Vladimir Putin Prefers Voting By Mail

Apparently up and coming dictators prefer absentee ballots:

Medvedev is set to secure 61 percent of the vote on Sunday, with nine percent for his closest rival, according to a survey by the VTsIOM opinion research centre.

On Friday President Vladimir Putin was due to make a televised pre-election address to the nation.

In addition to the manipulation of the media, pressure is also being applied directly on voters by local governors, keen to show their loyalty to the Kremlin leadership, Transparency’s Panfilova said.

While the Kremlin does not provide direct orders as to how governors should apply pressure, it has unleashed a burst of “local creativity on how to ensure a 100 percent turn-out,” she said.

The coalition provided a list of complaints phoned into an election hotline to demonstrate how pressure was being applied on the ground.

One anonymous caller in Moscow described how his employer at a state organization forced him to bring his absentee ballot to work to show who he had voted for.

Several other news organizations have covered this same topic:



But even in Russia this is illegal, though that doesn’t seem to stop anyone….


Yelena, 45, who works at a state apartment-house maintenance office in southern Moscow, said her bosses demanded the right to cast ballots for both herself and her co-workers at polling stations where turnout was expected to be low on election day.

To do that, the bosses demanded that she submit a copy of her passport and her absentee ballot, which allows one to vote anywhere in Russia, Yelena said. The practice would be illegal since citizens must cast votes themselves.


Don’t Forget to Sign Your Ballot

A new article out of Florida points out several new flaws in absentee voting, among them, not signing your ballot:


Addie Reddick of West Palm Beach was one of 200 Palm Beach County voters who didn’t sign.

“I’ve been voting this way for quite some time,” said Reddick, 92. “And I thought I had everything right.”

Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Arthur Anderson said the 200 unsigned ballots were the “most unfortunate.”

He called it the “simplest thing to do.”

So in the upcoming 2008 election the errors produced by Vote-By Mail schemes could easily be greater than the margin of victory in the 2000 Florida victory for Geoerge Bush. Of course in a poll place voting system the number of people who forget to sign their envelopes is exactly, wait for it…. ZERO! Because every voter signs in before being given a ballot.

Florida voters in 2008 meet your new Butterfly Ballot debacle, Vote-By Mail! It’s even better than Ralph Nader.

What’s Wrong With Voting By Mail or Absentee Ballot


I’ve been working on this bullet list for, oh, the entire year and a half that I’ve been running this blog, so it keeps changing. It also isn’t my highest priority to fully edit, what is essentially always evolving. However, by posting this list, it will inevitably make it apparent that some edits are absolutely necessary. So in that spirit here’s my working list of the problems I have found so far with Voting By Mail, around the country, here in Washington State, down in Oregon, California, and everywhere else. There’s about 17 points on the list so far, so be sure to check below the fold:

  1. Absentee ballots are not “secret ballots.” Voting at the kitchen table in front of your spouse is not voting in secret behind a privacy screen at a polling booth. The secret ballot is not created by a “privacy envelop,” rather the secret ballot relies on the the polling site, and the secrecy provided by a polling booth. Without this fundamental level of protection, the ballot becomes far more susceptible to influence. Vote buying, vote collecting, and vote stuffing schemes become possible in vote by mail systems. Additionally, a signed but unvoted ballot becomes valuable in a system that spends billions on elections every year.
  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. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Vote-By Mail systems do away with privatized computer vote counting. Diebold, or ES & S, Sequoia, and all the other voting machine companies use proprietary software vote counting machines that are just as capable (or incapable) of counting vote-by mail “paper ballots” as they are at counting touchscreen votes. Most vote by mail systems are counted by the very same computer systems that your vote would be counted upon were you to be voting at a polling site. And in the case of some counties that have been switched over to touch screens, there have been reports that the absentee ballots are typically hand entered into the touchscreen system anyway. In 2006, Maryland made national headlines because the state had switched to touch screen machines but absentees were still using paper ballots. The Republican Governor made a fuss about the touch screens that the Democratic Secretary of State, Linda Lamone, was pushing. The rate of absentee ballot requests went through the roof in Maryland because people wanted a paper ballot. However, if their paper ballot system is anything like King County, the paper ballots are eventually fed into the AccuVote system made by Diebold, and then counted by the centralized, GEMS central tabulation software. Or so similar system.  “Hacking Democracy,” the recent HBO documentary, makes it clear that the problem is deeper than machine A versus machine B. Feeding paper ballots into machines and then never auditing the paper ballots is not acceptable. However, it is a common practice with absentee vote-by mail systems.
  3. In many cases, like King County, WA, the Post Office no longer maintains control of the incoming ballots during processing of incoming mail. Instead of the government run Post Office maintaining the chain of custody of absentees, a private company sorts incoming absentee ballots into precincts before giving them back to King County for counting. This breaks down any chain of custody rules that may have been in place at the post office, and privatizes another link in the chain. Not surprisingly, the Post Office never makes an official tally of the number of ballots given to this company. So if they don’t know how many ballots are provided, how would they know how many should be returned? A basic rule in accounting has been foolishly eliminated. Recent reports by Blackboxvoting.org from New Hampshire, indicate that the “chain of custody” procedures in state systems are broken at a fundamental level, around the country. From beginning to end, thewhole system of Absentee Ballots is insecure, as ballots are no longer strictly controlled by the County and citizen poll workers in the individual Precincts.
  4. The cost of running an all mail voting system can actually be greater than a poll based voting system. The supporters of VBM have frequently argued that the system saves money over the cost of poll-based voting systems, and they often deride the current poll system as a “mixed” or “hybrid” system. But upon deeper examination this argument is questionable at best. First off, instead of providing ballots only to voters who “turn-out” to vote, a 100% VBM system prints and mails ballots to every registered voter in the county, precinct, or jurisdiction. Typical elections do not come anywhere near 100% turnout. So in a hypothetical 50% turnout election, 50% of the ballots will have been printed, sorted, stamped and mailed to people that are not voting.Printing absentee ballots is far more expensive than printing poll ballots. Why? Because there’s a host off additional items that are necessary to print and mail a ballot. First you print the ballot, then you have privacy envelops and mailing envelopes that have extra printing, instructions, and a security flap over a signature box. This makes for a fairly expensive piece of mail. And in counties of tens or hundreds of thousands of voters, it adds up fairly quickly. Additionally, there’s a bit more upfront cost, as the ballots must go out weeks ahead of time. So ballot printing is on a rush schedule following a primary vote when compared to the printing cycle necessary for a poll-based voting system. This is a major factor in the now commonly seen headline, “Absentee Ballots mailed late,” or, “Absentee Ballots misprinted.”
  5. 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.”In King County, Washington, in 2006, the Seattle Weekly reported that over 7,000 votes were initially removed from the vote totals, until voters were contacted, and given a chance to verify their signature and the validity of his or her ballot. Over 3,000 voters did not respond in time, and those ballots were disenfranchised. That’s just one County in an off year election. Vote-By Mail systems increase the error rate in numerous ways.
  6. Continue reading

Indiana Looks to Ease Absentee Restrictions


The above article requires a subscription. But it’s another state trying to ease absentee laws, paving the way for 100% Vote-By Mail over time, as Washington, California, and Oregon are used as test cases.

The other news out of Indiana is that Secretary of State Todd Rokita is supporting a Early Voting Center plan, but one that will apparently replace (not supplement) the precinct system. Hand-in-hand this looks like the same move planned for many other states, push to shut down precincts, open regional centers, and then when voters complain about not having enough precinct-level “easy to get to” poll sites, offer the Vote-By Mail solution.


Bill 235 could face a tough legislative fight over a provision allowing Indiana voters to cast absentee ballots without explaining why they can’t go to the polls.

So the method of implementation is clear for election officials, first create a problem, paperless touchscreens or regional voting centers, and then create the solution Vote-By Mail because the average voter will think it is both “convenient & a paper ballot.”


Absentee voting on the rise, who’s pushing this agenda?

Ohio’s News Herald has a relatively balanced article on the rise of absentee voting, but doesn’t dig much below the surface:


To keep up with the demand, the board hired 30 part-time temporary employees at $10 an hour.
“If demand for absentee ballots continues at this rate, more people than ever could vote by mail than in any other election in the county’s history,” West said. “The last time vote-by-mail numbers were this high was in the November 2006 election, when the governor’s race was on the ballot and over 105,000 voters requested vote-by-mail ballots.”
In Geauga County, there were 1,700 absentee voters in the last presidential election. For the March 4 election, 1,800 voters already have requested absentee ballots.
“We may double the amount from the last presidential election,” Director Arch Kimbrew said.

The article then quotes John Fortier, about some of the problems with the rising trend towards more absentee voting. But what I really want to know is who’s pushing this agenda? Why are they pushing this agenda? And how are they funding lobbyists around the country to push this agenda?

California, Millions of Uncounted Vote-By Mail Ballots Left

California’s Primary Presidential vote is still far from over, about 1.5 million votes from over, that is….


But there still are well over a million votes, probably about 1.5 million votes that remain to be counted. While these will not change the winner of the statewide vote, these ballots could very well affect the numbers of delegates awarded to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, especially in the local delegates elected in Congressional Districts.

Estimates from the Secretary of State’s office are that 9.1 million Californians voted, but the totals so far that we can see are 7.7 million.

The “Unprocessed Ballot Page” of the California Secretary of State lists an estimated additional 881,127 votes that were not counted in the figures released the day after the election. But even this figure does not include any estimates from Los Angeles County, the largest in the state and home to about one quarter of the voters in California. If past trends hold, Los Angeles alone will see at least 200,000 additional votes tallied, if not substantially more. Other large counties that haven’t even gotten around to estimating the uncounted ballots they are processing include Alameda County—the heaviest Democratic voting county in the state, Napa County, which had a huge turnout, Santa Barbara, and Solana County. There are other counties extant, as they say, that will also push up the vote total.

The votes to be counted are mostly vote-by-mail ballots (VBM) turned in to the polling places and counties on election day or in the crush of mail the day before. Earlier VBM ballots have been counted and were lined up by all or most county registrar of voters’ offices for processing before the polls closed.

Napa County, for instance, has not turned in an estimate yet—that has made it to the Secretary of State’s page–but according to press accounts there are an estimated 5,000 to 12,000 VBM ballots to be counted, according to a statement he made to the Napa Valley Register. Considering the size of Napa County, those uncounted ballots amount to about 25% of all votes cast.

More discussions on the California Vote-By Mail phenomenon:





Confusion Over Deadline Disqualifies Voters

Just another error in the Vote-By Mail system, or “glitch” as it is often referred to by election officials:


The Saturday before the election, March 1, is the last day county offices can mail out absentee ballots. Many people assume mail-in ballots need only to be postmarked before the day of the election. That’s not correct.

“It has to be in the office by the close of the polls by March 4. Being postmarked doesn’t mean anything,” Locke said. “And you know how the mail is — if it’s getting down to the last few days, I’d bring it in and drop it off myself to make sure it’s in.”

Vote-By Mail Problems Persist Nationally

During this year’s Presidential Primaries, more and more voters and states are waking up to the problems associated with Vote-By Mail and absentee ballot problems. Here’s just a few articles to get a sense of what is happening around the country:




And then there’s the increased potential for “granny farming” absentees:


In John XXIII Home, Hermitage, there’s no polling place but the activity department organizes absentee ballots and rides are occasionally given to polling places, said Administrator Kirk Hawthorne.

If a resident needs an absentee ballot, they go through the physician and an application for one is sent in, Hawthorne said.

What I don’t understand from this article, is how rides are given to polling places, when the polling places don’t exist? I mean….. it’s even in the same sentence of the article!

Oh, and that pick-a-party primary ballot design is spreading from Kitsap, WA, to King County, WA:


Nearly one in four King County voters who mailed in their ballots did not identify themselves as Democrat or Republican, nullifying their votes in the presidential primary.

The elections office Friday called it a combination of protest and error. Some voters do not want to publicly declare a political party, even though their vote remains secret. Other voters might not know their votes will not be counted unless they choose a party.

“It’s clear that voters have strong feelings about having to take an oath,” said Bobbie Egan, spokeswoman for King County Elections.

On the King County absentee-ballot envelope, voters must check off a box next to the Democratic or Republican oath and sign the envelope. The oath declares that the voter is a member of that party who will not participate in the nomination process for any other political party this year.

The Problem of the Vanishing Primary Candidate

Did you already vote for this guy?

What happens when you’ve voted absentee and then your candidate drops out of the Presidential race before they count your vote… well that’s what you get with Vote-By Mail.

Here’s a few articles to read on the subject:

San Francisco Gate

Marrisa Maciel, a former Berkeley resident now going to school in Santa Cruz, was among the 165,000 California voters who cast a ballot for Democrat John Edwards.

“I sent in my ballot three weeks ago,” she said. “A few days later he was gone. My friends were laughing at me.”

The Moderate Voice

Has anyone speculated on how many of the millions of absentee ballots that have been cast across the Super Tuesday states were cast for John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Bill Richardson or Dennis Kucinich, all of whom have withdrawn from their party’s race for the presidential nomination?

And then there’s this very thoughtful editorial on the many problems Vote-By Mail presents our democracy over at Fredricksburg.com:

First of all, there is no proof that allowing vote-by-mail (as California now calls it) lifts voter participation, according to evidence compiled by Michael Traugott of the University of Michigan and Curtis Gans of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate. It may actually depress overall voter participation.

Second, vote-by-mail heightens the chance for fraud. Votes may be coerced, bought, cast by someone other than the voter, or “lost.” Courts overturned the 1997 Miami mayoral election due to absentee-ballot shenanigans. In St. Louis, an absentee ballot for this month’s primary was requested in December–quite a trick, since the voter had died two months earlier. In 2005, a Connecticut pol pled guilty to inducing nursing-home residents to vote for him via absentee ballot.

Even if they’re not fraudulent, absentee ballots can be misplaced: A Toledo, Ohio, election worker discovered 300 of them in a storage room more than a month after a 2004 election, votes that would have changed the race’s outcome. A Florida study found five times the rate of voter error on absentee ballots (failure to use the right pencil, stray marks, and so on), resulting in many uncounted votes.

The opportunity to vote absentee well before Election Day also may distort voters’ choices. Imagine if Sept. 11 had happened late in a campaign: Such a cataclysm might alter an election’s outcome. So also might candidates’ behavior in a campaign’s waning days, but if votes already have been cast, no recourse is open to those who cast them.

And then there’s the continuing problem of slowed vote counting:

San Luis Obispo

Results of the presidential primary election in San Luis Obispo County could change after 14,000 absentee ballots are tallied, County Clerk- Recorder Julie Rodewald said Wednesday.  

All-in-all I’d say that this year’s Presidential Primary is highlighting many of the problems with Vote-By Mail I’ve been writing about for over a year now. It’s about time.

Vote-By Mail disenfranchises 1/3rd of Kitsap County Primary Voters

This just in… and in my new home county no-less:


PORT ORCHARD, Wash. — The Kitsap County auditor says about a third of the 15,000 mail-in ballots it has received for the Feb. 19 primary so far are invalid and will not be counted.

Auditor Karen Flynn says voters failed to check the box selecting the Democratic or Republican Party.

Primary voters must not only choose one presidential candidate on the ballot, they must also check an oath on the envelope promising they will not take part in the other party’s nominating process.

With precinct based optical scan systems, there is the possibility for second-chance voting. Which means, in short, that if the ballot is filled out wrong, for instance no party preference is chosen, then the machine kicks the ballot back to the voter for error correction. The poll workers would probably be in charge of having voters fill out the oath before providing a ballot as well. Oh well, it’s just 1/3rd of the voters. That’s 66% that got it right, and a D is still a passing grade, right?

For more information, read this, and this.