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Voter fraud, suppression "real fear" in 2008 election -- analyst says

By Heather Yamour WASHINGTON, Nov 2 (KUNA) -- As Election Day nears, voters are expected to turnout in record number to cast their ballot for the next US president, as an expert says growing fears of election fraud and voter suppression are "very real".
"The fear that people are being turned away who are otherwise eligible because of identification requirements is very real," Doug Chapin, director of the non-partisan Pew Center for the States' electiononline.org, told KUNA.
Since 2002, Lawmakers enacted legislation to reform the nation's voting process including a requirement for voters to present some form of ID in order to deter voter fraud.
Critics claim that the laws are enforced by the Republican Party to suppress voter turnout of specific groups, namely the elderly, less-educated, and poor minorities, who are less likely to have a valid ID, though are qualified voters.
He added that "Similarly, the fear that ineligible voters are casting ineligible ballots because of lack of ID requirements is also very real." The issue of voter ID in the US is very much of a flash point between Republican and Democratic parties, with Republicans supporting IDs and Democrats generally skeptical of it because of the disenfranchisement effect it has on voters, says Chapin. Voting identification is one of several issues that could potentially mar this election.
"We have seen controversies focused on voter technology, voter registration, and voter ID, justified as a way to prevent voter fraud, but they may also be keeping valid voters from voting," says Chapin.
"The truth is, given how decentralized the system is, we do not have a system that is organized, designed, or funded to handle anywhere near 100 percent turnout," Chapin admitted.
Thirty-one states will be testing those new databases for the first time this year. So far, the experience has been a disaster. Widespread complaints of incompetence, manipulation, and theft threaten to snarl the November 4 vote count, and some say it could even turn Election Day into weeks-long legal challenges.
With polls showing Barack Obama and John McCain neck-and-neck in a half-dozen crucial swing states, Election Day controversies could determine the outcome of the vote.
But the biggest issue in this year's presidential election is voter turnout, as pollsters predict 130 million voters, the highest percentage of eligible voters in American history, will cast their ballot in this year's election.
With some states, like Arizona and New Mexico, forecasting an 80-90 percent voter turnout, and a flood of registered young voters, this year's election is going to challenge the new system more than ever before.
"When there are ten people in line it's a problem, when there are a hundred it is a problem, if there are thousands of people in line it is a crisis," Chapin says. "Any problem that occurs at the point of voting has the potential of being a real problem." He also says that two ingredients necessary to create a nightmare scenario on Election Day are present: a close race, where the margin is relatively small for the candidate, and secondly, some kind of problem with the electoral process that puts the margin in doubt.
"We don't know whether the margin is close until voters turn to the ballots," he remarked.
Calls for electoral reform in the US stemmed immediately after the 2000 election, in which former US Vice-President Al Gore lost to then-governor George W. Bush after problems with confusing "butterfly ballots" resulted in a vote recount, and delayed election results by over a month.(end) hy.wsa KUNA 020933 Nov 08NNNN