The Ongoing Drama of Absentee Voting Problems

Well this case is just a grant example of how irony plays out in the universe, and absentee ballot fraud. In the first case of its kind in the nation, white Republicans are accusing black Democrats of rigging the vote count against whites, apparently for quite some time. How, you may ask? Well using the absentee ballots of course.

While the race issues are beyond the scope of this blog, it is interesting to note that this case could provide another landmark in the mounting evidence that absentee ballots are very insecure and therefore highly prone to fraud. Unlike the Mayor who just admitted and convicted for electing himself using fraudulent absentee ballots, this case shows that not only is fraud by one individual easier with absentee ballots, but in fact outright electioneering becomes possible using absentee ballots. Of course, proponents in Oregon in Washington will continue to claim, as they do now, that there is no evidence of absentee ballot fraud, even when it is fairly overwhelming.

Here’s the link and the relevant highlights:

JACKSON – The Noxubee County voting-rights trial could end today after two weeks of arguments and testimonies in the groundbreaking lawsuit the federal government filed two years ago accusing black Democratic leaders of politically suppressing and intimidating white voters.

The Justice Department alleges Noxubee County whites have been victims of the black Democrats’ “relentless voting-related racial discrimination” through fraud, intimidation and manipulation orchestrated by Brown.

The alleged fraud comes from “a pattern of absentee-ballot misconduct” by Brown that included ordering Democratic poll managers to count bogus votes by blacks and throw out legitimate ones by whites, said Justice Department attorney Christopher Coates.


Oregon We Have a Problem

From older articles:

“There was a case in Oregon recently where a woman traced a dozen or so signatures on a petition. Each signature was examined by a clerk at the elections division and compared to the original signature on the person’s voter’s voter registration card. Every signature was certified as genuine. They weren’t. They were all fraudulent. The woman had traced them from another document, and they only looked genuine. The elections division missed every one of them.

And this:

Since the 1996 May primary, 13 cases of fraud have been prosecuted; convictions were won in five and eight are still pending. So, Oregon has prosecuted and continues to prosecute cases of alleged voter fraud, and the signature authentication system has proven remarkably good at detecting and deterring fraud. Despite the record, this bill says Oregon’s system is not good enough.

More Info, Running Thread

Today comes two more news items from Ohio, the SOS wants to move to VBM for “issues-only” races AND draft poll workers to work the polls like jurors. Isn’t anyone paying attention?…

Florida: Absentee Balloting Problems Predominate
The 2004 presidential elections in Florida once again revealed systemic problems that must be corrected before Florida can be considered to have free and fair elections. Many of the problems, such as votes being rejected from eligible voters who cast a provisional ballot in the wrong precinct, were predictable. But others, such as the massive disfranchisement caused by delays in mailing absentee ballots, were less expected.

Absentee balloting problems on November 2 accounted for 13.4% of all Florida voting incidents recorded in the Election Incident Reporting System — the Election Protection Coalition’s database. The most prevalent type of absentee ballot-related complaint fielded by the ACLU of Florida involved voters who received their absentee ballots too late, or not at all. Other complaints involved confusing postage, return envelope formatting that caused mail delays, and absentee ballots from eligible voters being rejected on hyper-technical terms.

The battle to protect the right to vote in Florida takes place on many fronts, and includes on-going campaigns for voter-verified audit trails for touch-screen voting machines, eliminating the correct precinct requirement for provisional balloting, ensuring proper implementation of voter ID requirements, and more. But the 2004 elections illustrated that protecting the right to vote is an evolving and changing endeavor that requires our continued vigilance.

Article contributed by Courtenay Strickland, American Civil Liberties Union of Florida

Welcome, please say hello

Hi there, just looking at my web stats today. I haven’t been publicizing this blog very often, because it was just getting started, and I wanted to have something for visitors to look. But now that I have a little depth of content, it is probably a good time to start.

I’ve had about 500 visitors so far. So if you do stop by on occasion, I ask two things:

1. If you like the site, oppose VBM and would like to help, or comment, or anything, please say hello. I’m always interested in connecting with allies.

2. If you LOVE Vote-By Mail, and think I am the devil (or not), please tell me why it is you think I’m wrong, and why Vote-By Mail is the best thing since the secret ballot.

NJ Absentee Ballot Stuffing

So the pertinent information:

  • Jose L. Mercado, 20, of South Broad Street in Penns Grove, has been indicted on five counts of forgery, according to court records.
  • In the Penns Grove June Primary, there were 519 absentee ballots requested which officials have stated is an unusually high number for a municipality the size of Penns Grove. Out of those, Jose Mercado was the bearer for 233 of them with 209 of those ballots being counted.
  • In October, Superior Court Judge William Forester ruled in a non-jury trial that the results of the disputed primary election would stand despite what he said was multiple instances of fraud. Forester ruled that there were not enough challenged votes to alter the outcome of the election.
  • Mercado is the third person to be indicted in connection with the investigation into the alleged fraud.

Many the supporter of Vote-By Mail schemes continue to argue that postal voting is safe, secure, less exspensive, and overall good for Democracy. But in just a few months of running this blog, there have been numerous cases and news articles, both in my home State, and Nationally, that continue to contradict these claims. From Mayors of small towns who have confessed to dealing themselves winning elections using absentee ballots, to voter intimidation and coercion, to today’s account of another indictment, it would seem that the case is clear, vote by mail is less safe, less secure, more costly, and bad for Democracy.

The only thing vote by mail schemes really has going for it, is that it seems convenient. And a lot of people are far too willing to sacrafice the sanctity and security of the vote on that altar, for convenience is a very important aspect in Democracy. Who am I to say that things like accuracy and honesty matter more in an election system?

California Declares Mail Ballot Only Precincts

Interesting story from the South, seems some folks are being forced to vote by mail by decree. Who’s decree?

Assessor-County clerk-Recorder Marsha Wharff has added one new polling place, has reinstated a recently closed polling place, and has again confirmed that the Willits Community Center will be a valid, open polling place for the April 3 special election.

In a recent statement, Wharff again defended her decision to reduce the number of polling places in the county and to declare many precincts where formerly there were polling places as mail ballot only precincts.

Absentee Ballot Fraud Allegations and other News, 1/24/2007

“According to a post office worker in Bryson City, County Commissioner Chairman Glenn Jones came into the post office on at least three occasions prior to the November election with a stack of absentee ballots to be mailed. It is illegal for anyone other than the voter or the voter’s near family member to be in possession of their absentee ballots, even for the purpose of mailing them.”

“In the first lawsuit of its kind in the United States, the Department of Justice is accusing black political leaders in majority-black Noxubee County of discriminating against white voters.”

Absentee ballot affect in the Cherokee elections. Interesting the affect large groups of absentee voters have on small populations. Offers the question, how long should we be allowed to vote when we no longer live somewhere?

Well this article is really about cost, not fraud. But it does show the lie underlying the oft made point that Vote By Mail systems are cheaper than precinct based poll systems. They are not. The evidence is mounting.

Absent Without Leave

Perhaps the best editorial yet about the trends in absentee voting, and the risks. A must read.

Vote By Mail, Not Cheaper, No Suprise

An analysis of Snohomish County’s switch last year to all-mail ballots shows elections are costing about the same.

“Right now, it’s cost neutral,” said county Auditor Carolyn Diepenbrock, former election manager. “Vote-by-mail is not cheaper.”

Then later in the same article:

In general, costs have shifted from paying workers to buying materials and paying vendors to print, sort and mail ballots.

So, to be clear, instead of volunteers and county workers getting paid to accurately count our votes at the precinct, now we pay PSI Group more money to print, sort, and buy more materials. Sounds like what us anti-VBM critics have been saying all along.

Prosecuting Honest Voters Does Not Restore My Confidence In Forced Mail Voting

Today’s editorial from Whidbey Island’s Newspaper, the News-Times, is fairly interesting, and recaps the case of a mother who illegally voted for her daughter, a daughter who consented to the act, and a mother who now faces more than 2k in fines, and a criminal record. The editorial in closing poses this hypothesis:

It was an unfortunate lesson that proved costly for one woman, but if it helps restore public confidence in our electoral system then something good came out of the process.

This answer of course is no… no it does not restore the public’s confidence. A confidence that has been eroded by inept public officials, the privatization of our vote counting system, and the new proposal to take away the Secret Voting Booth all together by moving to Forced Vote By Mail Systems throughout the State.

No, this woman’s vote just exemplifies one of the many problems inherent in vote by mail systems–the fact that other people can vote for you! Restoring the secret ballot booth is the way to solve this problem, because the voting booth is a key element in making secret ballots secret. Prosecuting someone who was only following the actual instructions of the voter herself, does not restore my confidence in a system that is broken in so many other notable ways. In fact, if the woman’s daughter were simply to have said it WAS her signature, the vote would have counted. The only reason this woman is paying the price for illegally voting for her daughter is that both her and her daughter were…. HONEST, and a system that prosecutes the HONEST is one that I don’t trust.

If you want to restore public confidence in our Voting System here in Washington you have to start elsewhere. You could start by supporting a ban on private corporate controlled voting machines, like Diebold, or privately corporately controlled ballot sorting companies, like PSI Group. You could also support the removal from office of the politicians who have sold us down this river in the first place. From Sam Reed to Ron Sims, this has been a bipartisan era of dismanteling many of the protections we used to enjoy in Washington State. So getting back to a system we can trust will require their bipartisan replacement with people who understand why we used to vote at our precincts, on secret paper ballots, in secret voting booths, and the vote was counted by hand at the precinct by members of the public.

Anything less is unacceptable.

Anti-VBM Ds and Rs in the News

This is a very intersting article from last year:

Once upon a time, one of America’s top election officials issued a warning about the dangers of absentee ballot voter fraud, which is the type of fraud that the new version of the Georgia voter law makes easier.

“As more and more states have relaxed their rules for casting mail-in ballots, absentee ballots have become ‘the tool of choice for those who are engaging in election fraud,'” wrote the official who’s now an appointee to the Federal Election Commission. “Absentee ballots also make vote buying easier because buyers can make sure that the votes ‘stay bought.'”

Now, this wasn’t some whiny Atlanta liberal criticizing the revised version of Georgia’s voter ID bill, which the Republicans rammed through the General Assembly last week like niblets through a goose.

No, it was none other than local-boy-made-good Hans A. von Spakovsky, who used to run a law office and consulting company out of his Sandy Springs house. At the time, he also served on the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections and headed the Fulton County Republican Party.

After the Bush ascendancy, von Spakovsky was named counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights in the U.S. Justice Department. And, then, on Jan. 4 of this year, President Bush named von Spakovsky to the FEC.

Ok, so that’s pretty interesting… but even more interesting, the Democrat opposing Georgia’s Voter ID law, from the same article:

One of the most concerned is Secretary of State Cathy Cox, who kicked off her campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination last week. She notes that the most common source of election fraud in Georgia, for many years, has been absentee ballots.

“Time after time, our elections investigators and the State Elections Board have investigated allegations involving the mishandling, theft or other improper use of absentee ballots,” Cox said in an e-mail to CL.

“When the General Assembly considered this legislation last year, we warned of its potential for greatly expanding opportunities for the kinds of real frauds we see in nearly every election — those involving absentees. When a ballot leaves the supervision and control of an election official, any number of bad things can happen, including vote buying and selling, voter intimidation, ballot theft and tampering.”

Interesting stuff from Georgia… the land of 100% Diebold machines.