The Death of the Polling Place, Island County, WA

Island County, WA, one of the few remaining Washington County’s with a precinct poll-based system, is switching to Vote-By Mail.

Commissioner Mac McDowell was surprised that no meeting attendees spoke in favor of the current system. In fact, the county received only one e-mail praising poll voting.

“It’s sad that we’re ending up here,” he said.

Supporting the election change was a difficult decision, but one the commissioner ultimately made.

Board Chairman Mike Shelton said the most convincing reasoning for switching exclusively to vote-by-mail is the already large percentage of residents who fill out their ballots at home and drop them in the mailbox. However, the commissioner, like his two colleagues, prefers the polling experience.

“I for one am truly an old-style voter and I go to the polls and I like that,” he said. “You see people there that you don’t see often. If I had my druthers, that’s exactly what we would continue to do. However, as my wife often reminds me, I’m getting passed by in a lot of different areas of my life and this appears to be one of them.”

It’s funny to me that all these “leaders” are “following” what they seem to think is public opinion. Leaders should, in my humble opinion, lead. And if the commissioner in Island County was a real leader,  he’d call for a public vote on the issue, and then argue strenuously why the absolute secrecy of the ballot is a consitutional requirement in Washington. He would then explain the many pitfalls of the system, from lost mail to privatized ballot sorting, and work his butt off to educate people about voting integrity. But no… he’s just sad.

I’m outraged.


The “Myth” of Vote Fraud

While Michael Waldman and Justin Levitt opine on “The Myth of Voting Fraud,” in the Washington Post, real voting fraud continues to be prosecuted all around the country. Case in point, Crown Point, Chicago:

CROWN POINT | Two were convicted and sentenced Wednesday for vote fraud in the May 2003 East Chicago primary race. Two others await sentencing.

The Lake County prosecutor’s office said Jose Arroyo, 39, of Hammond, and Mabel Komendat, 44, of Highland, pleaded guilty to voting in East Chicago, although they lived outside that city.

Lake Criminal Court Judge Clarence Murray placed both on one year probation and ordered them to perform 50 hours community service.

Allan “Twig” Simmons, 39, of Hammond, faces nine years in prison when he is sentenced next month by Murray. Simmons pleaded guilty to absentee balloting fraud.

Mario Del Valle, 32, of Hammond, pleaded guilty to voting outside his home precinct. Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas P. Stefaniak Jr. will sentence him April 24.

Some 22 people have been convicted of vote fraud in the 2003 East Chicago primary election.

Now I’m a voting integrity activist, myself. And to me, voting fraud and electioneering are two sides of the same coin. But it is interesting that the typical Republican will concern themselves with “fraud” and the typical Democrat will worry more about “electioneering”. To get to the heart of the issue, voting integrity needs to be about securing the voting system from both electioneering and fraud concerns. Not about partisan bickering, and political manuevering.

Taiwanese Mull Absentee Voting, and China’s Potential Influence On Voters

Th Taipei Times has published a very thought provoking article on Postal Voting. Better than most of the article’s in the US press.

“Worries over China should not be a factor in depriving the public of the right to vote — a basic human right. It is believed that no more than 200,000 taishang [overseas Taiwanese businesspeople] would apply for absentee ballots, a small portion considering a total of 16 million eligible voters,” Chi said.

The Straits Exchange Foundation, a semi-official organization handling cross-strait matters, places the figure at approximately 1 million Taiwanese businesspeople living and working in China.

Another possible consequence of the absentee voting system is that vote-buying, which has long marred Taiwan’s elections, could intensify, said Hung Yung-tai (洪永泰), a professor of politics at National Taiwan University.

Absentee voting corrupts the secret ballot because an absentee ballot may be open for anyone to see, he said.

Vote-buying could become even more prevalent as vote-buyers can check and see absentee voters “stamp the name of the candidate right in front of them” or ask absentee voters “to make a copy of their filled-in ballots” to prove that they voted as directed, Hung said.

New Group to Push VBM Nationally

Brought to my attention by the above blog, it looks like “The New Democracy Project” will be promoting Vote-By Mail nationally.

Notes for Attendees of Tuesday’s Vote-By Mail Presentation

I’m giving a presentation today at the University Heights Center, in Seattle, WA. It’s about Vote-By Mail, of course. So, before I go I am posting some research links, video links, and links to VBM studies, that will be discussed in the presentation. Call it my way of providing easy access to my footnotes for the powerpoint.

Video Links

George Galloway Blasts UK Postal Voting System

Bev Harris show Howard Dean how to Hack the Diebold GEMS tabulator used in King County, WA

Vendors are like family

Studies and Books

John Fund, and the Curtis Gans’ CSAE Report

John Fortier
Absentee and Early Voting

The Carter Baker Report

Election Crimes: An Initial Review and Recommendations for Future Study
US Elections Assistance Commission, 2006

The Impact of Postal Voting on Participation
Evidence For Switzerland

I know I’m missing a few, but must get ready, and will update this post after the presentation with links I’ve forgotten.

Recent Vote-By Mail, Early Voting, and Absentee News

Federal Vote By Mail Legistlation Introduced

WASHINGTON – Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) announced Monday they have introduced legislation to help states transition to vote-by-mail election systems.

S. 979, the Vote Mail Act of 2007 and its House companion, H.R.1667, would create a three year, $18 million grant program to help states adopt vote by mail election systems like the one that Oregon voters have been successfully using for some time now.

Early Voting Could Upend 2008 Primaries

SALEM, Ore. – Early voting poses an under-the-radar challenge to Iowa and New Hampshire’s long-prized status as the first in the nation to decide presidential preferences.

Voters in a number of the states that are circling the Feb. 5 presidential primary date – including California, Oregon and Montana – could begin casting ballots as early as Jan. 5, nine days before the Iowa caucuses.

Paul Gronke, a political science professor at Oregon’s Reed College and the director of the Early Voting Information Center there, said the early voting trends combined with the Feb. 5 primaries are a boon for the “well-funded, well-known campaign. You have to begin your mobilization efforts so much earlier – you simply cannot ignore those absentee voters.”

Vote Buying, Bath County, KY

A federal jury has found County Judge-Executive, Walter Shrout, guilty of conspiracy to buy votes. In the few reports I can find on the subject, it looks like Shrout was the ring leader it a conspiracy to buy votes using an Early Voting System. Bath County residents testified that Shrout, local contractor Roosevelt “Sonny” Swartz or Shrout’s secretary would give them envelopes stuffed with cash to buy votes during the first two weeks in May, when a voting machine was open for voters who were not going to be in the county on May 16. Sonny Swartz has pleaded not guilty to one charge of vote-buying.

During the trial, Carrington said that Anthony “Buck” White, Mike Butcher, Norman Crouch, Belinda Crouch and Steve Crouch — who have all been charged with buying votes — did not tell prosecutors that Shrout was involved in the vote-buying until late October, after the five had suggested that Shrout pay each $100,000 to keep quiet. Shrout instead reported the extortion attempt to the FBI, Carrington said.

The Associated Press accounts do not always mention how Shrout was able to confirm the votes were cast as paid. But this older story does:

About 520 Bath County residents voted absentee in the election in question—more than double the number cast in 2002. Of those 520, nearly half filled out a form saying they needed assistance and brought people into the voting booth with them.

The Bag Man already plead guilty, his name is Maze. So I’m sure that there are court documents that detail the methods somewhere in Kentucky.

Maze went on trial in February on charges that he gave people money to buy votes and for trying to persuade two potential witnesses to lie to federal authorities about his involvement in the vote-buying scheme. During the trial, Maze was arrested on jury-tampering charges. Maze ultimately pleaded guilty to several vote-buying related charges.

Oregon and Other States Mail Service Outsourced?

The following story is from the Beaverton Valley Times in Oregon:

Across the U.S., the Postal Service is experimenting with hiring cut-rate private contractors to deliver your mail. Local postmasters who once had the authority to approve new addresses for delivery service must now get approval from higher-ups. Here in Washington County, mail service for 374 new addresses in the Arbor Park development near Bethany are slated to be contracted out. Additional addresses are being contracted out near Orenco Station.

 I have been learning a lot about Oregon’s system lately, but this was news to me. It’s an interesting new question, are mail ballots handled separetly if your mail system has been privatized?

George Galloway Blasts UK’s Postal Voting System

This is a great speech by George Galloway on the problems seen in the UK since they closed the polls and switched to all mail-in voting.

George Gallow MP delivered a rousing speech to the Commons last night, regarding the hot issue of voting fraud. The erstwhile MP’s take on the subject was received with much agreement, as he debated whether the government’s decision to bring in postal voting on demand has fundamentally undermined the integrity of the voting system.

“It has undermined the secrecy of the ballot and made vote theft extremely easy. The changes recently made by the government do not address the first problem and barely touch the second,” he said.

“The government has claimed that postal voting on demand is to increase voter participation but there is absolutely no evidence for this. The real reason is to make it easier for Labour to organize its core vote and thereby make it easier to win elections. Only the abolition of postal voting on demand will begin to restore the integrity of the system,” he added.

The whole speech is available online, and is well worth the read, as Galloway’s remarks usually are.