Many Reasons To Oppose All Vote-By Mail Absentee Ballot Systems

So here’s a quick summary of the various reasons that Vote-By Mail systems are problematic:

  1. Absentee ballots are not “secret ballots.”

  2. Absentee ballots are still counted by the same privately owned voting machines that have been in the news, including Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia and all the rest.

  3. In many cases, like King County, WA, the Post Office no longer controls the incoming mail, instead a private company sorts incoming absentee ballots into precincts before giving them back to county for counting. This breaks down any chain of custody rules that may have been in place, and privatizes another link in the chain.

  4. From beginning to end, the whole system of Absentee Ballots is insecure, as ballots are no longer strictly controlled by the County and citizen poll workers in the individual Precincts.

  5. The cost of running an all mail voting system can actually be greater than a poll based voting system.

  6. The Signature Verification Process is error prone and routinely disenfranchises thousands of voters when it is used. Ballots rejected for having invalid signatures are treated as “Guilty before proven innocent.”

  7. Voter Suppression, Vote  Buying, Vote Stuffing become far easier in this system.

  8. Accidental double voting can and does happen.

  9. Some studies show a short term spike, but long term decline in voter participation, in 100% absentee systems. Claims that Vote-By Mail will increase turnout have no real evidence supporting this assertion.

  10. The post office loses mail or just misplaces it for years, the county loses ballots, and people lose their own ballots.

  11. The Absentee System greatly alters the Precinct System.

  12. Vote-By Mail systems vastly increase the time it takes to count elections.

  13. Vote-By Mail systems eliminate “Election Day” and replace it with “Election Month,” thereby greatly increasing the costs campaigns must spend on GOTV (Get-Out the Vote) efforts.

  14. Many, many people have gone to jail already for rigging elections using absentees, throughout the country and around the world. This is occurring in the here and now, not some distant past. These are not “isolated incidents.”

  15. Vote-By Mail systems alter the time-table of the election cycle. The change to Vote-By Mail means many voters will vote before all the information has been presented by candidates, civic institutions are forced then to either adjust their calendars, or as is currently the case, they don’t change there forum dates, rather fewer voters have a chance to see candidates in person at these forums.

 I’ll keep adding links as I have time.

 

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Colorado Voter Group Opposes Vote-By Mail Switch

In a Nov 19th, 2007, press release, the Colorado Voter Group offered up a quick summary of why the oppose Vote-By Mail, because the risks of a VBM system include:

  1. Dependence on a new registration system
  2. Ineligible voters voting
  3. Disenfranchised voters
  4. Voter intimidation
  5. Vote buying/selling
  6. Not transparent
  7. Not anonymous
  8. No effective mitigation

You can read the whole press release here. Or, visit the groups main website here.

Just as in Arizona, where voters turned down the recent proposition to move to all mail voting, Colorado also rejected the plan in 2002 (Amendment 28). But both states are under renewed assault by Vote-By Mail enthusiasts who reject the will of the people, and instead try to force the switch to VBM through legislative action.

4204 Passing, King County Gets the Blame

 

One of the problems that is exacerbated by going to Vote-By Mail in Washington State is how the big counties are being blamed for close elections “flipping”. In the case of 4204, the simple majority initiative for passing school levies, most of the conservative eastern counties voted against the measure, while King County (the largest voter block in the state) is passing the initiative by 60%.  The numbers of voters in King County is like a really fat kid on a teeter toter, you can put lots of kids little skinny kids on the other side, but that fat kid’s gonna be pretty hard to get off the ground.

The other other thing is that it takes a lot longer to count the votes in King County because, well, there’s so many voters. So while Grant County has 1490 registered voters, King County has 994,798. Obviously that’s about a 1000 times more complex. And it takes longer to count that many votes.

In fact only 8 counties have over 100,000 voters: Whatcom, Thurston, Spokane, Snohomish, Pierce, Kitsap, King, and Clark. Many have under 50,000, and quite a few have only 1,000 to 10,000 voters total.

What this means is that when you start hearing vote totals come in, the little (and mostly conservative) counties, post their totals early. Then the media reports that some measure is passing by some large percentage, and the process continues to snowball until the large counties start reporting. And those large counties are so large that they tip the scale.

Of course they should tip the scale, and of course whatever the issue was, whether it was the Governor’s race or 4204, it looks bad. Because the laymen voter has been told repeatively for weeks on end that someone, or some issue, was in the lead…. and that turns out to be false. People then get pissed. They start accusing King County of rigging elections, and everyone in those other counties start feeling like those darn liberals in King County are in on some big conspiracy.

But the reality is much simpler. The media was distorting the truth. 4204 was NEVER losing. Once the ballots were cast, the decision was made. The percentages were the only thing unknown. And anyone with a little knowledge of the system has long ago stopped listening to the media, and waits until every county is done counting the votes.

I’m the last person that will defend the King County Elections department. But the fact is, that they aren’t rigging the vote just because they take longer to count the half a million votes they might receive in any given election.

Of course, Vote-by Mail, by slowing the whole system down further only makes matters worse. Yesterday, November 14th, 8 days after the election was over, 19, 872 more ballots came in the mail and were added to King Counties total. That’s more than the total turnout to-date (November 15th) so far in the following counties:

  1. Adams                 3,279
  2. Asotin                  6,365
  3. Chelan               19,040
  4. Columbia             1,600
  5. Douglas                9,053
  6. Ferry                    2,282
  7. Franklin               8,594
  8. Garfield                1,029
  9. Grant                  16,253
  10. Grays Harbor    18,688
  11. Jefferson            12,964
  12. Kittitas               10,379
  13. Klickitat               6,504
  14. Lincoln                 4,304
  15. Mason                 18,447
  16. Okanogan             8,351
  17. Pacific                   7,307
  18. Pend Orielle        4,475
  19. San Juan              6,583
  20. Skamania             3,137
  21. Stevens              14,447
  22. Wahkiakum         1,780
  23. Walla Walla       14,056
  24. Whitman              9,987

 

Absentees and Optical Scans, a Combination that Doesn’t Work

Poll workers re-voting for you! 
Poll workers re-voting for You!

Take an optical scan ballot, feed it into an optical scan reader, and if that ballot is incorrectly marked, or undervoted, the machine rejects that ballot. In fact, if you are voting at a poll place, this is a really useful feature, because you will have a chance to fix your own ballot. But, what if your ballot is sent through the mail? Well, first of all, what once was flat, is now folded and it becomes fairly difficult for the optical scan machine to read that ballot. And second, if you undervoted, well too bad. Of course if the intent is clear, someone can just revote how they think you’ve voted, which is happening in San Francisco as I type. However, they’ve also added in the complexity of IRV, which works a lot better at the poll site where voters can self-correct a ballot:

http://www.examiner.com/a-1043279~Only_30_000_ballots_left____.htmlSAN FRANCISCO (Map, News) – Only a few San Francisco measures are still at stake as dozens of vote counters work 16-hour days “remaking” tens of thousands of ballots in hopes of a complete tally by Friday.

According to Elections Department head John Arnzt, even though all precincts have reported, there are still 30,000 ballots that need to be copied and counted under strict new state guidelines.

San Francisco’s ranked-choice voting system has always created problems when voters leave a choice blank. The machine spits the ballot back out and elections workers count the ballot by hand. Arnzt calls that an undervote.

This year, because undervotes are also caused by marking ballots with an inappropriate pen, Secretary of State Debra Bowen is requiring San Francisco election workers to fill out or “remake” a replica ballot by using a leaded pen that can be recognized by an optical scanner.

Day 6 of vote counting in King County

Yesterday marked the 6th day of vote counting in King County. An additional 12110 ballots were received. 100% of poll votes have been counted. And 54. 64% of the absentee ballots have been received so far.

Total turnout has now increased to 39.08%. Average turnout is approximately 48% in off year elections, according to the county’s statements in 2003. So far the predictions made by Vote-By Mail supporters that turnout would increase to around 70% by switching to Vote-By Mail has not materialized, either overall or even for absentee voters. But, hey there’s still at least two weeks of vote counting to go… As the last day to certify the election is November 27th, 2007. But while Tuesday’s vote count will probably include several thousand more votes, the drop off over the following week will likely mirror previous elections.

I’ll go out on a limb here and predict King County ends up around 45% turnout. 3% less than what they previously said was the average for off-year elections… prior to switching to Vote-By Mail.

So Vote-By Mail enthusiasts will off course take this as a sign that we should switch over to 100% forced absentee voting, because it will increase turnout.

Hogwash.

Poll Votes much faster to count then Absentee Ballots


Dellusional? That’s our Secretary of State Sam Reed.

Switching to vote-by mail, or forced absentee ballots, was suppose to make the vote counting faster:

http://www.secstate.wa.gov/office/osos_news.aspx?i=gp6Ec29NLGVa6LrnVMk2gg%3d%3d

On election night, vote by mail counties will be able to produce results promptly. Poll site counties must wait for poll sites to report in, some of which require long drives to the tabulation center. All mail counties will have already processed all the vote by mail ballots received before Election Day. At 8:00pm on election night, mail counties will be able to hit the tabulation button to receive results. Overall, mail counties will be reporting quicker than those counties waiting on poll sites.

Sam Reed’s News Release November 03, 2006

But, in fact, it’s making the process much slower:

https://novbm.wordpress.com/2007/04/07/king-countywa-13-days-of-vote-counting-seattle-special-election-2007/

Now it is currently two days after the November 6th, 2007 election here in Washington. And King County is currently reporting an additional 71, 627 votes just showed up today.  The King County Elections website also reports that 99.02% of poll site votes have already been counted. Possible that extra 0.98% of votes are provisional ballots cast by absentee voters who went to the polls to vote, as they either never received their ballot in the first place, or it got lost in the junk mail. Either way, reality continues to underscore the lies on which vote-by mail is being forced down the throats of Washington State voters, and King County.

Sam Reed also predicted a 51% turnout this time. Apparently voters didn’t get the memo. King County is currently just cresting 25% turnout, and a whole lot of counties are barely higher than that. In fact, it looks like only 6 counties in all of Washington crested the 50% mark.  Of course, all mail voting will fix this problem, just like it did in Oregon, right? Not according to the results coming out of Oregon, where statewide turnout is looking to be about 28%.

Wow! Reality strikes another blow against the lies that this system is predicated on. Of course that won’t stop other states, like Iowa, from pointing to Washington and Oregon as examples of how vote-by mail increases turnout:

CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa Gov. Chet Culver wants to look into having Iowans cast their ballots by mail, and he’s asking for input from residents and elected officials.

The GazetteOnline.com

Of course reality will be ignored, because well, vote-by mail also (according to VBM proponents) decreases the potential for fraud. At least the Spokesman Review caught that lie:

At the polls, the only time ballots are not under the direct supervision of election workers is when a voter takes his ballot to vote in a private voting booth. Election officials have no control over mail ballots for weeks; many are never returned.

This lack of control allows ample opportunity for ballots to be stolen, altered or destroyed, both before ballots are delivered and after. Even if a voter receives his ballot intact, the secrecy of the voting booth has been destroyed. Domineering family members, friends, union officials, employers, nursing home workers or religious leaders can ensure the voter cast a ballot “correctly.”

These are not just theoretical dangers. In Virginia, a mayor and 13 residents of a small town have been charged with stealing ballots from mailboxes and casting them fraudulently.

In Hartford, Conn., eight local politicians were arrested for absentee ballot fraud, including a state representative who last year pleaded guilty to “encouraging” voters in a housing complex to vote for him.

http://www.spokesmanreview.com/local/story.asp?ID=159067

So what have we learned so far. Reality seems to indicate that Vote-by mail is:

1. NOT Faster than poll voting
2. MORE not LESS prone to fraud than poll voting
3. Vote-by Mail is having LESS than stellar results in increasing turnout.

In fact, looking back to 2005, the last off-year election, statewide turnout was 54.82%, and that was with less vote-by mail counties. And King County was at 53.77%, as compared to the current um 25% turnout. But maybe that’s just a fluke, let’s go back and look at 2003. Well I can’t seem to find the turnout from 2003, but at the time they predicted:

King County Elections expects an overall countywide turnout of 47.42% which is average for an odd year General Election, with an approximate 70% turnout among voters who vote by absentee ballot. Currently, 46% of King County voters have chosen to permanently vote by mail.

So apparently as more and more people are forced to vote-by mail King County was expecting those mail voters to return up to 70% of those mail-in ballots. But now turnout is at around 25%. Of course as thousand upon thousands of ballots are returned over the next 3 weeks that number will increase, but I predict it will maybe reach the 48% average, and come nowhere near the 70% they were predicting back in 2003.

Election Assistance Commission Issues New Guidelines

The United States Election Assistance Commission has issued new guidelines:

http://www.gcn.com/online/vol1_no1/45364-1.html

Included in the guidelines,  are new recommendations on conducting elections by mail, testing optical scan machines, and media relations. The media recommendations are basically a set of marketing guidelines. While the quickstart guide on voting-by mail is a bit more um… I don’t know… unconstitutional:

  • Incorporate the use of bar codes on the ballot envelopes for ease in receiving return envelopes and updating voter history.
  • If using an external mailing/distribution center for ballot mailing, it is recommended that election staff
    be on-site at all times.
  • TIP: Always work in teams of two when receiving returned ballot envelopes. At no time should any one person be alone with the voted ballot envelopes.
  • Determine if you will provide off -site collection/drop off receptacles for returned ballot envelopes.
    Establish procedures for securing and monitoring these locations.

So the “bipartisan,” aka not non-partisan, EAC basically recommends barcodes, and outsourcing ballot distribution. While throwing a few bones to secrecy (maybe try a secrecy envelope) and security (never leave a voted ballots with just one person). But then it turns around and offers up the idea of off-site drop boxes, and never mentions the fact that unvoted ballots are far more numerous in all vote-by mail systems. So you shouldn’t leave voted ballots with just one person, but ballot printing, sorting, and receiving, well those can all be done by private companies. Private vote-counting software, also apparently just fine with the commission.