The pollsters and pundits seem to agree: Barack Obama has a huge lead over John McCain in the race for president. But that doesn't mean McCain won't win.
"Absolutely!" says Ben Manski, asked if he foresees efforts to steal the election. Manski runs a Madison-based campaign called No More Stolen Elections!, launched prior to the 2004 election by his group, Liberty Tree.
Manski identifies several ways that the intent of voters may be defied. One is voter suppression.
"We see a coordinated effort right now, primarily by the GOP, to keep qualified voters off the rolls and to spread misinformation about voting requirements and polling locations," he says.
Some anticipate polling-place challenges, especially in areas where Obama has strong support. A local Republican source tells Isthmus there are "allegations and fears that some groups or individuals" plan to challenge voters whose homes are in foreclosure or whose names appear slightly differently on the rolls.
It's also possible that electronic voting machines will mis-tabulate results, by accident or design. And the media could again incorrectly call close states before all the votes are counted.
No More Stolen Elections! is organizing a national series of voter assemblies on Nov. 5, the day after the election. In Madison, it will be in the state Capitol Rotunda, beginning at 5 p.m.
No matter what happens, Manski sees a need for systemic reform. "Voting is a collective right, not just an individual right," he says, urging the public to back the Pledge of Action on NoMoreStolenElections.org. "My vote and your vote won't count for much unless the voting rights of others are protected."
But in the short term, Manski backs measures individuals can take to ensure their vote counts. To wit:
1. Visit vpa.wi.gov to make sure your name is on the rolls. If not, don't wait until the election to register.
2. Vote early. Avoid the lines and the possibility that election day snafus will keep you from voting. The Madison City Clerk's office is open to early voters 8 a.m.-7 p.m. this Thursday and next Monday; 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Friday, and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday.
3. Do not vote a straight party ticket. Check the name of each candidate you support.
4. Hand-deliver your absentee ballot, if possible. Mail only if necessary.
5. Bring identification to the polls - a driver's license or bill proving you've lived in a given location for at least 10 days - just in case.
6. Do not cast a provisional ballot. If someone challenges your right to vote, contact local authorities or return with more information. Also call the Election Protection Hotline at 866-OURVOTE.
7. Go to the No More Stolen Elections! website to document any voting irregularities.