Absentee Ballot Problems Start to Mount

When it comes to voting procedures and problems these days, Washington State and Oregon are being looked at as the “go-to” models for other states to follow. Many states in the union have been juggling their voting machines and technologies since the 2000 election. And here on the west coast, where I report from, we’ve seen a huge increase in absentee voting. Washington and California vote largely absentee, while Oregon is out front with a virtually 100% Vote-By Mail system, where they closed the polls, and EVERYONE votes-by-mail.

Expect stories like these to become more frequent in the coming weeks. The problem? Vote early, and late changing events could affect how you might have voted had you had the “last minute details” that come out about the candidates or issue. In fact, each election cycle I am always too busy to keep up on all the new problems I have not yet recorded with absentee ballots. From the military’s vote not getting counted from oversees, to this situation where people are voting without putting the ballot in the envelope.

Once, I remember coming home and having the situation where my roomate accidentally spoiled my ballot by opening it, voting, and then signing the wrong ballot. These types of situations add error into the system. And when it comes to voting, losing votes should not be built into the very nature of the voting system. But as society moves to vote-by mail systems it undermines any real control over the chain-of-custody of the ballots throughout that voting system, a chain-of-custody that previously existed within the precinct level voting system.

It should be ludicrous on its face.

But now it’s probably coming to a state by you, as near 25 states have proposed relaxing their absentee rules, or moving to Universal Mail Voting procedures.

Alabama Absentee Voting Totals Questioned

This case has it all, a guy named Michael Jackson, a mayor’s race up in the air over absentee ballot totals, and a candidate accused of “helping” people vote:

http://www.tidesports.com/article/20080609/NEWS/865620239/-1/RSS04&source=RSS

In Marion, the county seat, the 2004 mayor’s election has still not been settled because of a court challenge over allegations of improper absentee ballots.

District Attorney Michael Jackson said he expects there will be federal and state observers in Perry County for the July 15 primary runoff after a federal observer reported that a candidate hung around a polling place much of the day Tuesday and helped some voters cast ballots.

Secretary of State Beth Chapman has pointed to a number of irregularities in Perry County during Tuesday’s primaries. Chapman said there are 8,361 registered voters in the county, and 4,207 votes cast, which means 50.3 percent of eligible voters would have gone to the polls. That gives Perry County a turnout that nearly triples the rate in counties like Marengo, where about 17.7 percent of voters cast ballots.

Chapman also said there were 1,114 absentee ballots cast in Perry County, compared with seven in Hale county and 14 in Crenshaw County — both of which have larger populations than Perry.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King has seized voting records in Perry County.

Terminology of the day, Absentee Ballot Problems

I don’t often talk in terms of “absenteee ballots” and instead use the term, Vote-By Mail, frequently throughout this blog. The point for me is to underline the lie in the new terminology. And in fact, this blog is called the No Vote By Mail Project, and not the No Absentee Voting Project, for a reason. Why? Because I’m not against absentee voting. In limited ways, absentee voting is ok. It’s not great, but you can check it against general trends, and if it matches statistical projections based on expected voting patterns, it’s not going to be a serious problem for your election system. It may even improve the validity of the system by allowing small but vocal populations to vote that may not have had access to a voting place before, due to financial or physical reasons.

That said, a lot of what I do here, on the NOVBM website, is to track problems that appear in limited systems of absentee voting across the country. Why? Well only one state so-far is truly Vote-By Mail and that is Oregon. My state, Washington is quickly going that direction, and Califonria is right behind us. However, 50 states are using some form of absentee voting. And therefore the No Vote By Mail Project also tracks news and information about absentee ballot problems, remote voting, internet voting, black box voting, and voting news from around the world. Democracy is about participation, voting from home and tossing your vote in the mail, relying on faith to guide it to it’s destination, and faith to trust in the system to count your vote accurately, this is about as far away from particiapatory Democracy as I could ever envision.