Almost 40,000 Votes Rejected in 2016 General Election in Washington State’s Vote-By Mail System…. Over 1% Error

In the 2016 General Election in Washington State, 35,927 votes were rejected through the Vote-By Mail system. Almost 40,000 people were denied their right to vote. That’s out of 3,401,591 total votes that were received “on-time” by the counties. That works out to an error-rate of 1.056 percent just through the official stats I can find on ballot rejection. There’s a LOT more error in the system than that.

1 out of 100 people in Washington State tried to vote, most likely legally, and had their ballot rejected.

This is by design. And this is not a problem that can be solved with Vote-By Mail.

Here’s the reconciliation reports:


What are the problems with Voting By Mail or Absentee Ballot?

Recent News:
Dead people voting with Absentee Ballots, Say it ain’t so….
Slate Covers Absentee Voting Fraud
Christian Science Monitor’s Multi-part series on the United State’s Election System
New York Times on problems with Voting By Mail

What’s wrong with Voting-By Mail?


I’ve been working on this bullet list for, oh, the many years now I’ve, 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.  As of November 17th, an upcoming article in the Christian Science Monitor will be driving some traffic this way, so I will be trying to fix broken links and add any new information that I find along the way.

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 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.

Continue reading

Washington State, Secretary of State

This year for Washington State’s Secretary of State, it is (R) Kim Wyman versus (D) Kathleen Drew. In Washington State, our voting system is a joke, a bad joke. All Vote-By Mail is a system that is by design, inaccurate and not very precise. 20,000 votes will probably be disqualified in King County alone in this coming election of 2012. In 2008, King County disqualified 16,000+ votes. I pulled those numbers for 2008 from King County’s website, and they were still available the last time I checked. I personally had a vote I voted 4 days early, rejected, by letter that I had voted too late for my vote to count. I dropped off my ballot 4 days before the election in a US Postal Service Mail Box.

This whole website is dedicated to exposing the problems I’ve uncovered in Washington’s Election System, there’s a lot of material if you click around. Try some links up top to read more… anyway…

Neither of these candidates is for real solutions to Washington State’s Election System. For a solution based voting system, check out Bradblog’s excellent piece on Democracy’s Gold Standard of Elections:

I personally can’t endorse either candidate. I have debated Kim Wyman on Public Access Television. She is slick, qualified, and Sam Reed’s hand-picked replacement to fill his absence. I don’t trust her. Kim Wyman seems to support Vote-By Mail, Computerized Voting, and I would never endorse either of these positions.

Kathleen Drew, the Democrat in the race, seems to have absolutely no experience that would lead me to believe she is qualified to run this office, elections, or anything really. Her campaign website doesn’t help much either.

So you can vote tweedledum or tweedledee it doesn’t matter to me. Neither Democrat or Republican is proposing real voting reform, or fixing this broken system.

Vote By Mail Spreads, But Doesn’t Help All Voters

Vote by Mail Spreads, But Doesn’t Help All Voters

Some progressives overlook that voting by mail does not always help their longtime constituents.

As state and county officials look for ways to streamline elections during tough budgetary times, many jurisdictions are increasingly relying on mail-based voting—and winning praises from progressives for doing so. But the true litmus test for any election reform should be whether it helps expand the franchise to those whose voices are missing in our democracy. What some groups may overlook in their enthusiasm about voting by mail is that it does not always serve underrepresented or vulnerable populations as well as traditional polls.

Just last week, Hawaii held an all mail-in vote for a special congressional election, and the Progressive States Center applauded the reform for resulting in higher turnout (54 percent of 317,000 mailed ballots were returned), and for costing less (about 75 percent of the cost of precinct-based systems). They also championed the administrative ease of the method, and how it helps counter negative campaigning (since it is costly to run negative ads over the three-week period that ballots could be returned).

And Hawaii is not alone. Oregon has already instituted all-mail voting, as has most of Washington state. Most Californians (62 percent) voted by mail in the 2008 presidential election, though counties still offer precinct voting. Colorado had high mail-in voting rates in 2008 (64 percent), and the state is considering an all mail system.

The progressive impulse to embrace solution-oriented reforms is always laudable. But, in elections, as in all else, the devil is in the details. There are several layers of facts and fine print that we should heed before embracing any election reform.

First, studies show that voting by mail has not been a magnificent success among low-income communities of color (in inner cities and rural areas), because of higher mobility rates and poorer mail service among these populations, among other factors.

A recent academic study commissioned by the Pew Center on the States, one of the nation’s leading sponsors of election reform research and analysis, looked at the impact of adopting an all-mail system in California. The study—based on research conducted in 2009—concluded that a mandatory, all-mail system would negatively impact urban, low-income and communities of color.

The reports found that, when a mandatory vote-by-mail system is implemented, the estimated odds of an individual voter voting actually decreases by 13.2%. The report also found that the negative impact of being forced to vote-by-mail further is worse across certain populations, with the estimated odds of voting decreasing 50% for urban voters, 30.3% for Asian voters; and 27.3% for Hispanic voters.

There is no perfect election system, of course, but these findings suggest that additional steps must be taken by state and local election officials to ensure that the populations that traditionally are hardest to reach and engage are not left behind in a rush to mandatory mail-in voting.

For example, in Colorado, any voter who does not cast a ballot during one federal election cycle is listed as an “inactive voter.” Under Colorado election laws, inactive voters are not mailed a ballot in an all-mail election, which obviously would disenfranchise many eligible voters—just because they did not vote in the last federal election. (Inactive voters in Oregon, Washington, and California also do not receive mail-in ballots—although California, unlike its neighbors, also has precinct-based voting in all counties.)

Other voters on Colorado’s inactive list include voters whose last piece of election mail was returned as undeliverable. Relying on mail delivery to determine voting eligibility is a notoriously error-prone practice, guaranteed to disenfranchise eligible voters. Only about 90% of first-class mail is successfully delivered nationwide, meaning 10 percent of the eligible population could be disenfranchised. Poor mail delivery is particularly an issue in inner cities, but also on university campuses, Native American reservations, among young people, students and transient workers —basically anywhere there is a population that is more mobile than the suburbs. This kind of unintended consequence is critical in assessing the impact of all-mail elections, and must not be overlooked by state legislators who otherwise might see great savings in adopting a new voting process.

What is needed as states and counties eye reforms are pragmatic safeguards that will balance the ease of administering all-mail voting with serving all eligible voters. That means election offices will need to increase communications with voters in their jurisdiction. It also means retaining voting centers, or perhaps consolidating precinct-based voting, but not eliminating it. It means working with the Postal Service to improve current address information to reduce returned mail—and undelivered ballots. Additionally, legislators should make voter registrations portable, so they can be moved between jurisdictions by election officials when a voter moves, enabling them to present identification to receive a regular ballot on Election Day.

Moreover, there is a potential for partisan abuses when political campaign workers assist voters, especially elderly, infirm, or housebound voters, to fill out any ballot, especially when completed ballots are collected en masse before submittal. Limits should be imposed, particularly on political party and political campaign workers, to prevent them from distributing and collecting mail-in ballots, to help prevent potential vote fraud, especially when dealing with infirm or housebound populations.

The message that election officials, legislators, and advocates need to heed on all-mail voting is that the reform is not a one-size-fits-all solution for streamlining Election Day. Voting is a complex undertaking, and any reform must be scrutinized for all of its consequences—unintended and otherwise—not just bottom-line budgetary and administrative impacts. The most challenging or mobile populations have always been the hardest to serve, but it is government’s job to reach them, not to sweep them aside in a rush for “progress.”

Washington State Secretary of State Race 2012

Here’s the candidates you have for Washington Secretary of State so far:

Kim Wyman (R) – Thurston County Auditor
Kathleen Drew (D) – Ex-State Sen. & Ex-Gubernatorial Aide
Jim Kastama (D) – State Sen. & Ex-State Rep.
Greg Nickels (D) – Ex-Seattle Mayor, Ex-King County Councilman & Ex-US Conference of Mayors President

Not one of them is looking to fix our broken system, instead they are all looking to further their political careers. And I’ve debated Kim Wyman on TV before, she’s going to wipe the floor with everyone on this list anyway. She’s a Sam Reed clone, better looking, and smarter. She won’t fix the system. And I believe she is a great liar for the status quo. She is not honest. But she knows the system inside and out, and is way better looking than anyone else in the race.

It’s going to be Kathleen Drew versus Kim Wyman, and Kathleen Drew is no better at all. So far I don’t care who wins of these lying career politicians and/or ignorant fools, it doesn’t matter. Kim Wyman takes this easy though. So far. Kastama had a shot, but he fucked the Dems and the Republicans have long ago anointed Kim.

Vote-By Mail, counted in secret, run through private computer systems, no public oversight or control, and elections that are neither accurate, fair, honest or useful. Every single candidate on the list endorses the system as it is. It’s disgusting.

Computers adding wrong, “I got a penny extra in gas!”

Hi everyone, I haven’t been writing much on this blog in a few years since starting my business. However, this caught my eye today as we head into another election cycle in which
private companies count our votes using secret vote counting software.

I had pre-paid for gas at AM/PM for $25.00 of gas. But the pump dispensed $25.01 in gas. I took a picture. And it also printed on my receipt. Now obviously AM/PM has no vested interest in giving me even 1 penny more in gas than I paid for, but according to their “computers” that’s what it tells me happened. And while it might not matter to AM/PM that this happens once in a great while. When we are talking about counting millions of votes with private software, we don’t necessarily want to just blindly trust that “counting software” is accurate.

Anyway, nothing earth shattering but it was interesting… if I find a copy of the receipt I’ll scan it in later…

Want to know about problems with Voting By Mail?

Yep, that’s what this site is all about.

Here’s a good place to start, if you are looking for a list of problems found with 100% absentee voting systems.

I have been writing about the voting by mail for about 5 years now. Most of the press covering Wasington and Oregon’s voting systems either supports these systems outright, or does not take a critical eye to the vast change our law makers have made without much reason. I started this blog to track as much information as was available, and to share that information with the worldwide web at large.

At one point, I counted up and found over
89 Articles About Why Voting By Mail is a Very Bad Idea.

Now, it’s easily over 100.

Recently I ran for Bremerton City Council. There were less than 800 votes cast in my little district. The night of the election, I was behind, but only by around 25 votes. The next day, and the next, the vote counting continued. It wasn’t until the day of the certification that it was decided officially that I had lost, and the incumbent had won.

The voting by mail process has disenfranchised me, as a voter. It has made the vote counting process horribly slow. It has thrown security concerns out the window, and the convenience that it sells itself on has had many unintended consequences from high numbers of signatures that don’t match, to hundreds if not thousands of votes lost in the mail. Routinely.

But now the system has also screwed up the process of campaigning, and made the counting of elections take weeks, rather than a day or two.

Please feel free to contact me with questions, I am always interested in helping anyone interested in working for voting integrity and against schemes like 100% forced vote-by mail.

New to the site?

Looking for the quick highlights?

Check this link for all you need to know about Vote-By Mail Problems.

RIP Caleb Schaber

Caleb Schaber

Caleb Schaber

Caleb Schaber was a man who made you nervous. And like Dick Cheney, you were always worried he might just shoot you in the face. But unlike Dick Cheney, you were more worried that he’d probably shoot himself in the face before he got to you.

And you loved him for it.

I met Caleb first, online, almost 13 or 14 years ago. We went to college together. And his online persona proceeded him. He’d fight with people constantly.

And yet, if you didn’t fall for his shit, he’d like you for it. A few weeks, or months later, I met him in person, and he was nothing like the Caleb I knew online. As one friend put it, he was fragile, way more fragile than you expected.

The last time I saw Caleb he was packing up a grease powered panel van with Esmerelda Strange in my front yard and heading off for new adventures. He had stayed a few days, and we got to play some music, drink some beer, and shoot the shit… and there was a lot to talk about. There always was.

Caleb was a kindred spirit, someone who lived out loud, because it was the only way that he could. It wasn’t a choice he was making, it wasn’t an act. It was just Caleb.

In the time I knew him he wrote more articles for the University of Washington’s Daily than any person before or since, crazy shit, about his own life mostly. He’d be off to chase aliens at Area 51, or writing the most offensive crap the UW Daily ever printed. And the Publisher at the time would be drinking Milk of Magnesia, I’m sure, and wishing it was Milk of Amnesia.

Caleb jumped off the Aurora Avenue bridge once, and got a steel rod through his back to prove it.

He also ran for Mayor of Seattle, after getting a tremendous amount of tattoo work, one that just said “FUCK YOU.” He came in either 3rd or 4th, outta 6 contestants. Which meant he beat people. Which wasn’t suprising, because Caleb was smart, and likeable. Even people that hated Caleb liked him. Mayor Greg Nickels said it himself, “I like Caleb, Caleb’s a nice guy.” I don’t know if Caleb liked Greg Nickels. I would guess not.

After years of gonzo-style journalism, Caleb decided to jump off another bridge, and head to Afghansitan and Iraq, with stops in between. Many of us that knew him figured he’d get himself killed, as if you knew him, you knew the fragile part of Caleb, just as well as you knew the tough as nails part of Caleb.

And in the end, I can’t say what killed Caleb, other than Caleb. He shot himself. He did it in front of someone who loved him. It was a cruel and unforgiveable act. And the reason we all feared Caleb, and loved Caleb, and tried to help Caleb.

I too loved Caleb. He was a good friend, and a good enemy, and a caring and hateful and filled with rage sorta guy. He was as raw nerve, like I will never know again.

I’ll miss him, a lot.

Caleb Schaber

Our Vote Live, National Database of Absentee Voting Problems

Just came across this link and wanted to keep track of it. It’s a national database of voting problems, and the link above will give you a long list of complaints registered by voters concerning voting by absentee.