Democracy is on the march. Afghans and Iraqis have proudly raised their purple fingers. Elections are scheduled for Egypt. Recall elections are afoot in Wisconsin. The will of the people will not be ignored.

Yet, between the ideal of democracy and its realization falls the shadow — democracy is thwarted when elections are stolen.

But how can an election be stolen? After all, elections involve the simplest math: the adding of ones over and over again until one has gone through all the ballots. Assuming that these ones are added to their correct, intended targets (and that election officials are honest), the theft of elections happens when illegal ballots are cast. Such ballots are cast by ineligible voters and/or by repeat voters.

The way to detect illegal voters is by identifying legal voters using their unique data. Courts already use the unique data of DNA to establish guilt and innocence. But voters aren’t going to relish having their mouths swabbed for DNA just so they can proceed to the voting booth; elections would be too much like flying commercial.

OK, then what about using fingerprints or iris scans to establish identity?

The reason fingerprints and iris scans are a quick way to verify for admittance into secure areas is because there are so few people allowed into such areas, and therefore only a few scans are on-file to match against. But if there were hundreds of millions to match against, such as in the American electorate, fingerprints and iris scans would be less feasible methods for quick verifications.

Not only that, voters would need to have their unique data on-file residing in some database before an election so that computers could make matches — if you’re not on-file, you don’t get to vote. Which means everyone would need to have his iris scanned and/or fingerprints taken beforehand.

Using the unique biometric data above seems like a lot of trouble, and some folks would object to it as a violation of privacy. But there is one unique datum that every citizen can have that is practical, and that is a number.

For instance, banks don’t use unique biometric data to keep their customers’ accounts separate; they use unique numbers. If a bank customer wants to do something with his account, he uses his account number to gain direct access to his account, there’s no need for a computer to analyze complex data, like iris patterns or fingerprint swirls. 

Identical twins may have the same DNA, but they can’t have the same number if that number is the key to a key-sequenced computer file. In the United States citizens already have a unique number; it’s the social security number, or SSN.

For some years now, I have urged that America use the SSN in elections. Which entails creating voter registries from the Social Security Administration’s database, a database used in the distribution of trillions of dollars of benefits.

When I first thought about using the SSA’s database to establish voter registries, it seemed like such an obvious solution that I wondered if there might be some snag that I didn’t know about. The only problem I could think of was if the SSA’s database were corrupted. I knew that fraudulent SSNs were used by illegal aliens to get employment, and so I wondered if those fraudulent SSNs could have gotten into the database and couldn’t be distinguished from the real SSNs of American citizens.

For a computer programmer like myself, this thought was just too ugly to contemplate. It would mean that E-Verify couldn’t work. And how could the SSA keep from sending out SS checks to ineligibles? Correcting such a snafu would make Y2K look like a walk in the park. I couldn’t believe that even the federal government could be capable of such monumental incompetence. And so I dismissed it as highly improbable.

But a related issue is that the SSA issues SSNs to non-citizens, like resident aliens. So, the feasibility of my method of creating voter registries depends on whether the SSA can distinguish on its database between citizens on the one hand, and non-citizens (as well as possibly fraudulent SSNs) on the other. I believe the SSA can already do this.

Just before hurricane Irene hit, officials asked those who elected not to evacuate to write their SSNs on their arms with a Sharpie so that their remains could be identified. Why? It’s because their DNA, fingerprints and other unique biometric data probably aren’t on-file — but their SSN is. Perhaps the feds should require that our SSNs be tattooed on us. Younger Americans, however, might need to remove a tattoo or two to make room for their new SSN tattoos.

Without an SSN, do you even exist to the federal government?

The SSN is the de facto national ID. The SSN’s importance for navigating today’s America was recently illustrated in the fascinating case of Raechel and Stephanie Schultz, two rural Kentucky sisters who had always lived on the fringe of society and who had never received SSNs. The sisters needed SSNs for employment, but they also lacked birth certificates, which are needed to establish U.S. citizenship. So a county circuit judge ordered — what else? — DNA tests to prove that they were the offspring of bona fide U.S. citizens who did have SSNs. The tests came back positive and they were issued birth certificates forthwith. One might think their ordeal would be over, but the SSA has balked at giving them their SSNs. So the sisters are suing.

Some D.C. bureaucrat is denying vital documents to two gals who have scientific proof that they are citizens, while the children of illegal aliens are granted those documents merely because of where they were delivered. You can cut the irony with a knife.

What the Schultz case exposes is the larger issue for my method of registry creation, which is that some America citizens don’t have an SSN and therefore aren’t on the SSA database. I’d say that if they constitute less than one percent of the population, that my method is close enough for government work. And such Americans can always come in from the cold, get right with the feds and request an SSN, although, like the Schultzes, they may have to sue.

It is inexcusable that of the precious few requirements the Constitution sets for voting in America, our government doesn’t check for the most basic one — citizenship. The surest way to know that a person is a citizen is to confirm that he’s on the SSA database. If that database has been compromised and cannot be used to identify citizens, then America has a lot more to worry about than just fraudulent elections.

If America is going to be the model of democracy for the world’s new “democracy movement,” then America must have election systems that are a model — systems that are fraud-proof.

How can America export democracy when America’s own elections are a mess?

NOTE: For those who believe election fraud isn’t a problem in America, read Hans von Spakovsky’s recent article “Not a Race Card” at NRO, it’ll set you straight. Also, the problem of absentee ballot fraud was an issue in the recent special election to replace former Rep. Weiner in NY-9 (article and terrific video).

On Oct. 2 in “Why Voter Photo Identification Is Crucial to Our Republic” for American Thinker, John H. Watson did a find job of addressing the problem of voter fraud. But his solution is positively baroque; as he proposed that government “require every registered voter to re-register and prove his/her citizenship. … Once citizenship is proven, a photo voter identification card should be issued.” (Italics added.)

But the government already knows who are citizens. And if it doesn’t, wouldn’t it mean that every citizen would need to come in and “prove his/her citizenship” so that the feds could re-establish the SSA’s database?

The reason election fraud happens in sophisticated America is because our election systems aren’t sophisticated, they’re backwards. Read my solutions for fixing our election systems: LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK, LINK.

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