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.

Colorado Editorial: Ripe for Fraud

It seems to me that there’s a growing concern about this here plan to push vote by mail on the national front. I hear the drums. The drums of the backlash against vote by mail schemes is growing every day.

Anway, here’s a new editorial, ahem… opposed to vote-by mail by the Pueblo Chieftain:

City Clerk Gina Dutcher said mail balloting is slightly cheaper than operating polling places. But even if there are some cost savings, we believe it is still a civic duty to show up at one’s precinct polling place on election day to cast your ballot. The additional cost, which our country has borne for more than two centuries, is the price of the democratic process.

We’re reminded of the elections in Iraq where huge numbers of people showed up at polling places to vote despite threats of slaughter by insurgents. After having cast their ballots, those Iraqis proudly displayed their purple-inked fingers which showed they had voted.

We’re also reminded of the first election in which black South Africans had the franchise. Many stood in miles-long lines for hours for the privilege of voting.

Besides the civic duty aspect of going to the polls, we’re fearful that mail ballots are ripe for voter fraud. During the discussion at City Hall, Councilman Mike Occhiato expressed the same concern.

Read the whole article at the Chieftain.com. Which shows that 140 years in the newspaper business means that you both know a thing or two about the news business, like maybe registering that domain name years ago?… and it seems also that you know a thing or two about the Secret Ballot.

Well Colorado, here’s hoping you keep up the good fight.

The Seattle Weekly on I-25

After talking to the press, you really never know what is going to come out in the story. So after talking with Seattle Weekly reporter, Sean Ludwig, a few days back, I’d been watching for the story to come out on I-25. Well it finally did, and was totally spot on. In fact, the title alone was golden.

Initiative 25 Has the County’s Democrats Lining Up to Oppose . . . More Democracy

Ask citizens if they want more control over the people who run their government, and most will reply in the affirmative. Kurt Triplett agrees with this notion, and it has him a little worried.

Triplett, who is King County Executive Ron Sims’ chief of staff, insists that for the greater good of King County, the director of the county’s Records, Elections, and Licensing Services Division (i.e., the director of elections) needs to remain an appointed position, not an elected one. Enter the boosters of Initiative 25, who have collected 74,000 signatures—well over the 54,000 required to trigger council consideration—in support of putting the issue of whether to have an elected director of elections to a public vote.

Read the entire article here, on the Seattle Weekly’ Website. My initial reaction was that the King County Democratic leadership is spinning this as a partisan issue. And until we, as I-25 supporters, can get a few more King County Democrats to support the issue publicly, Brian Sonntag’s name alone won’t counter that spin, even though support for I-25 runs high.

Has anyone asked Jean Godden?

Diebold Dazzles (King County) Democrats

Zappinni has written lately on Washblog about King County’s reckless plan to switch to highspeed vote tabulation systems, ballot tracking, using all the bells and whistles of Diebold’s Vote-by Mail solution and VoteHere’s ballot tracking software. Problem is, King County is one of the largest county’s in the country and using it as Diebold’s “test case” seems both illegal (according to state law), and just silly. While the use of VoteHere’s ballot tracking software should be illegal.

Reckless Plan: Diebold Dazzles Democrats

Below are my observations from yesterday’s King County Council’s meeting of the Committee of the Whole. The main agenda item was discussion of the Executive’s business cases for “highspeed ballot tabulation” and “ballot accountability and tracking”. Diebold reps were on hand to help close the sale. I lead with a section on questions unasked. Then I have personal commentary on each of the actors in this play. Sorry for the length, but I’ve got a lot to say.

Read the lengthy details here, on Washblog.