By: Jamison Tomasek – August, 2011
When the discussion turns to voting in Lawrence, there are many stories of irregularities. Some are firsthand, many are secondhand and some are just speculation. This is a story of hard evidence. This article will show you that the Election Division of the City Clerk’s Office in Lawrence has not been diligent in their basic responsibilities, which calls into question their oversight of any election. At the heart of what the Election Department needs to do is maintain an accurate voter list, and this is something that the facts indicate they have failed to do. Without a good voter list, how can we expect a fair accounting of the vote at the polls?
Many discoveries occur as the result of a fluke and this one is no different. It began when I met a person from Lawrence. I was a candidate for State Senate last fall, and this is how I have in my possession a Microsoft Excel file produced by the Lawrence election department. This file was given to me just prior to the election of November 2, 2010. I was told this represented a list of all registered voters eligible to vote in that election. Multiple candidates used that same list of voters to observe the polls. According to this list there were 36,789 registered voters in Lawrence on that date.
Now back to that person from Lawrence. When I have contact with new people I often check my voter list to see where they live, what their party affiliation is, etc. This person’s name was “Tony.” Imagine my surprise when I noticed right above him on the list, was a record with the same address, same last name, same birth date, but “Anthony.” Now I will confess that I am all about data, and I am not afraid of some grueling tasks, like scanning almost 37,000 names to see what I could find. I set about my task beginning with sorting the file by birth date, and then by last and first names.
The first thing I noticed was there are dozens of people over 100 years old, and also that there are a lot of the same last names like Rivera or Gonzalez. After only a few hundred names the first questionable names pop up. It’s possible that there are three triplets with very similar names still living together at 80 years old, but that seems unlikely. Working my way down the list much of what I saw was similar to this. Meghan and Meaghan, Israel and Isarael, Fanstina and Faustina, with the same last name, same birth date, mostly the same address. It doesn’t stop with first names Woodward/Woodlard, Loskowski/Lozkowski, Hernadez/Hernandez. McDermott/MccDermott, and Rodriquez/Rodriques are on the list, and again with the same first name and birth date, and often the same address. Then there the clear jumbles, Ernesto and Nestor, Diazgonzalez and Diaz-Gonzalez, again same birth dates, same other name, often same address. You would think the Election Division would understand the hyphenation of Latino names (which could be men or women), but often right below a person was clearly the same person, but with a hyphenated name. Ms. U. Garcia-Reyes is obviously the same person as Ms. U. Reyes, especially as they live at the same address
Some people just have the same name twice, except on one of the voter records there is a middle name. Those who have anglicized their Latino name, like George for Jorge, should not be registered under both, but they are. Let’s not forget married names versus maiden names. Only the most obvious are counted in my total. If I go looking for them I find them in abundance. What is the magnitude of the issue here? The most basic scan produced at least 260 people that are registered twice and four people registered three times.
Recently in Lawrence, people as part of the annual city census, have been concerned because they have been told they are inactive voters when they have recently voted. People become inactive voters when they fail to vote. With many of the people that are registered twice one of the voter names is active, and the other is inactive. Based on some of the hubbub around this last census, it doesn’t appear that we can rely on this status (active vs. inactive) to say these people haven’t voted. What is more troubling is that with some of these people, both the names are active voters.
Has this issue recently cropped up? The answer to that is no. The voter files indicate when the voters were registered and some of the duplicates have been in place the last two decades, but also note new duplicate registered voters were created as late as last year. It’s amazing to think that no one in the election office noticed, nor did any poll worker during an election, which is troubling as all the voters listed by their address, and the similar names at the same address should have stood out.
The City Clerk’s office, under which falls the Election Division, is responsible for this list. Why has cleaning up this list never been anyone’s job? All these years and no one ever noticed? The city census is supposed to be part of this process and one wonders whether the information gained during that has ever been applied to the lists. What other conclusions can you draw? If they are careless with the people on this list can we trust them to effectively administer the elections, ensuring that everyone only votes once, in a city with over 700 Rodriguez’ and 57 Murphy’s on the voter roles? Real numbers in the city of Lawrence always seem hard to come by, meaning expenditures versus budget, what is the total employee headcount, etc. It’s not surprising that the voter rolls also fall into the category of a number that is hard to pin down.
Next Month: Did any of these people vote twice in the same election?