By Greg Markley
In 1978, Foreigner had a massive hit with the song Double Vision. Vocalist Lou Gramm explained how the title came to him: “The New York Rangers were playing the Philadelphia Flyers and one of the big Flyers bumped into the Rangers’ all-star goalie and knocked him down. They had to take him out of the game because he was experiencing double vision.”
People who keenly follow politics know that the phenomenon of “double voting,” like “double vision,” has been around awhile. Someone votes twice at the same time and place, or votes in two or more states. By contrast, “overvotes” occur when someone votes more than the maximum number of selections allowed. An example would be a person voting for two candidates in a single category where it clearly says, “Vote for not more than one.”
“The Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) has only cross-checked state’s voters since the 2018 Election Cycle, so we have only been provided with voters who had potentially voted here and in another state since 2018,” said Grace Newcombe, director of communications and governmental relations, office of Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.
“While we encourage all interested and eligible Alabamians to register to vote and participate in our elections, one person is entitled to just one vote in any same or equivalent election,” Newcombe said. “This legislation protects the validity of each and every ballot cast in this state, and we are grateful to the Alabama Legislature for their work on this issue.”
If done in small amounts, double voting is unlikely to have much impact. However, the more people that vote twice or more are infringing upon the coveted belief of “one man or woman (gets) one vote.” When voters read or hear about a person’s double votes, it undermines the electoral process.
President Teddy Roosevelt asserted that “A vote is like a rifle: Its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.” I am astounded that we have many citizens who don’t exercise their franchise at all. Yet, others go crazy at election precincts, voting more times and in more places than is legal.
Alabama Act 2021-448 recently became effective making double voting illegal in the same or equivalent election, either in this state or in another. Previously, a voter could only be prosecuted for voting twice under Alabama law in our state.
“It is now illegal for a voter to cast a ballot twice either in-state or out-of-state, strengthening the integrity of our elections and increasing confidence in the process,” stated Secretary of State John Merrill. “We have worked to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat, and I applaud Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City) and Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) for their efforts to deter those looking to illegally influence elections.” Violators of this law would be guilty, upon conviction, of a Class A misdemeanor. Second or subsequent violations would be a Class C felony.
Georgia Public Radio reported in September 2020 that Georgia’s top election office said 1,000 people voted twice in the state’s elections this year — but said he didn’t know whether any of them did so intentionally.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, said the thousand voters turned in absentee ballots and then voted in person in the state’s June primary, but he had little information beyond that. “Every double voter will be investigated thoroughly,” Raffensperger said. “A double voter knows exactly what they are doing.”
The department might not have had much time to sort out 1,000 cases. Remember, Raffensperger did not know whether these double votes were intentional. The potential in a “hot” campaign, competitive at the presidential and U.S. Senate levels in Georgia, for maliciousness is high.
Yet historically, double votes are often attributed to mistakes and confusion. In the environment of a pandemic, a voter may have several reasons he or she could return a mail ballot and then also try to vote in person: perhaps they were scared it wouldn’t arrive in time, or they wanted to change who they voted for, or they just forgot they already sent it.
The 1978 Foreigner song mentioned above includes this: “Fill my eyes with that double vision, no disguise for that double vision. When it gets through to me, it’s always new to me. My double vision gets the best of me.”
For those who want to vote twice or more in Alabama, or once in Alabama then go elsewhere, your “double vision” is getting blurry. If you do these things accidentally, it will be handled differently. But if you want to commit fraud like this in Alabama, the law will catch up with you.
Greg Markley first moved to Lee County in 1996. He has Masters’ in education and history. He taught politics as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama. An award-winning writer in the Army and civilian life, he has contributed to the Observer for 10 years. email@example.com