M.D. Harmon: The Walking, Voting Dead


Ever since horror director George Romero created “Night of the Living Dead” in 1968, brain-eating zombies have had a grip on the nation’s (fevered?) imagination.

Along with vampires and werewolves, currently competing for teenagers’ attention in books and movies depicting monsters as romantic heroes, zombies (which so far haven’t reached heart-throb status — well, except that they regard throbbing hearts as snack food) lurch, creep and stagger through our movies and TVs daily.

Productions like “The Walking Dead,” “28 Days” and “I Am Legend,” among many others, along with remakes of Romero’s iconic films, including a recent version of “Dawn of the Dead,” are visible on every screen.

Zombie costumes populate Halloween parties, bank robbers use zombie masks, shooters can buy a variety of zombie targets to blow holes in, websites offer advice on combating a zombie invasion, and a novel about “World War Z,” a “history” of humanity’s hard-won victory over a plague of zombies, hit the best-seller lists.

Sure, it’s a fad, and like all fads, it will fade. But it has persisted for longer than most, and that has led cultural observers to wonder why we are so enchanted with the idea that someday our present culture will be overcome by legions of shambling flesh-eaters.

Well, this week I think I found out the basic reason. It’s not only that we need a new, all-encompassing threat to take over from the old Cold War apocalypse of nuclear holocaust. It’s not just that economic and social worries about cultural breakdown and growing depravity have led people to clothe huge societal forces with masks of decaying flesh.

It’s not even that people see the inevitable result of Obama administration policies as devouring their independence and basic human rights — though that might be the most logical explanation.

And it’s not merely that people like to have the pants scared off them with stories about all sorts of ghosts and monsters, as they have for centuries, if not millennia.

It’s all of those reasons, to be sure, and yet there is another one. I believe that it is also the result of the fact that, as the prestigious Pew Center on the States discovered in a survey of voter registration records nationwide, we are surrounded by approximately 1.8 million dead people who still are alive on the voting rolls.

Electoral zombies, as it were.

And those dead people, still living on the rolls in registrars’ offices from Presque Isle to Petaluma, could certainly come back to haunt us — if they haven’t already been haunting our Election Days for decades.

OK, the image is tongue-in-cheek. But the prospective impact on the honesty and fairness of our elections, from selectmen’s boards to the Oval Office, is deadly serious.

The Pew study also found that more than 24 million registration records (about one in eight) are “inaccurate, out of date or duplicates,” a story in USA Today reported this week. Nearly 2.8 million people are registered in two or more states, and nearly 12 million files list incorrect addresses, so those voters cannot be reached by mail.

Now, what leaps to your mind as you read all this? That’s right: You suddenly realize that those liberals who have been calling you a right-wing ideologue for worrying that the chance of voter fraud are either being blatantly deceptive or don’t know what the bleep they are talking about.

Oh, sure, that’s not what Pew says. As the paper hastily points out, “Experts say there’s no evidence that the errors lead to fraud on Election Day. ‘The perception of the possibility of fraud drives hyper-partisan policymaking,’ said David Becker, director of Pew’s election initiatives,” the fourth paragraph helpfully notes.

The thing he doesn’t say is that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” If the voter registration system is so deeply flawed that 1.8 million zombie voters could suddenly show up at the polls, how can anyone prove that there is not a massive amount of fraud going on in every election?

Well, the “experts” say that conservatives, so obviously driven by “hyper-partisan” motives, are raising undue concerns. But they are silent on the question of whether hyper-partisan liberals could be using this deeply flawed system to add votes to their side of the ledger.

No, they would never do that. Don’t even raise the issue. It’s not helpful, you know.

Anyway, along with the clear necessity to straighten out these records and do so yesterday, this study shows that those states which have passed Voter ID laws have implemented something that’s not just a good idea in a general sense, but one which now is proven to be vitally necessary.

Few things are as central in a democracy as the absolute requirement for citizens to have faith and confidence in the fairness of elections. When they cast a vote, they must know it will be counted accurately, and so will all the other votes, so that choices about candidates and ballot questions reflect the genuine will of the people, who are sovereign.

As things stand now, there is considerable reason to doubt that fairness.

And that should make us really wonder about the motives of the people who oppose Voter ID. What benefit do they gain from keeping it from passing?

Investor’s Business Daily, in an editorial on the Pew study this week, noted that Democrats have prevented Voter ID from becoming law in at least five states, and President Obama’s Justice Department has blocked South Carolina’s law.

IBD pointed out the “bogus arguments” raised against such laws, one being that voter fraud isn’t widespread and thus such laws are unnecessary. Meanwhile, cases involving up to thousands of ballots are being reported, and the Pew study shows the system is highly vulnerable to fraud.

Besides, the paper asks, is there “such a thing as a tolerable level of fraud”?

The second is the false charge that Voter ID disenfranchises minority voters. As the editorial noted, “In fact, states with picture ID laws go out of their way to make sure everyone who needs an ID can get one. Plus, turnout in Indiana and Georgia swelled after their laws went into effect, and the Supreme Court already ruled that picture ID laws don’t infringe on anyone’s right to vote.”

In Maine, Voter ID is apparently dead in the Legislature, with Republicans cowering under their desks after a law passed last year to have Maine join 42 other states in banning same-day voter registration was defeated in a campaign noted for its demagoguery.

That the party let itself be outspent and outmaneuvered on such a simple reform doesn’t bode well for bringing up Voter ID here anytime soon.

But as long as this important electoral safeguard, widely supported in national polls, remains off the books in some states — including Maine — those jurisdictions’ share of those 1.8 million zombie voters can show up anywhere, anytime, to gobble down our right to a free and fair election.

M.D. Harmon is a retired journalist and a freelance writer. He can be contacted at: