Voting Day… no… Voting Month!

Just wondering when the last vote will be counted this year? With the holiday, I would guess some of the vote counting will slow for awhile. Once again, the point is that election day no longer takes a day.  Nov. 28th is just 3 days away, which is the last day in the nation for any state to certify the November’s election, and I just can’t find a definitive account of all the races still counting absentee votes across the nation. But there’s a few.

This isn’t just the result of Florida 2000, or Ohio 2004. It’s not just touchscreens, or Diebold, or Vote By Mail problems. Voting integrity is a cultural goal that must be considered systemically to be achieved.  

So here’s a story from Columbus, Ohio. The following passage illustrates the exstension of “voting day”, into “voting month.” From Cincinnati.com:

Democrats and Republicans watching over a count of ballots held over from Election Day because of voter identification problems said they have found no reason to challenge the tally so far.

Election workers have spent the week reviewing about 38,500 absentee and provisional ballots. About 500 have been rejected because they were cast by ineligible voters, said Franklin County Elections Director Matt Damschroder.

The official, final tally is expected to be announced Monday, along with the winner of the 15th Congressional District, where incumbent U.S. Rep. Deborah Pryce, a member of the House Republican leadership, has a lead of 3,717 votes over Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy in ballots counted so far.

Some would say that this is no big deal. But this is happening all over the country. Relaxing absentee voting laws, moves the nation away from a voting day tradition, and in it’s place grows a bigger mess.

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Vote By Mail Project Op-Ed

Bill Bradbury, Oregon’s Secretary of State, recently wrote an editorial that appeared in the Nov 19th issue of the Washington Post. In this editorial Mr. Bradbury argues that Vote By Mail is a huge success in Oregon. It is also the answer to those pesky problems like long-lines and touch screen voting machines:

We don’t suffer with long lines at polling places, with voter harassment or intimidation, with fears about malfunctioning or easily hacked voting machines, or from lack of a paper trail.

-Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury

The argument he makes is simply a regurgiation of the Vote By Mail Project’s propoganda. It so happens that Mr. Bradbury is one of the advisers to the Vote By Mail Project, a group that has Washington’s very own Sam Reed on it as well. I’ve written about this group before, and posed the question as to why Sam Reed supports this oranization that so openly criticizes those same touch screen voting machines that Mr. Sam Reed likes so much that he uses tax payer money to promote them to gymnasiums full of school children who don’t even vote yet? But the question that someone should ask Mr. Bradbury, in public and on camera is this, “How does it eliminate the easily hacked voting machines, when you are still using easily hacked voting machines?”

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Another Op-Ed On Vote-By Mail Problems

This article, published by The Century Foundation, is very interesting. One because it references a conference in Seattle about voting, last year… which is my hometown, and two because it’s about my favorite subject–problems with voting by mail. Here’s a highlight:

While many legislators vigorously pursue enactment of voter identification requirements, it is widely known that absentee voting causes most voter fraud problems. As electionline.org recently reported, a number of states have cited irregularities in recent years. “Georgia Democratic Secretary of State Cathy Cox was quoted in the New York Times earlier this month as stating there was ‘already rampant fraud in absentee voting.’ Half the country away, Kansas Republican Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh told the Topeka Capital Journal ‘…The greatest potential for abuse in the state of Kansas in our election system right now is advance voting …We’ve got a situation where any person may return another individual’s ballot.'”

Two Weeks Of Vote Counts Still Going… Going… Going

These news reports here, and here, detail races still being counted or recounted as of today. Folks, tomorrow is the second Tuesday since the election! What used to take a day or two to count by hand, at the precinct in your local gym, church, or civic hall, can now take weeks, as ballots drift in through the mail.

Mail voting is inevitably producing a system in which votes will continue to appear endlessly. I know, for example, that during every election ballots from previous elections get turned in because people still have them–they just haven’t looked through their mail lately. But with a statistical loss rate the USPS will also inevitably find ballots too-late to be cast. Effectively disenfranchising a few more voters.

In Florida, Kathrine Harris’ old seat now looks heading to a recount as well, with an unprecedented 18,000 undervotes on ES&S Touchscreen voting machines… the question will be what’s there to recount. In Camden County, SC, a set of absentee ballots looks like they’ll go uncounted in a hotly debated race. I could keep writing all day, and never cover all the races adequately.

Ten days after Election Day, the outcome is still in dispute in a handful of close contests for the House as election officials count and recount ballots from absentee voters and those who were challenged at the polls.

Election officials in North Carolina and New Mexico hoped to have certified results late Friday, while a dispute in Ohio over a new voter identification law will delay results in one race until past Thanksgiving weekend.

Elections in Louisiana and Texas will go to runoffs in December.

http://www.belleville.com/mld/belleville/news/politics/16045168.htm

In California today, the “… staff is now counting as many as 5,000 absentees that were rejected by the county’s scanning equipment because they were mismarked or torn.” In King County, Washington, it was reported that a large percentage of ballots were “duplicated.” What this means is that county workers, or temp workers, are going through by hand and duplicating ballots. Some truly ridiculous ballots show up year after year, so this is not an easy task.

And many of these counts that are still going on, that’s just a first vote count. Most cut-off days for certifying the vote occur before Nov. 28th. So if a first count is incomplete, how do you begin a recount that matters? With a close count this is not just a matter of conjecture, there will be mandatory recounts if races are within a certain margin. Recounts are a whole lot easier if the first count is already complete before the deadline for the Secretary of State or County Auditor to certify the election has come and gone. Vote-by mail systems can so screw up the vote counting system that a close election may not have time to conduct a fist count, let alone adequately audit the system before Nov. 28th.

Vote-by Mail systems have lots of unintended consequences. But this never-ending first count is a big BIG flaw in the system.

San Juan County Lawsuit — VoteHere Ballot Tracking Software

Tim White, from the San Juan County Greens updates the story that is unfolding in San Juan County where Green Party members are suing the county over the use of ballot tracking software that compromises the integrity of the secret ballot:

November 15th, 2006 at 1:22 pm

Here’s an update on the early Nov comment reporting Green Party suit against San Juan County, WA, for violating secret ballot law by using VoteHere’s Mail-in Ballot Tracker to link each ballot’s unique barcode to the identity of the voter assigned that ballot.

The lawsuit is currently front page news in San Juan Co:

http://www.islandssounder.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=86&cat=23&id=767761&more=

The original post here misidentified the locale as Island County, which shares the lawsuit’s Superior Court jurisdiction with the smaller San Juan County. [Editor’s Note… Oops]

Additional info, including San Juan Public Access TV Special Report, text of suit, at
www.sjmedia.org

Here’s the press release:

Voters file lawsuit alleging San Juan County Auditor’s Office use of ballot tracking software illegal.
Friday Harbor WA (Nov. 2, 2006) Today local Green Party members filed a lawsuit in San Juan County Superior Court challenging the legality of ballots tracked with personal ID bar codes. San Juan County was the first county in the country to implement a ballot tracking system using a bar code on each individual’s ballot to uniquely identify the voter. In the current General Electron, the software is deployed in as many as 29 Washington counties.

County citizens are rejecting their personal ballot bar codes in multiple letters to the editor, by blacking them out, cutting them off, and perhaps not voting at all. Turnout has plummeted. The local paper’s feature editorial has condemned the system. One of the County’s two Auditor candidates is calling for its abandonment.

Allan Rosato and Tim White of the Elections Working Group of the Green Party of San Juan County explained their action in a statement released today:

We filed this suit as a measure of last resort. During the County’s first six all-mail elections over the past 12 months, we’ve attempted to get action by presentations to the Board of County Commissioners, the new County Council, the Elections Department, the County Elections Canvassing Board, and the County Prosecuting Attorney.

Final word from County officials is that the Courts must decide.

We’re seeking a Superior Court injunction stopping the use of VoteHere Inc.’s uncertified ‘Mail-in Ballot Tracker’ because it violates not only the Secretary of State’s own Washington Administrative Code, but five Washington State laws explicitly prohibiting any distinguishing marks of any kind on any ballot. A key provision of our State Constitution ‘secure[s] to every elector absolute secrecy in preparing and depositing his ballot.’ We contend that what remains of ballot secrecy is contingent, not absolute. We want to vote secret ballots. Period.

Video news clip, lawsuit text, complete story: http://www.sjmedia.org/.
Contacts:
Allan Rosato, Orcas, 360-376-2158
Tim White, Orcas, 360-376-5851

The Oddest Op-Ed On VBM versus Touch Screens Ever

From the Oregon Statesman Journal, comes the oddest letter to the editor ever. In the letter the author calls for the return to poll based voting, which is less vulnerable to fraud than vote by mail… which I agree with. But then calls for a return to voting machines made by ATM manufacturers, because, well ATM manufacturers must be able to secure money so they should be able to secure the vote.

Heck it makes sense to me! Except that Diebold, the biggest name in the voting machine business, and the one that launched the movement to oppose electronic voting machines, actually does manufacture ATMs.

But I don’t blame the author really, the person is simply concerned with voting integrity. It’s more a statement of the times really, voting activism is a fragmented group of individuals, experts more in the problems than the solutions. And this blog is an example of that same problem. It is far easier to be an expert in a “problem” than in the solution.

I, for one, support Precinct Based Optical Scan Ballots that retain a traditional poll site and a traditional polling day. I also support publicly owned open sourced software, and proper hand auditing of paper ballots against machine totals at the precinct level, and I  support the move to make voting day a national holiday. And that’s just a few of the reforms that are needed.

It is my aim to spend more time working towards solutions than I have in the past as a voting activist, because until we as activists can all rally around some reasonable and rational solutions, the general public will continue to be confused. The first step to solving our national voting nightmare is to come together as activists, left and right, and come up with a plan we can agree on.

Many races around the country still too close to call

As the country moves increasingly to forced vote by mail systems, many races this year remain too close to call more than a week after this year’s election.

In Creswell Oregon, Election Director Annette Newingham, had this to say to the local paper:

Read the Full Story

“Oregon’s vote-by-mail system is easy for the voters, but labor intensive on this end,” explained Newingham. “We must determine the voter’s intent and verify each signature.”

The race in question? A general bond, with about 3000 total votes cast! So with Oregon’s Vote-By Mail system, it takes um… almost 2 weeks to count 3000 votes.

And in other news…

In the State of Montana, a local race with just under 4000 votes ended in a tie today. 10 days after the election was held.

Vote by mail and it can take 2 weeks to count 4000 votes.