Harvard’s Ben Adida on Vote By Mail and the Secret Ballot

I just ran accross a great editorial on Benlog.com , which I read somewhat regularly now. Ben’s a postdoc at Harvard who admits to reading No Vote By Mail occasionally. Anyway, his recent analysis of the fight over the secret ballots at the union level and the fight over the secret ballot in absentee and vote-by mail schemes is great…. So I’m going to quote it at length:

[Link To Full Article at Benlog.com]

And on a completely different note (this juxtaposition is only about interesting election tidbits), Bob Gibbons, head of the Massachusetts Hospital Association, argues in a Boston Globe editorial, that a new bill going through Congress and another going through the Massachusetts House threaten the secret ballot of Union elections, thus coercing employees to vote for a particular Union who may not, in the end, truly represent the employees. This is fascinating, but it is especially interesting to see Bob begin with:

We wouldn’t think about holding an election for any office, from school committee to president of the United States, without the protection of a secret ballot.

Well…… we only started thinking about it in 1892, really, which is important to note. And because of the recent evolution of state election laws, we do have 40+% of Californians, 50+% of Washingtonians, and 100% of Oregonians voting by mail, which does amount, in fact, to “holding an election without the protection of a secret ballot.”

Of course, I’m not arguing against the Secret Ballot. I think it’s a wonderful and necessary thing. But we need to be aware that there’s a serious effort in this country to undermine the secret ballot, sometimes consciously, sometimes not. The secret ballot is not so natural anymore. We need to realize how crazy this mail-in voting tendency is becoming, and how dramatically bad the situation may get if we don’t stop for a moment to think about what happens when your spouse, your parent, your church, your union, your office, can ask you how you voted, lean over your shoulder and check, organize some kind of “ballot filling-out party”, or find some other subtle way to coerce you.

The secret ballot is a crucial piece of our democracy, and too many people, not just the unions, have forgotten it.


King County’s Wreckless Plan to Switch To Vote-By Mail

Two blogs covered the topic today, but I thought it would be wise to add links to NOVBM, starting with Zappini’s analysis here:


“Summoned by a seemingly skeptical County Council, and flanked by their Diebold masters, a few brave King County Elections officials gamely defended their Executive’s reckless plans to completely overhaul our vote counting systems. Serving as our nation’s beta test site for completely new, untested, uncertified software and hardware requires sacrifice.

Gone will be our award winning procedures for mail ballot processing.

Gone will be our battle hardened system for central count tabulation.

Mostly regrettably, gone too will be any remaining voter confidence that our elections are legitimate and accurate.

But this must be done. Diebold, VoteHere, Pitney-Bowes, and ParaScript have shareholders and investors to appease. The free market demands that we enrich these corporations. Other overly cautious counties have not endangered their elections as they should. Caving into the Executive’s reckless plan sets a precedent, which will facilitate coercing these other cowardly counties to get with the program.”

Here’s more background info:



More Absentee Votes Might Not Count Due to County Errors

In the ongoing drama of voters being disenfranchised by absentee ballots going out late, here’s another new story from around the Country on the same theme:


However, the ballots weren’t printed and mailed on schedule. For starters, the state hadn’t certified a candidate on the ballot, which meant the county couldn’t print the ballot. Then another delay occurred when an error was discovered.

It meant instead of ballots being mailed on a Monday, some didn’t go out until that Friday.

Take the Last Train to Clarksville, and Don’t forget to Vote

This story pretty much speaks for itself. The Vote By Mail Project, and absentee voting enthusiasts continue to push the argument that “no-excuse absentee” voting increases turnout. Regardless of the facts, multiple studies, or continuing cases in reality that expose the truth… No Excuse Absentee Ballots, and Vote-By Mail systems simply do not increase turnout.


A 60 percent drop

In 2003, there were 720 absentee ballot applications, while there were only 281 this time around — a more than 60 percent decrease.

Those records go against the recent trends, said County Clerk Keith Groth, whose office oversees Voter Registration. Throughout the county, absentee voting is becoming a more popular method of casting a ballot, he said. It’s unusual for there to be such a decline.

Groth, however, attributes the trend to a decline in contested races between the two years. In 2003, there were six contested races in Clarksville. Four years later in 2007, there were only two.

More on Kentucky Absentee Ballot Fraud

The following story is fairly interesting. Follow the link for full details. Looks like the court has overturned the election on the basis of absentee ballot fraud conducted by the incumbent.

From the Courier-Journal, KY:

Lowe claimed Scott mailed at least 13 absentee ballot applications labeled with campaign stickers and improperly stowed the electronic absentee ballot voting machine in her personal office, according to the ruling.

Scott acknowledged mailing the absentee ballot applications with the campaign stickers, but denied any wrongdoing.

“She was using her office to get an improper political advantage in a way that a challenger could not,” said Jonathan Hieneman, Lowe’s attorney.

Granny Farming of Absentee Ballots in NJ

Well, I don’t really know if the accussed is guilty or innocent. But what I do know is that Granny Farming is not possible without the use of absentee ballots.


Garcia has accused McCann of duping nearly 300 “incompetent or otherwise elderly and ill” residents at four nursing homes to vote for him.

Hmm… Absentee Ballots useful for fraud… who would have thought it?

Election Day registration makes sense…VBM not so much

An interesting editorial from Massachusettes:

Gatehouse News Service

The age in which every citizen considered voting a solemn obligation is long past. People vote inconsistently, especially people who have recently moved. They forget the rules, the polling places and that bureaucratic requirement that they register to vote at least 20 days before Election Day.

By the time the election comes around, these people may be fired up to cast their ballots, which is no surprise. Fifty percent of campaign advertising is done in the last week of the campaign. But if you’re not registered, you can’t vote — at least not here in Massachusetts.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In six states — Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Idaho, New Hampshire and Iowa — would-be voters can register on Election Day. They just bring the same type of identification required the rest of the year, and an elections clerk can certify the form and let them vote. Massachusetts should be added to the list of states enacting this commonsense reform.

Critics worry about voter fraud, but there’s no evidence unscrupulous voters have taken advantage of Election Day registration. Other procedures, like mail-in registration and absentee voting, are easier targets for fraud. And for all the hand-wringing in some political circles — some of it self-serving — the problem isn’t people voting more than once; the problem is people not voting at all.

Hmm… the editorialists points out that absentee voting is more likely to be subject to fraud than Election Day registration. While I tend to agree, it would be important to find real stats on this. Obviously the current state of election stats is such that it won’t settle the question soon.

But at the core the sentiment of this article is on the money, IMHO.