It's Not Theft

There are some crimes that can be undone. There are others that can't.

For example, a theft can generally be reversed. Money can be returned, property can (usually) be replaced.

On the other hand, a rape or murder, or even assault, can't be undone. A murder victim stays dead. Even if physical wounds heal, emotional scars -- memories -- will remain. A person will never be the same again, no matter what happens in court later.

So it is with crimes against elections.

Only one form of crime against the electoral process -- miscounting or non-counting of ballots -- can actually be undone. The rest of the tricks people pull to foil the democratic process cannot.

When the GOP pays companies to give voters the false impression that Dem candidates are harassing them with robo-calls, that damage cannot be undone. Later, after the fact, groups may be fined and people may be incarcerated, but their actions will have been effective. And the benefits of cheating far outweigh the penalties for cheating. Because there may be recounts, but our system leaves us no way to hold an election over again, if it's determined that one side has illegally influenced its outcome.

The voters who are annoyed into staying home or changing their vote do not get a second chance, once the truth is known.

The voters who try to vote and are denied the right -- whether by purges of the voter rolls, machine failures, or intimidation tactics -- do not get a second chance.

The voters who can't find or arrange a ride to their polling place because the assistance lines are being jammed by political operatives, do not get a second chance.

The voters whose votes are recorded by nothing other than a tampering-vulnerable flash memory stick, do not get a second chance.

November 7, 2006 only happens once. The consequences affect us all for at least two years -- and in some cases four or six. The damage can never be undone.

So "theft" is hardly the right word.

Call it what you will, but what's being taken away can never be given back.