Pierce County Sacrifices Polling Places for Forced Vote By Mail Absentee Voting

If you have some time, and oppose VBM like I do, drop a letter to the editor to your local paper about Vote-by Mail. And if you need someplace to start, start with this:

Pierce County whacks polls
Low turnout forces closure of 40 percent of voting places, auditor says

SEAN COCKERHAM; The News Tribune

Published: July 28th, 2007 01:00 AM

Pierce County is shutting down nearly 40 percent of its polling places and forcing some voters to mail in their ballots for the first time.Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy said this week that the ax is falling on polling places with low turnout.

“It just doesn’t make sense, when you have such a very, very low turnout, to deploy people and machines,” said McCarthy, who is in charge of running elections in Pierce County.

The changes will be in place for the Aug. 21 primary. Letters went out this month informing voters who are being switched to a different polling place or who must now vote by mail.

Pierce County Councilman Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, said he’s received calls and e-mails from about a dozen people who are mad about the closures.

Muri said he used to be a proponent of mail balloting until McCarthy and others convinced him that closing the polling places doesn’t save any money. He said he is not sure what McCarthy is up to now.

“She hasn’t kept us in the loop at all,” Muri said.

There’s a lot of “talk” about forced mail voting increasing turn-out. But not much evidence to back it up. However, there’s considerable evidence that Vote-by Mail increases the potential error rate of the system through lost mail, signature “verification”, and computer counting glitches.

So another county in Washington drops the axe on the Secret Ballot. Oh well, at least a dozen people complained:

John Campbell of DuPont wasn’t happy to hear that he has no choice now but to vote by mail.

“I’ve always voted at the polls and wanted to continue voting at the polls,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fair to force me to be voting by mail.”

Campbell said he thinks this is a step in forcing everyone in the county to vote by mail.

Campbell’s polling place, at Chloe Clark Elementary, is actually staying open. He’s being told to go to mail voting because he’s part of a precinct that has only a handful of registered voters, county elections officials said.

Poll workers have to manage multiple sets of ballots at each polling place based on which water district, fire district, etc., the voter lives in. It’s not efficient to do so for precincts with few voters, elections officials said.

Oh, yeah, I forgot how efficient Vote-By Mail is… where it used to take say, one day to count 4000 votes, last year in Montana it took 10 days to count just under 4000 votes using a Vote-By Mail system. While in Seattle’s last Vote-By Mail system votes kept coming in for two weeks after the election.


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Barack Obama Targets Vote Banking through Vote By Mail in California

Not only did Barack Obama and John Kerry co-sponsor the Ron Wyden vote-by mail scheme in 2007, but now Barack Obama has a PAC helping him raise money in California. This PAC, while apparently getting Barack around some pesky fundraising limit laws, will also be targeting California’s Vote-by Mail system in order to “bank votes” for Obama before election day.

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2007/07/21/pac_tries_new_tactic_to_boost_obama_run/

In fact, the organizers said, only the PAC will work explicitly for an Obama victory by getting Californians to register and vote by mail starting Jan. 9 , and have 500,000 Obama votes “in the bank” by the primary on Feb. 5.

Obama is apparently not a big fan of the secret ballot. But then again neither is John Kerry or Ron Wyden. I should research the votes on that bill, just to find out who IS a friend of the secret ballot in the Senate…

Hand Counted Paper Ballots for 2008?

This article examines the nature of a precinct hand counted paper ballot systems:

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0707/S00288.htm

One of the better break-downs of the HCBP (hand-counted paper ballot) system that I have seen to date.

Let’s all vote by mail, just like…Texas

I’ve been arguing with Oregonians lately over on Blackboxvoting.org, who love their vote by mail system. Well, I’m a King County, WA voter and I’d say as a voting integrity activist that I fear Vote-by Mail will produce problems like this overtime:

http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/mail_78573___article.html/ballot_county.html

Caught in the Act

Last month, five Starr and Hidalgo county residents were indicted of voter fraud on allegations of conducting an illegal mail-in ballot scheme, according to a press release from the Texas Attorney General’s Office. The five allegedly of used false addresses and the names of nonexistent Starr County voters to illegally obtain voter registration cards.

By obtaining voter registration cards, they were able to complete mail-in application ballots and vote in the 2006 primary elections.

The group faces more than 50 counts of processing the ballot of another person without consent, the Attorney General’s Office reported.

Postmaster General Adresses National Association of Secretaries of State

Interesting press release today from the United State’s Postal Service, titled, “Postmaster General Discusses ’Vote By Mail’ at Conference”:

Portland, OR — Mail can play an important role in helping citizens chose their elected officials and the U.S. Postal Service has resources officials need to create Vote by Mail programs.

Those were the two main points shared by Postmaster General John E. Potter during a keynote address at the National the Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) summer meeting here. Stressing proven experience, commitment and available resources, Potter said the Postal Service is a ready partner in states’ efforts to reach voters and conduct elections through the mail.

Then later in the same document, the press release states:

The Postal Service plays no role in how elections are carried out in the United States, although it is fully authorized to inform and educate election officials about available USPS products and services.

Uh-huh, ok, then why do a press release at all? Maybe the press release tells us more?

The Postal Service also created 90-minute, customized training sessions for election officials. “Election Mail: tips, Tools and Tactics for Successful Mailing” is presented by postal representatives with a depth of knowledge and understanding of election mail and designed to address specific needs, challenges and laws specific to individual cities and counties across the country. To date, more than 1,500 officials have completed the training.

“The Postal Service recognizes the vital role that mail plays in the American democratic process. We are committed to providing election officials with the information necessary to meet their election mail needs,” Potter said. “We have always been proud of our role in binding a great nation together and we are pleased that we can strength this role by our participation in voting by mail.”

Ok, so I think I’ve got the idea. The Post Master address the NASS conference, gives the KEYNOTE speech, but is really just there because it’s his job. Not because he supports the national movement towards forced mail voting. No never. The Post Master is obviously above politics.

Dave Ross – Kiro Radio Monday Morning

I was on Kiro 710 yesterday talking about Vote-By Mail in King County, the link is here for the archived episode:

http://sea.bonnint.net/0716davehour2.mp3

I’m on about the last 10 minutes of the second hour, linked above.

Here’s my Cliff Notes for King County and Washington listeners:

1. Why Vote By Mail is a bad idea:

– It gets rid of a truly secret ballot, one that is behind the voting booth curtain, or away from prying eyes

– It gets rid of the precinct system which is the People, running elections, not the post office or Diebold, or other private non-transparent systems.

– It is subject to the error rates of the post office and lost mail

– It is the total privitzation of the system, from voting machine software, to ballot handeling… vote-by mail is the final nail in the coffin of democracy

2. What has happened in King County recently?

– New regional centers will only have Diebold touch screens

– New Diebold equipment is being purchased, specifically high-speed ballot scan equipment that supposedly won’t work with King County’s Diebold folded ballots, as reported by activists, like Elizabeth Walter, Jason Aaron Osgood, and others…

3. Vote counting actually will take longer, and replace Voting Day with Voting Month

Specifically, I have reported exstensively within this blog, NOVBM, about the problems with Vote Counts taking longer in Washington State. And votes coming in for weeks after the election, in both Seattle’s recent special election… as well as the Darcy Burner and Dave Reichert Race. Nationally, the most glaring example was in Montana were about 4,000 votes took, I seem to recall, about a month to count.

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Montana’s Secret Ballot Increasingly Endangered Species

It appears that as with Idaho, Montana’s Secret Ballot is under assault by the Vote-By Mail enthusiasts. Close the polls. Save money. It’s convenient. Voter’s love the convenience of absentee ballots. It’s a paper ballot. The mantra is infectious.

Will your state succumb? Will your political representatives at the council level fight for the preservation of the secret ballot through poll -based precinct systems, or will he or she sponsor legislation like this:

The Laurel City Council approved a resolution to provide for the use of mail-in ballots for the city general election Nov. 6 at its last regular meeting held July 3.

Montana Code Annotated provides for the mail ballot elections as an option to local officials in section 13-19-104. They are used primarily for municipal elections and school elections.

http://www.laureloutlook.com/articles/2007/07/11/news/02election.txt

The article highlights all the major talking points like, VBM increases turnout, that a hybrid system is somehow overtly too costly, that polling place elections are problematic. Yadda yadda yadda…

But the author does include this nice tidbit for anyone paying close attention:

The mail ballots will be counted using counting machines like they are now. Other election issues such as recounts would continue to be conducted in the same manner as they are now.

As always, Vote-By Mail, sold as the solution to Touchscreen voting is still counted by proprietary computers in the scheme being launched in Montana, according to the article. The lesson, as I try to point out whenever I have the floor, is that voting integrity is about a multitude of issues, complex, and inter-related. However, a main thing to always consider is who actually controls the system?

Is it the voting machine companies with their secret software? Is it the post office, controlling millions of ballots? Or is Democracy still in the literal “hands-of-the people” at a precinct-based polling place located right near your house or apartment somewhere?

Getting rid of the precinct system is what Vote-By Mail is actually about. Privatization is the problem, not the solution. The United States Postal System is not the same thing as the “Precinct System Polling Place”, and when you change this, you will change Democracy at large.