Did you already vote by mail? Well it’s too late to change your mind now…

When people Vote-by Mail, often they vote before all the information on candidates has come to light. In Seattle, we currently have multiple candidates who have run afoul of the law of late…. after the ballots were mailed! And drunk driving charges are only the half of it.

The other half? Ethics violations, by big name contenders, that have only just begun to come to light… read all about it at Blog for King County, here.

Calendar part 1

Calendar part 2

Calendar part 3

Other good sources of information about the newly revealed ethics violations by Seattle City Council member Jean Godden are available from The Paper Noose, here, here, here, here, and here

More Absentee Ballot Fraud

Another day, another case of vote fraud using absentee ballots… dateline England:

Seven people have been charged with postal ballot fraud at the last General Election, police said.

The seven will appear in court next month charged with conspiracy to defraud.

No personal details of the alleged offenders have been released by police.

Each one is charged with conspiracy to defraud the returning officer in Bradford.

West Yorkshire Police said that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) recommended charges following a joint probe with the city’s returning officer into “voting patterns and postal votes”.

England’s runaway success with Vote-by Mail is becoming clearer day-by-day:

During the May 2005 election, former Bradford returning officer Philip Robinson referred 252 cases of possible election fraud to the police. In April 2006, West Yorkshire Police passed files on 11 men and two women to the CPS following its investigation in Bradford.

Expanding and Improving Opportunities to Commit Vote By Mail Fraud

John C. Fortier, the author of a recent book on absentee and early voting, recently testified before the House Election Subcommittee on H.R. 281, H.R. 1646, and H.R. 1667. The whole testimony is well worth the read, but here’s a choice cut:

If I were testifying before a state legislature, I would urge caution in expanding absentee and vote by mail programs for many of the reasons stated above. Absentee and mail voting is convenient and liked by many voters, but it comes with a cost, especially the loss of the privacy of the ballot and additional opportunities for voter fraud. I would also note that states have many options to improve the convenience of elections that do not involve expanding mail or absentee ballots.

First, I would recommend that states significantly improve the convenience of voting on Election Day. I would recommend longer voting hours, better poll worker training, better siting of more accessible polling places. States might also consider adopting Election Day vote centers or super centers as several counties in Colorado have tried. These vote centers allow voters to cast ballots at any location in their county, not just their home polling places. Early academic research has shown that these vote centers do increase turnout and attract new voters to the process.

Vote by Mail Fraud, You Don’t Say

Well here’s a shocker, from Texas no less:

http://www.statesman.com/news/content/gen/ap/TX_Commissioner_Resigns.html

Refugio County Commissioner resigns, admits to voter fraud

A Refugio County commissioner resigned Tuesday and acknowledged his role in a voter fraud scheme involving mail-in ballots that helped him get elected in 2006, officials said.

Raymond Villarreal, 57, pleaded guilty to a felony count of tampering with a governmental document and a misdemeanor count of wrongful possession of a ballot.

District Judge W.W. Kilgore sentenced Villarreal to 90 days in county jail, 300 hours of community service and $2,500 in fines. If he violates terms of a five-year probation, he could get sent to state prison for two years.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office said Villarreal got county residents to sign mail-in ballot applications, but had those applications sent to his supporters. After the ballots were filled out indicating a vote for Villarreal, he had the original applicants sign them.

Now somehow Vote-by Mail supporters all claim that this just won’t be a problem in THEIR state. Hmmm… I personally think it’s only a matter of time.

Election Law @ Maritz College of Law

Here’s another great editorial I missed sometime in the past about Ohio’s recent expansion of their absentee ballot system:

http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/electionlaw/comments/2006/060328.php
The problem with absentee ballots is that they are not necessarily secret. Anyone can be “invited” to watch or assist a voter to fill one out, sitting at the kitchen table. In politics, with this possibility comes the temptation to exploit it for the benefit of one’s campaign.

If anyone doubts this truth, one need only look at the record of reported cases that detail this form of abuse. Here’s three, all taken from 2004. They are merely representative of countless more.

First, from Illinois, is Qualkinbush v. Skubisz. These two candidates were running for mayor of Calumet City. Skubisz received 24 votes more than Qualkinbush, 2542 to 2518, but it turned out that 38 absentee voters received improper assistance from one of Skubisz’s campaign operatives, Michael Kaszak. As the court described the evidence, “Kaszak admitted taking absentee ballot applications to voters, helping fill them out, placing applications in envelopes, providing stamps to voters, and mailing applications.”

Rarely do I find an editorial that is as spot-on as this one. I especially like the closing lines:

Perhaps Ohio will be successful in avoiding more problems of this sort even as it expands significantly the use of absentee voting.

But if it turns out that there is an increased incidence of absentee ballot abuse, with the collateral consequence that more election results are challenged as invalid because of such abuse, it cannot be said that these problems were unexpected.

But what does this guy Edward Foley know about elections anyway? Probably just another cracked pot blogger like myself.

E-voting vs Absentee Voting, Paper, Plastic, Or Silicone and Electrons

Here’s a story from 2004 that is worth reading as it outlines many of the different sides of the debate in voting integrity issues. But this story is the number one hit on Google for the keyword search, “problems with absentee voting.” Apparently for this lone statement:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4274389/

He said the debate over e-voting was taking attention away from the voter registration “mess” and potential abuses associated with absentee voting. “I happen to believe that there are more problems with absentee balloting than all these other things put together,” Selker said.

“The No Vote By Mail Project” currently ranks 5th for the same keyword search. Hmm… I guess I’ll need to work on that. Maybe I’ll try to get MSNBC to let me write a guest editorial? Anyway, it’s a good backgrounder, and interesting how in 3 years the same arguments are still being made… as the country, state-by-state, urged forward by a multitude of citizen activist groups, slowly slouches towards voting integrity.

Absentee Ballot Problems in Akron, Ohio

From the “This could affect next year’s Presidential race file,” comes this story from Akron Ohio:

http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_project__071005_mail_in_ballots___no.htm

The convenience of absentee balloting is a double edged sword in the world of elections for its positive reception by voters, but negative effect on accurate and legitimate ballot counting, an issue that recently cropped up in Ohio, raising concerns for the 2008 election.

A major flaw in the state’s newly adopted “no-fault” absentee voting law emerged in the recent Akron City Council election, where the candidate won her election by three votes with 200 absentee ballots left uncounted due to Postal Service delays.

“Next year, Ohio is once again expected to be ground zero in the presidential election,” wrote Akron Beacon Journal columnist, Steve Hoffman on Thursday.