Senator Barack Obama is leading Senator John McCain in almost every national poll, yet Obama keeps telling his campaign workers not to be overconfident. Beyond McCain calling himself "the comeback kid," Democrats have good reasons to fear a Republican victory on election day.
First and foremost, Republicans are actively seeking to suppress the voter turnout among the youth and minorities and poor people likely to support Obama.
In Indiana, for example, Republicans filed a lawsuit to block early voting in and around the struggling industrial city of Gary. Republicans lost the suit, but they are appealing.
Republicans are sending private investigators to intimidate lower-class Democratic voters in New Mexico who were legitimately registered by ACORN and other grassroots organizations. (Please see related postings exposing the fraudulent swiftboat-style attacks on ACORN to distract public scrutiny of the Republican vote scams.)
Under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), voter ID laws or being erratically enforced around the country. Some (not all) Republican election officials have been accused of requiring government-issued photo IDs from all voters, which impacts those in poverty as well as legal immigrants who often lack the means to obtain birth records and other documents needed for photo IDs.
While Ohio now allows voters to prove their identity with any array of documents, for example, Republican dominated states like Kansas and Missouri are enforcing the strictest possible interpretation of the law in urban areas likely to vote Democratic.
Another tactic is removing American citizens from the voter registries for dubious reasons. Here in Colorado, for example, as reported by the New York Times, more than 37,000 names were purged from the registration database by the Republican Secretary of State Mike Coffman, who critics contend should have resigned his post from the conflict-of-interest when he won the Republican nomination to run for congress. The Colorado court of appeals on October 30 ordered these voter registrations restored, fortunately.
Also here in Colorado, as another example, Republicans last month told students at liberal Colorado College (in conservative Colorado Springs) that students could not register to vote if their parents live out of state, which as untrue.
And right here in predominantly Democratic Denver, Republican-owned Sequoia voting systems company failed to deliver to the post office more than 10,000 mail-in ballots while telling city election officials that all of the expected 21,000 ballots had been mailed. (This incident represents only one of the required mailings.) Sequoia now admits they made a "technical" error, and the ballots have been mailed to waiting voters.
Elsewhere around the country, as you can learn with a simple Web search, we're seeing Republican voting officials being accused of disenfranchising voters in Democratic districts by not printing enough paper ballots, not assigning enough voting machines, or even reducing the number of polling places.
If Republicans can prevent enough Democrats from casting ballots, McCain could win the election. Going further, those votes that Democrats actually do cast many not be properly counted.
As reported in The Brad Blog and other investigative websites, many of the touch-screen voting machines, like the Sequoia Edge and ES&S iVotronic, tend to malfunction after heavy use. The machines do not record votes properly or at all, in some cases.
The most prevalent problems is what called "vote flipping," where you press the screen for one candidate and the machine shows you voting for someone else. Vote flipping has been reported in Colorado, West Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, and elsewhere.
Whether vote flipping or failures to record votes are deliberate design flaws or accidental defects, asserts Brad Friedman, Democrats and Republicans alike should demand the elimination of all touch screen voting systems. A federal lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania, for instance, seeks to require that paper ballots be made available to every voter statewide.
Beyond design flaws, electronic voting machines are still subject to tampering, charge critics like Friedman. For instance, the standardized "smart card" that slides into machines like the Sequoia Edge are used by successive voters. If an early-morning voter brings in a smart card that's been infected with a virus, it would be easy to swap out a good card for the infected card when handing it back to the poll worker. That virus could effect the voting on that machine and all other machines for the rest of the day.
So, between voter suppression and voting machine malfunctions or else outright tampering, it's possible that Obama may lose the 2008 presidential election.
The only real safeguards for Democrats are to immediately verify that their voter registration records are accurate and intact, such as through VotersUnite.org. They can vote early as a way to reduce the long lines on election day. They can demand a paper ballot instead of using the machines. If challenged at the polls, Democrats have a legal right to demand a "provisional" paper ballot, which should be counted once their registration is verified in the days after the election.
The key, of course, is for Democrats to vote in such overwhelming numbers that even voter suppression and vote fraud will not be enough to resist the wave of support for Barack Obama.
Regardless of what the polls might say, unless Democrats take steps to ensure that every vote is duly counted, Republicans may retain the White House. The risk is real.