More research shows vote by mail systems do NOT increase turnout

Over at Election Updates, we find another study that shows what many of the other studies of mail-in voting systems have shown… Voting By Mail does NOT increase turnout in general elections. It may increase turnout in smaller, special elections specific to local elections:

Drawing on data from a large sample of California counties in two general elections, we find that voting by mail does not deliver on the promise of greater participation in general elections. In fact, voters who are assigned to vote by mail turn out at lower rates than those who are sent to a polling place. Analysis of a sample of local special elections, by contrast, indicates that voting by mail can increase turnout in these otherwise low-participation contests.


King County Executive, Ron Sims, Contracts to Buy Ballot Tracking Vaporware

In the funniest turn of events in King County Elections Department yet…. Ron Sims terrible plan to move to all forced mail voting was derailed by Jason Aaron Osgood, when Jason (aka Zappini) pointed out that the one of companies that was part of the county’s plan, VoteHere, is actually out of business. Read the whole story for the gloriously tragic details of how stupid our King County Council, Elections Department, and Executive can be:

The numbers (cost) being thrown around are complete nonsense. The $345,000 for VoteHere discussed in council yesterday is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also a $750,000 set up fee, to copy names from one database to another. And using the system will cost an estimated $1,320,000 per year, as explained below. The costs are so high, that existing counties (customers) have asked the legislature in Olympia for relief (The Olympian, May 29, 2007). Fortunately, that request was rejected.

Every time we’ve reported that VoteHere’s MiBT doesn’t actually work, our elections officials have been shocked, shocked, by this news. Alternately, they claim the problems experienced in San Juan County aren’t a concern for King County. It’s the same product! With the same flaws! Huff’s rationale is no different from Huenneken’s dismissing *EVERYONE’s* conclusion that Diebold touchscreens are fatally flawed: King County is different; we know better.

And of course, it appears that VoteHere is no longer in business. The phones are off. The website is down. Election Trust announced a reseller agreement, which looks more like a buyout. And the investor chat boards have rumors that founder Jim Alder has moved to another startup, along with his core programmers. Leaving the questions: Who will support the product? Who will fix (the obvious) bugs?

This will not go well for John Kerry

File this under ask a silly question get tasered and led away in handcuffs in reply:

“Andrew Meyer, after asking questions to John Kerry, was shut up by Accent Speakers Bureau, and then escorted by UF police. Student tried to evade arrest, and then was subdued. The student said he would leave, but was handcuffed, and then subsequently tased.” –From the YouTube Description

Now, obviously this kid was resisting arrest, but it appears to me in the second video that six officers already have this kid in handcuffs. Maybe it’s just me, but 6 officers should not need to run 40,000 volts of electricity through 1 non-cooperative college student to get him subdued, particularly after they already have him in handcuffs. And besides, it’s not like Kerry hasn’t already answered his questions. As John Kerry was already doing when they started to arrest this kid. Kerry proceeds to talk about the necessity to concede the next day, and then repeats his line that, “I had 30,000 lawyers ready to fight a close election.”

Hmm, it’s like Yogi Bera said, “This is like deja vu all over again.”

Hanky Panky In Union Vote-By Mail Scheme

I get a lot of good emails from Paul Lehto on voting integrity issues, including this:

Ballots returned in union election as undeliverable were diverted say prosecutors in election fraud scheme in Teamsters local election. Federal Criminal charges filed against leaders of Teamsters for ’04 election stealing.,CST-NWS-TEAMSTERS08.article

In this case the Teamsters officials were the equivalent/analogue of elections officials mailing absentee or “vote by mail” ballots.

Yesterday’s link was also from Paul. If you haven’t heard of Mr. Lehto, well I suggest you start reading

Can a County Go After a Voting Machine Company to Recover Loses?

Intelliscan, Inc. Just Another Company Trying to Take Over Democracy?

Who are they, and what do they do? I just found that this company is buying keyword ads for “Vote-By Mail” searches on Google. Intelliscan apparently wants to be a player in the emerging field of online voting (a very bad idea). But they also claim to do work in the Vote-By Mail industry. I don’t know what states or counties use any of their services, but their website states:

Intelliscan’s printed election services include:

  • Database management
  • Election ballot design and printing
  • Printing of mailing pieces including cover letters, candidate statements and envelopes
  • Complete mailing services including postal sorts
  • Receipt and processing of ballot returns utilizing Optical Scanning
  • On-time, customized reporting of election results

Apparently they are based out of Pheonixville, PA. And with so little info on their website… it’s going to take a little work to track down who runs the company. Anyone who has more info on them, feel free to post it in the comments below. What I have found so far is that they mostly work for organization and corporations running internal elections. I have yet to see if they are involved in governmental elections currently. Thanks.

The Election is in the Mail… Day 14

So two weeks after the election, and today finally marks a turning point for King County. It is the first day since the primary where the number of ballots received in one day dropped below the margin of victory for Christine Gregiore in 2004.  That margin of victor was officially 133 votes. Today, the election department only received 41 new ballots. Incidentally, the first machine recount gave Dino Rossi a 42 vote victory.

With just 1/3rd of the voters voting in the primary, I expect that the general election could get awful messy again this year. But what do I know, I just spent 2003 and early 2004 predicting the train wreck that became the 2004 Governor’s debacle election.

Some Democrats Reject Forced Vote-By Mail

Other Interesting Vote-by Mail Videos….
This video is a first person narrative account of voting in Oregon’s Vote-by Mail system. I really liked the narrator’s term “paper trace” in the place of what voting activists would usually call a “paper ballot”. It is a nice Freudian slip because an absentee ballot is basically just that… a paper trace. Almost like a paper trail, but not quite as substantial, and never once referred to as a “ballot”.
This video a promotional video for Oregon’s system. Talk about a chain of custody nightmare, this video shows just how bad it is. Their John and Jane couple exemplifies the silliness of the secrecy envelope as well. The whole system is just ridiculous. How I love Youtube. I’ve been arguing about this stuff for months but this video is like nothing I had ever imagined. It takes a 7 minute video just to get through the slick explanation of the new Vote-by Mail system in one County. The best part is the damaged ballot reference and the open admission that Optical Scan computers are still used during the counting. It’s like the borg controlling the whole process… just try and count the number of computers or chain-of-custody hand-offs that take place during the video. I tried… uh??? The video ends with an upbeat message about how popular voting by mail is! Nothing in the whole video discusses accuracy, security, or secrecy… oh, except those secrecy/security envelopes.

Vote by mail increases turnout?

From Arizona, the State that rejected Vote-by Mail when the people voted on it last year:
On Aug. 9, the Maricopa County Elections Department mailed nearly 40,000 ballots to Surprise’s registered voters. As of Friday, the department had received almost 8,000 of them, or roughly 20 percent.

According to the article:

During the last mayoral election, in March 2003, about 34 percent of eligible voters turned out. The City Clerk’s Office has anticipated this year would have a greater yield because it is the first mayoral election using the vote-by-mail system, adopted by the City Council in 2004.

Hmm, a 14% decrease?