Pros And Cons of Vote By Mail Discussed At DailyKos

There’s several good discussions over at DailyKos going on, here:

This link is to Kos’ position that Vote By Mail is good. I can’t find the other post that was the opposition paper. Both posts had hundreds of responses pro and con. Worthy examination of the issue, because his original post is pro-VBM the opposition posts become quite detailed.

Vote By Mail Means Your Vote May Not Count On Election Day

From Spokane:

However ballots mailed Tuesday and postmarked Tuedsay evening will not be delivered to election headquarters until Wednesday morning; even though Spokane’s turnaround rate is the fifth best in the nation it still takes at least one day to mail a letter.

“It will go through our processing tonight where it will be postmarked. It will be sent to the station – the county’s mail comes right here to the Riverside Station – and it will be in the hands of the county by seven thirty tomorrow,” Schierberl said.

Unfortunately that means Jerry’s vote won’t be reflected in Tuesday night’s election results and neither will the ballots hand carried by public to elections office earlier in the morning.

So take note, VBM affects how votes are weighted, and the system makes some votes more important than others here in Washington.

New Book On Absentee Ballot Problems

AT LEAST you have to give John Fortier credit for trying. Last week, while every other political scientist and scandal-sniffing, goo-goo reformer was lamenting run-of-the-mill Election-Day difficulties–long lines, hiccuppy voting machines, bullying and incompetent poll workers–Fortier was trying to draw attention to a problem that is far more consequential, and far more radical: Election Day itself is about to disappear.

Fortier is a political scientist with the American Enterprise Institute. A few weeks ago he published a new book, Absentee and Early Voting: Trends, Promises, and Perils. The book’s thesis is as follows: Thanks to such recent election reforms as early voting, vote-by-mail, and unrestricted access to absentee ballots–together known as “convenience voting”–“our nation is steadily moving away from voting on election day.” Early estimates suggest that one in four votes this year was cast before November 7. The percentage has increased with every national election since 1980.

And then this choice quote:

Which explains why the reforms spread and flourish, even though no data support them and most observers agree they greatly increase the danger of vote fraud. Convenience voting is popular because it’s convenient–of course–but the convenience is of a kind that particularly suits the needs of . . . people like the reformers. “These new procedures,” Gans told me, “are for lazy middle-class and affluent people who would normally vote anyway but just want to make it easier on themselves.”

Voting Editorial New York Times

Critics of electronic voting raise two main issues: machines are susceptible to fraud (or hacking) and they are difficult to use.

Fraud problems would not go away if we switched to vote by mail, as Oregon has. Such voting — let’s call it mandatory absentee balloting — takes the voter out of the polling booth and puts him at home or elsewhere, someplace where votes could be sold to the highest bidder. Most of the documented cases of voting fraud in the United States in recent years involve absentee ballots. At the beginning of the last century, voter turnout declined as states adopted secret, in-person balloting, most likely because corrupt politicians stopped buying votes since they couldn’t verify that people were really voting for their candidate.

True, squeaky-clean Oregon has been able to use the vote-by-mail system. But it is not clear that clean elections could be held in places with more rancorous partisan disputes over election rules and vote counting. And mail-in ballots don’t eliminate the problem anyway: losers still have an incentive to claim fraud and try to get a close election result overturned. Public opinion on the integrity of the election process is volatile, and surveys show losers have less confidence in the fairness of the process than winners do.

And then don’t miss this article from Colorado:, where they are having a great time with 65,000 uncounted absentees and voting machine nightmares. There’s a group, CFVI, Coloradoans for Voting Integrity for more information there. I still get emails from them, but there’s not much online so far.

Arizona Votes No On Vote By Mail

“Prop 205, which would established a new vote-by-mail system, was rejected by more than 72 percent of the voters.”

–From  The Tuscon Weekly.

New editorial on absentee voting from the LA Times,0,5672968.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

For a campaign bulging with cash, these challenges do not pose significant problems. But for one with little money to burn, the rise of the absentee voter is especially problematic. A multi-tiered and precisely timed strategy sustained over a month requires a lot more logistics, planning and scheduling, which necessitates more highly paid professional staff. All this increases the amount of money needed to run an effective campaign, which in turn complicates campaign finance reform, said Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, a nonprofit organization devoted to political reform.

Some political scientists worry that spreading voting over four weeks disperses the public’s attention and diminishes the importance of a centuries-old ritual of going to the polls, a communal act that arguably is a cornerstone of American democracy.

“In an increasingly atomized and fragmented America,” said Curtis Gans of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, “there are probably two major communal acts left — sharing fireworks on the Fourth of July and voting with one’s peers on election day. We sacrifice these vestiges of community at our peril.”

And another article to read:

Bloomberg’s Recent Editorial

The Death of the Polling Place

I took my girlfriend to vote today. The polling place was almost empty. Then I went to vote in another precinct. It too was almost empty. When I put my ballot into the machine, a Diebold Accuvote, the register counted only 118 votes by noon.

Of course many voters are choosing the convenience of voting by mail. It’s easier. It’s convenient. Who cares if it’s secure or accurate? Americans are more than willing to sacrifice Democracy on the altar of convenience. Heck, half the country doesn’t even vote anyway… so the death of the polling place and the end of the secret ballot is the all-too-predictable result. But it is sad to watch. The old folks that typically staff the polling sites are still there, the voters have simply disappeared. And soon the poll sites will disappear as well.

In King County, WA, the county executive Ron Sims has been pushing hard to move the entire region to Vote By Mail (VBM), or forced absentee voting. Our Secretary of State, Sam Reed, is also a staunch supporter of Vote By Mail systems. And the King County Council this spring voted 5 Democrats to 4 Republicans to close most of the polling places in the county. King County, one of very largest counties in the country, is a bell weather for what is to come. All around the country “no-excuse” absentee ballot use is on the rise, as those we elected to safeguard democracy are slowly and steadily dismanteling the traditional safeguards instead.

2006 is sure to be a watershed year for vote by mail problems around the country. Why just across the water from the City of Shoreline where I sit writing, the Eastside’s Congressional Race, Burner versus Reichert, is tied 49% to 49% going to the polls. So we may get a first hand example of just how long elections will drag out when absentee ballot use is high, and the race is too close to call. It wouldn’t be the first time King County’s Election Department  caught national attention. It probably will not be the last.

But the real scope of the problem forced vote by mail systems present didn’t quite strick me until today. I was standing around waiting for my girlfriend to finish voting when I saw King County’s official list of poll sites. The list is the size of a standard rock concert poster with a tiny type font listing a thousand or more poll sites. Browsing that list helped me understand the size and extent of the civic institution called the polling place. It’s a big part of our Democracy with tens of thousands of dedicated volunteers. But if the Ron Sims and Sam Reeds of the world have their way, next year those old people won’t have but one or two polling sites to staff, and in a few short years, the system by which we count votes in this country will have passed away.

Standing there today it was sad to watch, this death of the polling place. From touchscreen voting machines to vote by mail schemes, I can hear the death rattle in the lungs of Democracy. The fight now is is more like CPR, it’s too late for excercise and good diet.

Ohio Law School Article on No Excuse Impact In Ohio

Here’s a good analyis of the potential impacts the expanded “no excuse” absentee will have on Ohio’s race in 2006.

No Vote By Mail Article From 2003

There’s a great article here from 2003 from the former Republican candidate for Governor of Oregon.

The Blackbox Report on Absentee

Just in case I had not linked to it before. Here’s the article from Blackbox taking Absentee Ballots to task.

Interesting how in totally contradicts this article: