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.

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Vote-By Mail, Absentee Ballots Slow California Vote Count

 California, we have a problem:

http://www.mercurynews.com/valley/ci_9511448

Thousands of vote-by-mail ballots that county elections workers have scurried to tally this week show a new name in the runoff for a judge’s seat – and a San Jose City Council race still too close to call.

When the final poll numbers from Tuesday’s election were released earlier this week, prosecutor Lane Liroff trailed court commissioner Jesus Valencia by just 28 votes in the race for Santa Clara County Superior Court judge. But the 50,000 additional vote-by-mail ballots voters turned in at polling places on Election Night changed the picture: Liroff ended up with about 1,000 more total votes and will almost certainly face San Jose attorney Diane Ritchie, the top vote-getter, in November.

Things remain even tighter in San Jose’s council District 2. With all the mail ballots counted late Friday, non-candidate Jacquelyn Adams – who withdrew from the race but still appeared on the ballot – led third-place candidate Ram Singh by a mere 12 votes.

Large use of absentee ballots slows down the entire vote collecting, and subsequent counting. Switching from largely precinct poll voting to Vote-by mail systems has slowed the vote count in every election cycle I have observed since starting this site a few years back. In Montana, a 4000 vote tally almost took a month to count, and in Washington the last Darcy Burner and Dave Reichert race was too close to call for a bit, if I recall correctly.

Want to know more, here’s 89 Articles on Why Voting By Mail is bad for democracy. Or if you are making a presentation to the County Board or your State Legistlator here’s the bullet list.

As California Heads to Vote-By Mail, Turnout Low and Going Lower?

Riddle me this… as Vote-By Mail percentages increase turnout is decreasing? If the postal voting enthusiasts really had it right, shouldn’t we be seeing the opposite trend? This article says a largely mail vote in California is expecting a low turnout:

http://www.mydesert.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080603/NEWS03/80603045

The California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials estimated a 31 percent turn out statewide. Riverside officials had anticipated turnout here would fall just under that.

“I’m not optimistic because what I heard from polling places today is that turnout was very low,” Dunmore said.

“Getting to the 30 percent looks like it might be a challenge.”

In contrast, the February presidential primary drew about 407,000 – or 55 percent of registered voters – to the polls.

Unlike February, when far more Democrats darkened the county’s voting booths – a total 74 percent turnout to 57 percent – slightly more Republicans voted this primary election absentee, 14 percent to Democrats’ 11 percent.

Riverside County has 763,941 registered voters.

Coachella Valley voters said tradition brought them out to the polls Tuesday.

The article also makes a great case against centralized vote-counting. Starting off by showing that trucking in the votes is a timely process. Poll-site vote counts! Yes. Centralized counts, no.

San Bernadino, California, “Voting By Mail Made Easy”

In the usual refrain, Vote-By Mail is being touted as the savior to the many inconveniences of poll place voting. Including, somehow it is suppose to actually decrease “over-voting.” Which is a truly amazing feat, since most paper-ballot machine counted systems, like the fill-in the circle optical scan ballots actually will automatically reject over-voted ballots, however VBM (Vote-By Mail) systems cannot take advantage of this feature.

Anyway, there’s about a half dozen totally nonsensical things in this article, see if you can spot them:

http://www.redlandsdailyfacts.com/news/ci_9403652

The San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters has launched its “Vote By Mail, Voting Made Easy” campaign designed to educate residents about the advantages of casting their ballots by mail as an alternative to voting in person.

The campaign touts voting by mail as a convenient, reliable way to cast a ballot.

In 2007 the California State Legislature renamed absentee voting “vote by mail.” The move was an attempt to increase overall voter turnout by appealing to residents who would ordinarily not vote due to accessibility or scheduling issues associated with voting at polling places.

The Vote By Mail campaign’s other aim is to decrease errors, such as over-voting, by providing voters the hassle-free experience of voting on their schedules and in their own homes.

“This is an ideal year to promote voting by mail with all of the interest at the presidential level. We also want to encourage voter participation in the June 3rd statewide primary,” said San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Kari Verjil. “Now individuals have another voting option open to them, and we hope they take advantage of this opportunity to never miss an election in California.”

Verjil notes another benefit that may appeal to some.

“The first results you’ll see reported on election night reflect votes cast in advance by mail, since those can be counted prior to polls closing,” she said.