud, and to a lesser extent incompetence in the
administration of elections, threatens democracy," says Gardner, an
authority on election and constitutional law, and the UB Law
School's vice dean for academic affairs.
"This simply is not true," says Gardner. "There are more than
500,000 elected officials in the U.S. Virtually every one of these
elections comes off without a hitch. The news media have a tendency
to focus exclusively on the extremely rare but dramatic cases in
which the outcome of a very close race is put in doubt by a very
small number of possibly tainted ballots or a malfunction of voting
technology or human error in the administration of elections.
"These are very rare exceptions to the rule."
Gardner says another common false impression is that elections
in the U.S. are always close, and that the smallest errors or the
occasional fraudulent ballot among thousands have the potential to
destroy democratic self-government.
"That's not the case," says Gardner. "In fact, the overwhelming
majority of elections in the U.S. are so lopsided that no amount of
error or fraud could change the result, and many, many elections
are completely uncontested. Uncontested and lopsided elections may
be a sign of something wrong with the system, but it has nothing to
do with the administration of elections."
Gardner, who is the Joseph W. Belluck and Laura L. Aswad
Professor of Civil Justice and who has been frequently quoted by
local and national media on election issuessaid election law and
procedure still merit close scrutiny. For example, a recent Supreme
Court decision upholding voter ID requirements in Indiana provides
legal support for the aggressive use of anti-fraud measures, even
though voter fraud was "essentially a non-existent problem."
"This raises the specter, as it did during the last election
cycle," Gardner says, "of Republicans invoking anti-fraud measures
improperly to suppress legitimate voting, often by the elderly,
blacks, the poor and other groups that might have a tendency to
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