An Open Letter to Al Franken and His Friends from The No Vote By Mail Project

Often, I am told I look like Al Franken.

I resemble that remark. Oh well.

It’s ironic then, that Al Franken is contesting his election based on Absentee Ballots. Ironic, at least to me, as the Director of The No Vote By Mail Project.

Personally I like Al Franken ok, and in this instance I think he stands a good chance of proving that absentee ballots are not statistically an accurate way to count votes. The problem for Mr. Franken will be to show that those absentee ballot errors specifically affected him, personally, and unequally. To this end I think Mr. Franken will probably fail. But if he can prove this there’s fertile ground for adding up the 200 votes he trails by.

So here’s a shout out to the Al Franken fan club, and his legal team, you are welcome to use this blog to prove your case. But please give me a shout out when you can. I’ve been fighting the Vote-By Mail trend all by my lonesome for quite some time. All while being told I look kinda like Mr. Franken. It’s high time more people heard about the problems with voting by mail and absentee ballot. It’s not just something that affects a few elections, sometimes. It’s happening all over the country. So hey, maybe you know an agent who wants to publish a book about absentee voting problems? I’ve got plenty of material….

Should the dead be voting?

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5g51lYdB8i6BdEmw53fQR5sVl9JqAD924CPPO4

“If you vote by mail, but die before Election Day, does your vote count? It depends on where you lived.”

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.

 

Mr. Postman, Is My Absentee Ballot Safe?

Nothing to see here, move along:

Alabama: absentee records seized in Lowndes County

WSFA 12 News reports: Attorney General Troy King today announced that agents from his office have served subpoenas upon Lowndes County election officials and have taken custody of records relating to the June 3 primary election. — WSFA 12 News Montgomery, AL |Attorney General Subpoenas Lowndes County Voting Records

–From the Votelaw Blog

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.

Absentee Ballot Fraud Alleged in Putin’s Election

Well this comes as no suprise:

http://www.theotherrussia.org/2007/12/02/false-results/ 

Voting with absentee ballots and voting on pressure from authorities

One of the major complaints that experts and voters alike are voicing is the rampant use of absentee ballots, which are difficult to trace and pin down to a particular individual. As electoral monitors from the SPS headquarters in Moscow have pointed out, a disproportionate share of absentee ballots are being used in polling places. Traditionally, such ballots are only used for individuals living in a different region than where they are registered to vote, and their widespread use in this election is unnecessary and alarming.

At polling station Number 1697, in the Autozavod district of Moscow, 40% of registered voters cast their decision using an absentee ballot. The voting process was administered by an observer from the pro-Kremlin United Russia party.

In a press-release, Yabloko announced that their observers flagged down and stopped a bus on the streets of Moscow. The vehicle was driving its passengers between polling stations, where they were voting multiple times with absentee ballots. Ivan Bolshakov, a candidate on the Yabloko party list, commented that the passengers were workers from the “Magnet” store from the city of Kovrov in the Vladimirsk oblast. They were apparently invited for an outing to Moscow, issued absentee ballots, and told to vote for United Russia. Before it was stopped, the bus had already visited several polling locations.

Observers from SPS noted a similar incident with a bus-load of people voting with absentee ballots in Eastern Izmailovo.

In the city of Slavyansk-na-Kubani, in the Krasnodarsk Krai, observers of the KPRF noticed a large share of university students voting under the direction of university vice-deans. The university officials were seen issuing absentee ballots to the students.

In St. Petersburg, employees of one vocational school and their families were being forced to vote for United Russia with absentee ballots, according to Yabloko. Janitors in the Golovinsk district of Moscow were under threat of dismissal, and were being told to receive absentee ballots and hand them over to their superiors.

In total, around 1 million 350 thousand absentee ballots were issued for the election, according to Nina Kulyasova, a representative of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC).

Idaho’s County Clerks will Try Once Again to Move to Vote-By Mail

Idaho is poised to try moving to unrestricted absentee ballots again next year:

http://www.magicvalley.com/articles/2007/10/31/news/local_state/123723.txt

 

A Second Chance

County clerks give vote-by-mail another try

County clerks will give vote-by-mail a second try when the 2008 Idaho Legislature convenes in January, but they scaled down their attempt from choosing entire elections to only non-candidate elections.

The change would allow voters to submit ballots via postal mail for elections besides primary and general contests, such as bond issue votes, taxing districts and recall elections.

“This is just a step to try and show the citizens how convenient it is to have vote-by-mail, so we thought if we tried it with non-candidates, it might work,” Twin Falls County Clerk Kristina Glascock said. “This is baby steps, I guess, to get people used to the process.”

The county clerks continue to make the argument that Vote-By Mail is more convenient. Obviously, this Texas county commisioner, thought the same thing. As did this mayor, and all these convenience loving folks in England, as well as a few honorable people in New Jersey.

Yep, looks like Vote-By Mail is really convenient, if what you want to do is rig an election.

More Absentee Ballot Fraud

Another day, another case of vote fraud using absentee ballots… dateline England:

Seven people have been charged with postal ballot fraud at the last General Election, police said.

The seven will appear in court next month charged with conspiracy to defraud.

No personal details of the alleged offenders have been released by police.

Each one is charged with conspiracy to defraud the returning officer in Bradford.

West Yorkshire Police said that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) recommended charges following a joint probe with the city’s returning officer into “voting patterns and postal votes”.

England’s runaway success with Vote-by Mail is becoming clearer day-by-day:

During the May 2005 election, former Bradford returning officer Philip Robinson referred 252 cases of possible election fraud to the police. In April 2006, West Yorkshire Police passed files on 11 men and two women to the CPS following its investigation in Bradford.

Expanding and Improving Opportunities to Commit Vote By Mail Fraud

John C. Fortier, the author of a recent book on absentee and early voting, recently testified before the House Election Subcommittee on H.R. 281, H.R. 1646, and H.R. 1667. The whole testimony is well worth the read, but here’s a choice cut:

If I were testifying before a state legislature, I would urge caution in expanding absentee and vote by mail programs for many of the reasons stated above. Absentee and mail voting is convenient and liked by many voters, but it comes with a cost, especially the loss of the privacy of the ballot and additional opportunities for voter fraud. I would also note that states have many options to improve the convenience of elections that do not involve expanding mail or absentee ballots.

First, I would recommend that states significantly improve the convenience of voting on Election Day. I would recommend longer voting hours, better poll worker training, better siting of more accessible polling places. States might also consider adopting Election Day vote centers or super centers as several counties in Colorado have tried. These vote centers allow voters to cast ballots at any location in their county, not just their home polling places. Early academic research has shown that these vote centers do increase turnout and attract new voters to the process.