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Well, I’ve  seen a few things in my day. This is a new one on me.

In order for a person to be a candidate, most systems require signatures to be collected. Here is a link to some requirements in the various U.S. states. The idea is that signatures are checked against those on voter registration cards or other records in order to eliminate fraud.

These are the basic requirements in normal jurisdictions:

  • “The signature must be of a registered voter, as established by comparing the name to that state’s list of registered voters.
  • The signature on the petition must match the signature on the voter registration card filed when that voter registered to vote.
  • The signature must not be a duplicate signature. This occurs when a voter signs the same petition more than once. If this happens, in some states, one signature counts and the other(s) don’t. In other states, if a voter signs more than once, none of his or her signatures count.” (From Ballotopedia, “Valid Signature.

Here we have a link to a news article about a potential candidate whose submitted paperwork did not match, allegedly, the signature requirements and who was therefore prevented from running for the Lithuanian parliament (elections are coming up in October of 2012).  That’s not really news, nor is it of much interest.

Except for one thing.

The authorities admit that they do not check signatures for authenticity; that is, for fraud. They claim they have nothing to check them against! (“Rašysenos ekspertė Jūratė Kurgonienė pabrėžė, kad ji netikrino parašų autentiškumo, nes neturėjo tų asmenų parašų pavyzdžių.”)

This has been the situation for years, and no one cares.

Yet – they do check to see if the circulator filled out the forms him or herself. THAT’s a no-no. Though how it impacts on fraud, if at all, is highly questionable. Similar requirements that add nothing to the equation have been invalidated in various U.S. states.

Again, the problem is that there is considerable formality, which impacts negatively on a citizen’s right to participate in the democratic process. The form to be filled out is difficult – it requires one’s governmental ID number, the registered address, and all in boxes. This is not easy for those who are older, have difficulties seeing, or simply have trouble writing, whether through injury or other infirmity.

So, again, we have the semblance of order, but no substance.

Or, to be more specific, we have a set of rules which are expedient  for the rule-maker. It is true that the rule in place would find certain unsophisticated forgers: the rule is that the petition signer himself must fill out the entire form, and therefore if a party fills out a number of forms, and forges the signatures thereon, the fraud might be easily discerned merely by comparing forms submitted for one candidate.

Thus, the rule is quite expedient for the government.

But it undoubtedly impinges upon the citizenry’s ability to participate in the voting process. It also punishes the innocent signature collector (and his candidate) who helped fill in a form for a person who had physical difficulty doing so.

The method relied upon also does not and cannot find the following type of fraudulent signature: the type in which the entire form and the signature are inauthentic but unique (they do not match the handwriting on other forms submitted by the same candidate).

Thus, we have the imitation of order, expedient for the election commission to administrate, but which is unjust. As always, in Lithuania, the fact that the process is unjust is irrelevant. Justice vs. expediency. Bet on expediency every time.

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