Indiana’s ID issue, absentee voting fraud, Idaho’s liberalized voting problem, and military votes lost in the mail

“ID won’t reduce fraud; absentee balloting reform can,” is the title of a new editorial on The Supreme Court Ruling regarding Indiana’s Voter ID case. A good argument, and an editorial slant I would have written about over the weekend had I not been painting the South Side of my house with the nice weather. The Seattle weather has been pretty rainy this spring…

http://www.news-journalonline.com/NewsJournalOnline/Opinion/Editorials/opnOPN26050408.htm

One of the justices opined that the identification rule treats all voters equally, but that isn’t so. This fall, one group of voters will not have to show any identification in order to vote. They will vote by absentee ballot. Here in Volusia County, about 20 percent of the votes cast in the 2004 presidential election were absentee ballots, and more voters are likely to choose that option in 2008.

Their ballots will be authenticated by merely checking to see if the signature matches, just as it has been done in the past at the polls.

While there is no evidence that voter impersonation is rife at the polls, there is plenty of evidence that absentee ballots have been the venue of choice for illegally cast ballots.

Florida history is full of examples. In Volusia’s controversial 1996 sheriff’s race, hundreds of absentee ballots were counted even though they lacked legally required voter or witness signatures or addresses. In March 1998, the Miami mayor’s race from the previous fall was invalidated because hundreds of absentee ballots were found to have been cast by deceased or fictitious “voters.”


From Idaho, a state that is quickly following the follies of Washington and Oregon and liberalizing their absentee voting laws, comes this information:

http://www.boiseweekly.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A313588

Regardless of whether you vote early, by mail, or at the polls, you will be using our new optical scan ballot. Like the old SAT tests we all used to take, it is a paper ballot; to vote you just fill in the oval to the left of the candidate or issue of your choice using a dark blue or black ink pen. The key to voting this ballot is to fill in the oval: check marks, Xs, or written comments can interfere with how the tabulator reads your ballot. If you make a mistake, just ask for a new ballot.

Every ballot issued in Ada County will have a line drawn through at least one candidate’s name. We printed our ballots in an effort to mail overseas military personnel 45 days preceding the election per federal voting guidelines. That 45-day guideline is also the last day candidates may withdraw. Ten candidates withdrew after our ballots were printed. It was less expensive to draw lines through the ballots than reprint, so remember the lines through the names are all right.

After watching, “Hacking Democracy” the HBO documentary on voting on computers in the 21st Century, you might not “trust” Optical Scan systems. I don’t either. But if used in combination with a pollsite, and on-site precinct level vote counting, then optical scan machines are just fine. In fact, if you look at Zimbabwe’s recent election, you see that a return to precinct level vote count reporting is the main factor in possibly voting out Mugabe the long running dictator of that country. Precinct level hand counts with machine audits. Now that could be a system. However, centralized, privatized vote-by mail systems counted by Diebold or Sequoia or any other proprietary voting system… that’s a system that smells bad.

Which brings me the question of another system that always kinda has a fishy odor, and that’s the Military’s vote. An absentee system that regularly disenfranchises the military. I’ve always fantasized that local precincts could be set up both at schools and for the military… sorta like satelitte voting centers. Well apparently it’s been done before.

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/015/061eajgd.asp

Military personnel based outside the United States are still dependent on the mail to receive and cast their ballots. When an election official sends a ballot overseas, it can take three weeks (or more) to reach a soldier in Iraq or a sailor on a ship halfway around the world. Even if the soldier or sailor completes the ballot immediately, it may take another three weeks to get back. Many ballots simply do not get home in time.

[…]

A more comprehensive solution, though, could be crafted from the historical example of the first absentee ballots cast by American soldiers. The election of 1864 was held in the middle of a civil war when large numbers of voters were fighting in the field. Wisconsin decided to allow its soldiers to vote absentee, and other states quickly followed suit. Rather than a slow and cumbersome ballot-by-mail process, the states simply set up polling sites in the field encampments of their soldiers. This was easier to do in 1864 when soldiers in many military units came from only one state or community. But modern technology should be able to overcome any obstacles today.

89 Articles About Why Voting By Mail is a Very Bad Idea

Are you wondering why voting by mail or absentee is a bad idea? Are you looking for information about the problems encountered by all absentee voting systems? Well then, welcome to The No Vote By Mail Project’s Website. There’s hundreds of articles now in the archives, so I thought I’d put together a giant list of the best articles I’ve written so far about voting by mail and the problems I’ve found. It might take a few days to put together, but here’s what I have so far:

  1.  What’s Wrong With Voting by Mail or Absentee Ballot
  2. The Death of the Polling Place
  3. Absentee Ballot Fraud Hits Texas, Grannyfarming a longterm problem
  4. Milwaukee Police Find Numerous Cases of Absentee Vote Fraud
  5. Vladimir Putin Prefers Voting By Mail
  6. Don’t Forget to Sign Your Ballot
  7. Absentee voting on the rise, who’s pushing this agenda?
  8. Vote-By Mail disenfranchises 1/3rd of Kitsap County Primary Voters
  9. New Jersey Voters Vote Again?
  10. MIT Study says “Abolish on-demand absentee voting”
  11. Vote-By Mail and Electronic Poll Books
  12. More Vote By Mail Problems in California
  13. Oklahoma State Auditor and wife charged with Mail Fraud
  14. California’s televised primary debates miss many voters
  15. California Primary Slowed By Vote-By Mail, Absentee Ballot Count
  16. Another Case of Vote-By Mail Fraud
  17. Democrats say,”An easier way to vote fraudulently is by mail”
  18. How VBM is Screwing Up California’s Primary
  19. Postmasters Lobby for Vote-By Mail
  20. Absentee Ballot Fraud Alleged in Putin’s Election
  21. Just where or where has my mail ballot gone?
  22. Colorado Voter Group Opposes Vote-By Mail Switch
  23. 4204 Passing, King County Gets the Blame
  24. Absentees and Optical Scans, a Combination that Doesn’t Work
  25. Day 6 of vote counting in King County
  26. Poll Votes much faster to count then Absentee Ballots
  27. Did you already vote by mail? Well it’s too late to change your mind now…
  28. More Absentee Ballot Fraud
  29. Expanding and Improving Opportunities to Commit Vote By Mail Fraud
  30. Vote by Mail Fraud, You Don’t Say
  31. Absentee Ballot Problems in Akron, Ohio
  32. More research shows vote by mail systems do NOT increase turnout
  33. King County Executive, Ron Sims, Contracts to Buy Ballot Tracking Vaporware
  34. Hanky Panky In Union Vote-By Mail Scheme
  35. The Election is in the Mail… Day 14
  36. Some Democrats Reject Forced Vote-By Mail
  37. Vote by mail increases turnout?
  38. My mail from June 13, 2006
  39. Vote Buying (You don’t say)
  40. Voter turnout – higher or lower or the same?
  41. VBM turns out about 1/3rd of Washington Voter’s
  42. King County Adds 27,114 Votes in 3rd Day of Counting
  43. 4th Day of Vote Counting brought to you by Vote-by Mail
  44. 1 Week Later… Votes still coming in to King County Elections
  45. 798 More Ballots Arrive One Week After the Election…
  46. US Postal Service Unions Pushing Vote-By Mail
  47. King County wraps up seventh day of vote counting
  48. Diebold Dazzles (King County) Democrats
  49. Colorado Editorial: Ripe for Fraud
  50. Montana’s Secret Ballot Increasingly Endangered Species
  51. Postmaster General Adresses National Association of Secretaries of State
  52. Let’s all vote by mail, just like…Texas
  53. Hand Counted Paper Ballots for 2008?
  54. Barack Obama Targets Vote Banking through Vote By Mail in California
  55. Pierce County Sacrifices Polling Places for Forced Vote By Mail Absentee Voting
  56. Granny Farming of Absentee Ballots in NJ
  57. More on Kentucky Absentee Ballot Fraud
  58. Take the Last Train to Clarksville, and Don’t forget to Vote
  59. More Absentee Votes Might Not Count Due to County Errors
  60. King County’s Wreckless Plan to Switch To Vote-By Mail
  61. Harvard’s Ben Adida on Vote By Mail and the Secret Ballot
  62. Saving Money At The Price Of Democracy
  63. Vote-By Mail Lobbyist Targets Colorado
  64. King County, WA, 13 Days of Vote Counting, Seattle Special Election, 2007
  65. Why Mail Ballots Are a Bad Idea
  66. New Report on Vote By Mail, VBM Does Not Really Increase Turnout
  67. George Galloway Blasts UK’s Postal Voting System
  68. Oregon and Other States Mail Service Outsourced?
  69. Vote Buying, Bath County, KY
  70. New Group to Push VBM Nationally
  71. Taiwanese Mull Absentee Voting, and China’s Potential Influence On Voters
  72. The “Myth” of Vote Fraud
  73. The Death of the Polling Place, Island County, WA
  74. “Granny Farming” Allegations in Michigan, Virginia, and California moves towards VBM
  75. Vote By Mail a Growing National Attack on Democracy
  76. More Postal Vote Fraud in the UK
  77. Vote Buying in Kentucky
  78. When a Secret Ballot Isn’t Really A Secret Ballot
  79. Prosecuting Honest Voters Does Not Restore My Confidence In Forced Mail Voting
  80. Vote By Mail, Not Cheaper, No Suprise
  81. Absentee Ballot Fraud Allegations and other News, 1/24/2007
  82. California Declares Mail Ballot Only Precincts 
  83. NJ Absentee Ballot Stuffing
  84. Oregon We Have a Problem
  85. The Ongoing Drama of Absentee Voting Problems
  86. Mayor Uses Absentee Ballots to Rig Election, Dateline Nov. 30th, 2006
  87. One Month After the Election… Votes Still Being Counted
  88. Vote By Mail-A Great Example of Voting Badly
  89. More Electoral Fraud By Mail – Dec. 12, 2006

Another Election Expert Questions Florida Do-over by Mail

Over on Alternet, Dan Tokaji, of Ohio’s Moritz College of Law, issued a pretty good essay on Florida’s possible “do-over” primary election. I’ve followed Mr. Tokaji’s writing and blog somewhat regularly, and believe there’s a link over in the right-side column to Moritz College of Law, but it’s always refreshing to know that the experts agree, Vote-By Mail is not trusted by the experts. But Dan says it better than I…

http://www.alternet.org/democracy/79544/?page=2

Even if one believes that all-mail voting works well in a smaller and relatively homogeneous state like Oregon, there’s reason to be very cautious about exporting it to larger, more heterogeneous states. These concerns are especially acute in states such as Florida and Michigan, parts of which are covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. That means that any change to their election rules — including an all-mail primary election — would have to be precleared by the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. If the use of all-mail voting would have a retrogressive effect, making racial minorities worse off than they were before, then the change couldn’t be made.

There’s a reasonable argument that preclearance should be denied, on the ground that an all-mail election will have a negative impact on the participation of minority voters. But even if preclearance is granted, mail voting could still have a disproportionate impact on participation by some groups of voters. And that, of course, would cloud the legitimacy of Florida’s election — and perhaps the selection of our next President. As Yogi Berra (or John Fogerty) might put it, it’s like deja vu all over again. If there’s going to be a re-vote in Florida, it should be conducted at precincts rather than by mail.

Of course the rest of the article is great too, and he outlines 5 major reasons to oppose a Vote-By Mail re-do in Florida, so please read the whole essay when you have a chance. He concludes, it seems, just like I, that the right place to vote is at the precinct level.

New York Looks To Ease Absentee Ballot Restriction, NY League of Women Voters Supports Eliminating Secret Ballot

 

Everytime I see an article about the push to ease absentee ballot restrictions, I’m always amazed that the League of Women Voters supports this move. Why is this suprising? Because the League of Women Voters has traditionally supported the secret ballot. However absentee ballots are not secret ballots, and for one, enable fraud like Granny Farming.

Judie Gorenstein, of the New York Suffolk County League of Women Voters, who supports the easing of restrictions on absentee ballots, was quoted in the Suffolf Life Newspaper, “We think it will decrease problems on Election Day if people can vote by mail.” Maybe Judie Gorenstein, and other members of the League around the country have never seen a detailed breakdown of the problems that absentee voting causes regularly, wherever and whenever it is used, so here’s that list

But it’s not just New York’s League that supports this move, most state chapters of the League seem to support this move as well. Florida’s League has in fact set up a website called, VoteAnywhere.org, to push this agenda. Here’s hoping that once they’ve done some homework on the subject that the League will amend it’s position on voting-by mail, and continue instead to support the secret ballot.

Milwaukee Police Find Numerous Cases of Absentee Vote Fraud

The Milwaukee Police Department just issued a report on their probe into the 2004 election and found numerous cases of vote fraud. Many of these cases were a direct result of absentee voting. From campaign workers voting illegally from other states, to unopened ballot envelopes recorded as counted, and opened envelopes recorded as uncounted, the report details a  system in great disarray.

http://graphics.jsonline.com/

What is most troubling is that each ineligible ballot accepted in effect cancels a legal vote cast by a Wisconsin state resident.

Well that’s one way of saying it. The whole report is a pretty good breakdown of what’s wrong with voting in Milwaukee, but also details quite a few specifics to absentee voting, a good read, and a great report. Congrats to the Milwaukee Police department for putting this together. If only our elected officials could do this good of analysis.

While in Oklahoma early voting has started, and they have a really great way of preventing absentee voting fraud in that state…. they make you swear you won’t commit fraud, really…. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried:

http://www.mcalesternews.com/local/local_story_059110438.html

“In-person absentee ballot voters fill out a form when they get to the office,” Thornton said. “They are required to swear that they have not voted a regular mail absentee ballot and they will not vote at their polling place on election day.”

Whew, now that’s security.

What’s Wrong With Voting By Mail or Absentee Ballot

novbm3.jpg 

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

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.