Voter registration drives should be more discerning

One recent drive solicited pets and dead people. Voter drives should be more careful.

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Elections are serious business. It's a time when citizens elect those they want to oversee our nation, states, counties and cities.

Yet, some folks become so overzealous they make a mockery of elections.

Take for example a voter registration drive by the Voter Participation Center, a national organization that targets people it hopes will vote with Democrats. The Associated Press reported the group sent out 5 million voter registration forms across the nation already filled in.

There is, of course, nothing wrong or illegal about trawling for voters who might hold political views that mesh with a group's causes or candidates.

Yet, this voter drive cast a net so wide it targeted dead people, those already registered to vote, noncitizens and household pets.

An application for voting was sent to the Seattle address of Rosie Charlston, a dog that died 14 years ago. The dog's owner, Brenda Charlston, wasn't the only person to get documents for her pet, according to AP. It has also been discovered a Virginia man said similar documents arrived for his dead dog while a woman in the state got forms for her cat.

The VPC acknowledges the databases it uses to contact possible voters are imperfect because they are developed from commercially collected information. And even if something is a little off -- such as species -- that's apparently not a problem to the group. After all, the VPC says it is not a problem -- people who receive misdirected mail will simply throw it away. Dogs -- assuming they are still alive (unlike poor Rosie) -- can bury it in the backyard.

Not everybody (or everything) will just throw it away. Some will think it would be funny (as in haha) to register a dog to vote. Others might be ignorant. It's very possible many of the flawed forms could be returned.

Several election officials told AP they believed the voter registration systems were secure enough to catch people who might improperly submit the misdirected documents, since registrants typically have to furnish ID and election managers use databases to see if someone should be disallowed.

But that wasn't necessarily the case in New Mexico where state officials have no way of verifying legal status of those seeking voter registration. It's possible at least a few ineligible voters could cast a ballot in 2012 because of the VPC campaign.

VPC and other groups really should do better than that. Those who run these organizations should take time to vet these applications before they are sent out -- to make sure they aren't already voters, they are eligible to vote -- and they are human.

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