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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why vote-by-mail is a bad idea

The New York Times may love Portland, but it doesn't love the way we vote.

[V]otes cast by mail are less likely to be counted, more likely to be compromised and more likely to be contested than those cast in a voting booth, statistics show. Election officials reject almost 2 percent of ballots cast by mail, double the rate for in-person voting....

In Florida, people affiliated with political campaigns "help people vote absentee," he said. "And help is in quotation marks."...

There is a bipartisan consensus that voting by mail, whatever its impact, is more easily abused than other forms. In a 2005 report signed by President Jimmy Carter and James A. Baker III, who served as secretary of state under the first President George Bush, the Commission on Federal Election Reform concluded, "Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud."

On the most basic level, absentee voting replaces the oversight that exists at polling places with something akin to an honor system.

"Absentee voting is to voting in person," Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has written, "as a take-home exam is to a proctored one."

The whole thing is well worth reading. And then let the denial of reality by weird-keepin' Oregonians resume.

Comments (15)

I miss going to a precinct voting location (the jr. High school), seeing which neighbors bothered to come out and vote, being part of the great American experiment in democracy, and winnowing out the people too lazy and ill-prepared to bother to vote in person. It takes effort. Not much, but just enough to qualify voters as local residents and committed citizens. And we all get to find out the results on the same day! I miss all of that. Filling out another piece of paper and mailing it in -- yawn.

Voter fraud is bad but even worse is not having the right to free, fair, impartial third party elections in the first place.
Voters in Oregon Electric Co-operatives, state sanctioned monopoly utilities, do not have the right to free, fair, impartial elections.
We, the voters, cannot "throw the bums out" even if we wanted to. If the current board does not want someone on their board they will not win a seat on the board no matter how may votes they get.
And they have unlimited ratepayer money to pay lawyers and politicians to keep it that way. For more information see www.reformwascoelectric.com

I've never been fond of vote by mail but anyone who thinks for a second that mail in ballots are where the fraud is at is either delusional or hoping to cover up for the Diebolds and other crooks. I do not think it so in your case (this blog), but an awful lot of the pols bleating about retail voter fraud are simply aping Karl Rove's tactic of accusing opponents of doing what you yourself are doing wholesale and at a much grander scale.

Retail vote theft/fraud has gone on for as long as we have voted in this country.
Where before the party machine had to usher each bought vote to the polls and then pay the voter off now they can do it without the exposure and expense under the guise of elder and low income voter assistance organizations.
I think GA is talking about instances like the Washington state governor's race a few years ago. Where the count was close and those tallying the vote kept "finding" uncounted ballots between each recount.
NEver did understand how a ballot not counted initially can be "recounted"...

I too worry way more about paperless voting machines being manipulated than voter fraud for mail in ballots.
I recall that our mail in OR voter turn out is not much different than the going to the polls turn out.

I don't miss standing in line for over an hour just because I have to vote after working 8-5:30.

Absentee is the way to go and the way I went long before VBMail.

There will always be cheaters. Just wait until Mitt and Barack are done with this cycle. It'll make the 2000 Gore-Bush debacle look quaint. All without the mail ballots as the problem. What tank said. Fix that!

I didn't vote for the ballot change but see what Oregon has as different than absentee ballots. This is our system; and if someone wants to cheat, the old way of adding a second vote to a ballot, as happened in Florida with Buchanan-Gore, can be done.

ALL voting depends on honorable people counting the ballots. If cheating is their idea of being a values voter, the whole system breaks down whether it's vote by mail or in person.

Yep, people cheat. Always have and always will. And vote by mail makes it easier to cheat. So let's go back to a method that reduces cheating.

No wonder our politicians are so keen on it.

Come to think of it, wasn't it around the time this was instituted that local politics started getting "lop-sided"?

VBMail is being abused I'm sure but I don't think it would be all that hard to crack down on it. What is the average number of people in a household over the age of 18? Set that as a trigger point then send people out to check on addresses over that number. I'm sure it wouldn't take to many prosecutions before people quit messing around.

FYI, I lived in another state for a few years. Just before an election they did an audit and found quite a few addresses with obviously to many registered voters, think one had ~60. In that case it was done by pay per registered voter groups but how hard would it of been for that person to vote all those with VBMail?

The issue raised by Darrin relates to voter registration and I always said that it is the real problem. With 16 years as Clackamas County Clerk and 5 years as Director of Election for Multnomah County, I am sure that voting by mail is much more secure than voting at polling places. If anyone is serious about investigating the accuracy of signature verification and the secruity of ballot counting, contact your county election official and arrange for a tour. Or arrange with your political party to be a volunteer observer and see for yourself.

A state government that blithely pays a claim for a $2.1 million state income tax refund will nevertheless be vigilant enough to catch a handful of fraudulent ballots, no?

All the same, I would need real evidence to convince me that fraudulent ballots are a problem on anything other than a trivial and inconsequential level. A rudimentary understanding of statistics should be enough to convince you that an election cannot be altered one or two votes at a time, unless it is a statistical draw, in which case many other factors (see Florida, 2000) can also affect the outcome.

Allan, the state government does not count ballots. County elections offices do. They take big boxes of ballots out of the envelopes and feed them into scantron machines in front of outside observers from both parties. It is an open and technologically simple process.

With traditional voting, I can see how an elections worker could game the system by throwing out a box of ballots from a precinct that leans strongly toward one candidate, but that's impossible when envelopes from all over a county are mixed together. The system works really well in Oregon.

As far as registration is concerned, I've done some volunteer canvassing, which consists mainly of going door to door based on registration lists. I haven't seen anything suspicious in regard the 500 or so homes I've visited altogether. The names, and the number of names, on record has always matched what I've seen. The biggest errors come from people who have moved and haven't updated their address.

If anyone is serious about investigating the accuracy of signature verification and the secruity of ballot counting, contact your county election official

That's a red herring. Fraudulent signatures aren't the problem with VBM. The problem is that when voting is done outside of a polling place, there's no way to verify that the person who signed the ballot is the person who actually made the choices on it. Not everyone's personal circumstances allows them to vote without being subject to some kind of domestic coercion or subterfuge.

California strikes just the right balance. There, if you WANT to vote absentee, all you have to do is request a that ballot be mailed to you - you don't have to state a reason. Those for whom absentee voting isn't a desirable option (for lack of privacy or whatever) can still go to a polling place.

VBM has the obvious problem that an employer or a pastor can suggest that everyone bring in their blank , but pre-signed ballots for them to fill out. One employer or pastor could them vote twenty , fifty , two hundred times. Even an over-bearing spouse could vote for their partner , relatives and adult children.
I am against it for this reason.

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