If we lose the ability to trust the results of our elections, then we can throw in the towel as a country.

The country recovered from the Bush-Gore recount. But what if we were to come to believe that the votes themselves were meaningless?

The Examiner and Fox News have been reporting on what appears a massive case of voting fraud uncovered by a citizen’s group in Texas. The uncoverers happen to be Tea Party activists, but that is incidental. This is a story about voter fraud, not political activism.

As Fox unrolls the story:

When Catherine Engelbrecht and her friends sat down and started talking politics several years ago, they soon agreed that talking wasn’t enough. They wanted to do more. So when the 2008 election came around, “about 50” of her friends volunteered to work at Houston’s polling places.

“What we saw shocked us,” she said. “There was no one checking IDs, judges would vote for people that asked for help. It was fraud, and we watched like deer in the headlights.”

Engelbrecht & Co. decided to investigate further. They were amateurs, not really sure what to look for, how to do it. Their first act was to look at houses that were listed as the voting residence of six or more voters. They claim to have found one address with 24,000 voters! (Yes, I read that sentence several times.)

They discovered vacant lots that had been listed as a voting address and other anomalies. Recently, the Harris County registrar of voters took the group’s work and started looking into the situation. Apparently involved was a group called Houston Votes, headed by a man who works for the Service Employees International Union. It appears that only 1,793 of the 25,000 registrations by Houston Votes are legit. If the preliminary findings pan out, shouldn’t the group called Houston Votes…and Votes and Votes?

The other registrations included one of a woman who registered six times in the same day; registrations of non-citizens; so many applications from one Houston Voters collector in one day that it was deemed to be beyond human capability; and 1,597 registrations that named the same person multiple times, often with different signatures. 

“The integrity of the voting rolls in Harris County, Texas, appears to be under an organized and systematic attack by the group operating under the name Houston Votes,” the Harris voter registrar, Leo Vasquez, charged as he passed on the documentation to the district attorney. A spokesman for the DA’s office declined to discuss the case. And a spokesman for Vasquez said that the DA has asked them to refrain from commenting on the case.

And the plot thickens:

The outcome of the efforts grew in importance the day after Vasquez made his announcement. On the morning of Aug. 27, a three-alarm fire destroyed almost all of Harris County’s voting machines, throwing the upcoming Nov. 2 election into turmoil. While the cause wasn’t determined, the $40 million blaze, according to press reports, means election officials will be focused on creating a whole new voting system in six weeks. Just how they do it will determine how vulnerable the process becomes.

John Fund of the Wall Street Journal has been warning about voter fraud for a long time. Fund has shown how voting by dead people and felons can swing an election. (There are, of course, people who want felons to vote, and I am just imagining somebody who gets caught registering the dead saying, “Well, hey, we know how Granny Jones would have voted.”)

One reason organizations such as unions might be tempted to cheat is that government now controls so much of the economy-it picks winners and losers. But if voter fraud becomes a serious and widespread problem, we’re headed for catastrophe.