Top Problems With Vote By Mail, Absentee Voting

1. Vote By Mail eliminates the Secret Ballot.

2. Vote By Mail is typically counted by proprietary vote counting machines.

3. Vote By Mail has major issues maintaining proper chain of custody over the ballots.

4. Vote By Mail is highly vulnerable to vote fraud efforts, such as voting for another voter with or without their approval.

5. Vote By Mail is highly vulnerable to electioneering efforts (centralized vote counts on proprietary computer software).

6. Vote By Mail drastically increases the number of blank un-voted ballots that exist in the system, and available to those who might want to commit illegal acts.

7. Vote By Mail is a highly privatized system of vote counting… from the printing, to the sorting, to the vote counting software, VBM is not a public system of voting.

8. Vote By Mail systems drasitcally alter the time tables of our electoral system nationally, and locally, making campaigning longer and more exspensive, and known winners far less certain on election day.

9. Vote By Mail systems in large counties drastically increase the costs of the printing, mailing, and sorting of ballots.

10. Vote By Mail systems enable vote buying schemes such as “Granny Farming”.

11. Vote By Mail systems undermine the civic institution of the Poll Place.

Ok, so there’s the initial list. There’s a longer discussion of each that follows…

1. Vote By Mail eliminates the Secret Ballot.

Voting at the kitchen table in front of your spouse is not voting in secret behind a privacy screen at a polling booth. The secret ballot is not created by a “privacy envelop”, rather the secret ballot relies on the the polling site, and the secrecy provided by a polling booth. Without this fundamental level of protection, the ballot becomes far more susceptible to influence.

Vote buying, vote collecting, and vote stuffing schemes become possible in vote by mail systems. The main reason is that a signed but unvoted ballot becomes valuable in a system that spends billions on elections every year.

2. Vote By Mail is typically counted by proprietary vote counting machines.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you are somehow circumvented the Diebold, or ES & S machine just cause you are voting by mail. No in fact most vote by mail systems are counted by the very same computer systems that your vote would be counted upon were you to be voting at a polling site. And in the case of some counties that have been switched over to touch screens, there have been reports that the absentee ballots are typically hand entered into the touchscreen system anyway.

In 2006, Maryland made national headlines because the state has gone touch screen but absentees are paper ballots. The Republican Governor made a fuss about the touch screens that the Democratic Secretary of State, Linda Lamone, has been pushing. The rate of absentee ballot requests went through the roof in Maryland because people wanted a paper ballot.

However, if their paper ballot system is anything like King County, the paper ballots are eventually fed into the Accu Vote system made by Diebold, and then counted by the centralized, GEMS central tabulation software. “Hacking Democracy”, the recent HBO documentary, makes it clear that the problem is deeper than machine A verus machine B.

Feeding paper ballots into machines, and then never auditing the paper ballots is not acceptable. However, it is a common practice with absentee systems.

3. Vote By Mail has major issues maintaining proper chain of custody over the ballots.

You wouldn’t send $100 bill through the United States Postal Service would you? Why? Because the postal system is insecure. From the typically unlocked mailbox on your front porch, to the mail truck, to the post office, then to the sorting company, and then back to the county for a final tally, every time ballots are moved…. just like money…. the security of those ballots is compromised. Banks transport money under armed guard. The postal system is far from secure.

4. Vote By Mail is highly vulnerable to vote fraud efforts, such as voting for another voter with or without their approval.

Tracing signatures works under most vote by mail signature verification systems. So I imagine that as an apartment manager I have at least 6 signatures that I could copy off checks onto ballots if I was so inclined, that is as long as I intercepted the ballots before my renters got home.

But hey, a lot of my friends actually have offered just to give me their vote… So it’s not even necessary to steal ballots outta the mail to exert undo influence to get a few extra votes to cast in a vote by mail system. People will just sign away their right to vote of their own free will in vote by mail systems.

5. Vote By Mail is highly vulnerable to electioneering efforts (centralized vote counts on proprietary computer software).

Electioneering is the by E in Election Fraud. It’s the stuff that happens on the large scale, like Chicago’s infamous voting “machine” electioneering involves large numbers, and the coordinated effort to switch large numbers of votes. Electioneering has the power to change the outcome of elections, and has the power to do so, even in races that should not be close.

Vote Rigging, on the otherhand, is the type of actions where one person alters one or two votes. Maybe it’s a stolen ballot used by a thief, maybe it’s a ballot thrown out by an angry roomate, vote rigging is small scale stuff.

Usually this type of effort is not capable of changing the outcome of large elections. Only extremely close elections are likely to be affected by vote rigging.

Vote by mail, or absentee ballot systems, allow both types of fraud to flourish, making both the individual efforts at vote rigging, and the coordinated efforts at electioneering easier.

6. Vote By Mail drastically increases the number of blank un-voted ballots that exist in the system, and available to those who might want to commit illegal acts.

Think about it. The number of ballots available in absentee systems is far greater than the number of ballots in use in a typical poll place election. This is because in poll based voting systems the number of ballots printed is always less than 100%, because the number of ballots printed is based on the number of projected voters that are likely to turn out plus a buffer. So let’s say that the election is likely to turn out 50% of the registered voters, well then 50% of the ballots are needed, and the county then order 60% or 70% printing, so that there are enough ballots, without a lot of wasted ballots. In the poll based system, the extra ballots are also controlled and can then be audited and accounted for when the election is over.

However, when an election has a large number of vote by mail voters registered, then the number of ballots printed for those registered absentee goes right to 100%. But the rate of voting does not go to 100%. So with even a 70% projected turnout (or return), now there are an additional 30% of the ballots simply in the system that would not be returned under normal circumstances (i.e. 70% expected turnout). Now these extra ballots become a target for any number of schemes.

In addition, these extra ballots are not under lock at key at the poll site. No, these new and vastly more numerous ballots are now mixed in with junk mail and bills, in living rooms and on kitchen tables across the country. That’s a lot of insecure votes just floating around in an election, and it adds a huge new complexity to the system making it virtually impossible to track.

7. Vote By Mail is a highly privatized system of vote counting… from the printing, to the sorting, to the vote counting software, VBM is not a public system of voting.

This will be a long paragraph. I will add more info soon.

8. Vote By Mail systems drasitcally alter the time tables of our electoral system nationally, and locally, making campaigning longer and more exspensive, and known winners on election day far less certain on election day.

This has been written about at some length, so I will give a cliff note’s version. Vote-by mail systems have started to alter the campaign season because it voters are actually voting over the course of weeks, not on one single day. So both early voting and vote by mail systems have unintended and rather severe impacts on campaign strategy. With a single voting day, campaigns really focus all their efforts on one day, one voting drive, one message, and one crecendo. However, with several weeks of consecutive voting, campaigns shift tactics and go into overdrive for the several weeks leading up to election day which becomes the sort of “cut-off” day, rather than the election day.

Campaigns which are flush with money, say from corporate donors and the like, have the financial ability to maintain this extended crecendo, however regular citizen candidates typically do not. So in the long run, vote by mail systems make campaigns more costly and favor candidates with big war chests.

9. Vote By Mail systems in large counties drastically increase the costs of the printing, mailing, and sorting of ballots.

With the possibility of a forced vote by mail system becoming reality in King County, my home county, the number of ballots being printed goes directly to 100% of registered voters, regardless of the 40-70% expected turn-out in any given race.

Mail ballots cost more to print than regular ballots, because their are security envelopes, mailing envelopes, and sorting costs associated with mail ballots that are not regularly incurred by poll ballots. In addition mailing costs go to 100% of registered voters as well. Poll place paper ballot systems do not require multiple envelopes or shipping costs.

10. Vote By Mail systems enable vote buying schemes such as “Granny Farming”.

11. Vote By Mail systems undermine the civic institution of the Poll Place.

Hundreds of thousands of citizens all around the country run elections. Poll workers are a civic institution and a part of democracy. And the fact is their oversight of the system is what keeps the voting system in the hands of the people.

Vote by mail systems are all about getting rid of the polling place. Because getting rid of the polling place gets rid of the polling place volunteers and poll workers. Going to all absentee vote by mail systems will not get rid of electioneering efforts, it will just make the evidence of those efforts go away.

Some people call long-lines at polling places a type of voter-suppression…. well it is, but it’s also the evidence of that voter suppression. With forced vote by mail systems the effort will still be their, the evidence will simply go missing.

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