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states were cast for John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Bill Richardson or Dennis Kucinich, all of whom have withdrawn from their party’s race for the presidential nomination?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

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.