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Friday, October 26, 2012

"You fill it out, honey, and I'll sign it"

Remember former Oregon secretary of state Phil Keisling? He's on an ever-growing list of folks who thought that office would be their ticket to political stardom. Anyway, he's now working in the political patronage graveyard known as Portland State University. In his spare time, he's been preaching to the rest of the country how wonderful Oregon's voting system is, where everybody votes by snail mail or hand delivery of ballots sent to voters' listed residences. It increases turnout, he brags, and there's no evidence of widespread fraud.

There's never any evidence of anything unless you look for it, bub.

The biggest problem with vote-by-mail is the opportunity it creates to assign one's vote to someone else. In many, many households around the state, and probably some nursing homes as well, the person who is signing the return envelope is not the person who darkened the circles on the ballot. Somebody else fills it out -- a spouse, a roommate, someone "who follows this stuff" -- and the voter simply signs it, often without even looking at it. One person may vote a handful of times, or more. It's illegal -- we think -- but no one's watching. As famed Judge Richard Posner once remarked, it's the difference between a proctored exam and a take-home exam.

That kind of abuse was not anywhere near prevalent in the days of voting booths. Now, we'll bet it infects at least one out of 10 votes cast in Oregon.

About the only silver lining we can see to the post office slowly going out of business is that at some point it will force Oregon to come up with an alternative to vote-by-mail. Many people love it, but it's like smoking. At some point you need to get out of denial and quit.

Comments (32)

Hmm, not sure I agree about the concern for vote fraud in the scenario where one family member darkens in all the bubbles, and they each sign their own ballots. How is that different in principle from one family member circling the sample ballot selections, and everyone takes that blueprint into a polling booth to do the bubbling/punching themselves?

Do you have proof of this fraud or is this just your innate cynicism speaking?

Let me try this again for the denser brains out there: THERE IS NO PROOF OF FRAUD, JUST AS THERE IS NO PROOF OF THE ABSENCE OF FRAUD, BECAUSE THE VOTING TAKES PLACE IN PEOPLE'S HOMES, WHERE NO ONE IS WATCHING. I hope that clarifies matters for you, posting from your little OHSU cubicle.

Happens at my house. It's rampant among households where one family member is more interested or knowledgeable about elections.
That's why "turnout" is "higher". People who previously may not have bothered to vote at the booth, now "vote" by mail. Young adult kids, spouses...

How is that different in principle from one family member circling the sample ballot selections, and everyone takes that blueprint into a polling booth to do the bubbling/punching themselves?

In the latter case, the voter at least has to read the names and the yes'es or no's. The voter also retains the right to change his or her mind until the very moment that he or she hands the completed ballot to the election worker.

Ever notice how many dumb ideas escape the Portland area not because they actually solve a problem, but because boosters go nationwide, yammering about how everything would just be better, classier, and sexier if it were done the way Portland does it? I swear, it's like people trapped in horrible marriages who push friends and co-workers to get married, too, just so everybody suffers.

I think you are right on Jack. And I'm sure there are plenty of households where a browbeaten spouse surrenders their ballot to their wife or husband.

I wrote a similar criticism in my Oregonian column a couple years back. In response I receive a hand written note from Kate Brown urging me to observe the counting process to see it was fraud free. What she doesn't get is that the fraud is not in the counting process, but rather in the voting process.

And anyway, vote by mail has not achieved its stated objective of greater turnout.

The biggest problem with the old style elections was that it was on a single day.

The only fix needed is to allow one week to vote.

However, I'm sure the next evolution will be some kind of internet voting, and I'm sure the folks that sell it will ENSURE there's absolutely no way to tamper with it...none at all...0%..........of course until it happens.

While I have no proof, I have had numerous people confess the following crimes to me a dinner/cocktail parties:

1. Husband filling out wife's ballot.

2. Vice-versa of #1.

3. Parents filling out ballot of child in college. (On parent got mildly upset when the child registered to vote in college town).

4. Adult child filling out ballots for Alzheimer-afflicted parents.

5. Adult child filling out ballots for Alzheimer-afflicted parents for a year after parent(s) death.

One person bragged that he/she got to vote three times in one election.

Oh, and that bag of old clothes that I dropped of at Goodwill ... they were worth about ... oh ... say ... $500. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Just because no is busted for it, doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

Or how about the scenario where one spouse bullies the other into voting they want them to. Naw, that would never happen...

Jack, you are probably right about the frequency of the spouse handing over the ballot to the other spouse and letting them fill it out, etc. Let's hope the nursing home thing, or the child filling out the ballot for their Alzheimer's addled parent is isolated and infrequent. Who knows how much fraud is going on? That's the problem.

That stated, Oregonians love their vote by mail system. It's like saying football is on it's death bed because of all of these head injuries, etc. Americans are very good at's practically a national sport unto itself. Good or bad, vote by mail is here to stay.

I "know a guy" who filled out his wife's ballot this year after she signed the envelope.

It does happen. Probably frequently.

And I'm sure there are plenty of households where a browbeaten spouse surrenders their ballot to their wife or husband.

How do you think vote by mail would have worked at Archie Bunker's house? I'm betting Edith would have gladly copied Archie's ballot, Archie would have thoroughly lectured Gloria until she voted his way and Meathead's ballot would have turned up missing (Archie would have blamed the Post Office).

I imagine the family pressure dynamic is only going to get worse as unemployment among young adults increases. If statistics are to be believed, about 30% of young adults are living with Mom and Dad after college.

Vote By Mail was spawned in fraud. One example? The campaign said all signatures were collected by unpaid volunteers - but that was not true. And Dave, don't discount the possibility of fraud at the elections office. received ballots are reviewed by volunteers, who 'darken' the circles if needed before the ballot is counted.

Happens at my house.

I "know a guy"...

Awesome. Guess that's at least some proof that Jack is right. How's that saying go? "The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching."

Anecdotal fear without basis IMHO. If this were a widespread problem, it hasn’t shown up in any study I can find.

Vote by mail is 1/3 to 1/2 cheaper than polling place elections, turnout is generally a little higher and it’s more convenient for working people.

turnout is generally a little higher and it’s more convenient for working people

Like the paid canvassers who go house-to-house the weekend before the election. People offering to help last-minute voters drop their ballot off at the elections office would not have any ulterior motives....right?

Look , the Rombot-2012 told his rich buddies to tell their employees that they would lose their jobs if the Prez is re-elected [Go BHO!}. Why don't you believe Oregon business owners won't tell their employees to bring their ballots to work , so the boss can fill them out 'right'.

Yes, point taken... there can be shenanigans in the counting process, but I think they would be very small in comparison to the problem of other people filling out someone's ballot.

Why don't you believe Oregon business owners won't tell their employees to bring their ballots to work , so the boss can fill them out 'right'.

Well, I do believe they won't.

You made my day Jack. I've given up both smoking and the Post Office, and am forewarned not to go the vote-by-mail route. Though my wife wouldn't delegate her vote for President, Governor or US Senator there's a raft of downticket and local races and referenda she would gladly pass on to me.

My wife delegated her WA ballot to me: we agreed on most items, sans two: charter schools (no) and a local race (she preferred the female candidate).

I deferred in both instances so as not to cancel each other's vote out.

We think of it as team voting, not fraud.
That said, she didn't bother to review it before signing and sealing: blind trust, or felonious conspiracy? You decide.

Mister Tee, check out this story (re blind trust):

(summary: Husband is a Republican, wife is a Democrat. He gave her his absentee ballot to mail before heading off on a business trip. She did the "right" thing, which was to throw his ballot away.)

Does it realy make much difference when one considers what we end up with?

Anecdotal fear without basis IMHO. If this were a widespread problem, it hasn’t shown up in any study I can find.


Maybe shouting isn't helping.

Well, WITHOUT a 'study' perhaps common-sense reasoning might carry knowledge of the issue.
I am certain 10% is waaaay high as a figure of 'other marked' ballots. My sense estimates less than 1%, not 1 out of 100. Actually, 1% is proffered as a compromise figure in-between your 10% estimate, Jack, and what I really think, (inductively), which is: one-tenth of 1% or 1 out of 1000.

That is, if I ask 1000 random people in a representative sample 'Who voted your ballot?' I expect fewer than 5 of them would answer "a person other than me." I expect 250 of them would answer "no one, I didn't vote."

Going to show that the apathetic or indifferent attitude doesn't vote at all -- the 'blank' ones susceptible to being tricked, instead eliminate themselves. And IF a person does care enough to vote, that personal dutiful(?) caring feeling is antidote and likely counteracts any parasite interest of 'others' to vote that ballot -- who cares to vote to start with, then suddenly somehow does not care to vote? I don't think so. Not so much. But again, the largest part of my random sample of 1000 representative 'households' finds the ballot envelope in the trash a week after the election unopened.

Moreover, it has long fascinated me that people who know nothing about something they're voting on, may either cancel or double the vote of someone who knows all about it and votes 'correctly.' I estimate 80% of votes cast amounts to flip-a-coin results - 40% of voted ballots 'automatically' (or 'stupidly') vote one way, and 40% vote the other way. 80% of votes cancel each other out, half and half, flip a coin. So only 20% of votes 'decide' the final margin in the end.

Whatever the percentage figure of households where one member 'bosses' another member on how to mark both of their ballots -- whether 10%, 1%, or 0.1% -- the frauds cancel each other out for the most part. Democrats do it (double vote) and Republicans do it. Mutual elimination. Or are you accusing only one group of doing all the fraud, the group who votes opposite of your vote because you are in the 'victim' group?

And one more 'metric' for consideration: In 1000 households receiving a mailed ballot, 500 of them have 'single' resident (single parent, single voter) -- there is no 'other' person in the house, to be bossy or bossed by. You may think everybody looks and lives the same as you, married with children at one mailing address, but multi-voter residences is in the minority.

'Studies' were done to find out why voter participation percentage increased ten-or-so percent when Vote-by-Mail started; historic average 65% bumped up to about 75%, or more, and Oregonians ordinarily are among the highest-participation states. It was found that socially 'awkward' people who 'do not like to be seen in public,' and physically handicapped people, and people who 'could not get off work on Election Day to go vote before 8 o'clock' -- all of them started newly voting with Vote-by-Mail. And 'studies' found those in the new voting 'bloc' had the same percentage breakdown as the 'general' population between passionately involved smart Democratic voters and versus stupid Republican voters (-:

Sound reasonable?

Those arguing with you Jack have a vested interest in not finding out that your might just be right.

Jack I think you may be incorrect. You can check if it's happening. You can ask people, anonymously if need be, and they'll admit to it. Several (5) on this blog have already admitted to it or heard first hand accounts of people doing it.

I have 3 ballots upstairs of people who have no intention of voting. I could easily sit down and have them fill out the ballot how I want, or simply fill it out for them and have them sign. Easy peasy and very tempting. The only thing stopping me is the pride I take in my high ethical standards (or something).

If it can be done it will be done, count on it. Fraud is happening, no need to commission a federal study to declare the sky blue.

A much better system would allow at least two weeks of early voting, as we have it here in Nevada. And a "NONE OF THE ABOVE" option on the ballot as well. We use electronic voting machines here that also print out a paper ballot with one's choices. You can check your choices on the paper copy just to make sure they are correct before hitting the "vote" button. And you can also have a poll worker provide you with a paper copy of your ballot choices before you leave the polls.
Vote by mail is an idea that will die along with the post office. So maybe it's time for Oregon to move into the 21st century.

Nevada: The hardcopy papertrail printout of who got your vote may or may not be the same as who your vote is counted for in the ephemeral electronic computer memory. The paper 'receipt' in your hands is NOT a printout of what's stored in memory or flashstick ... 'stored' and 'counted' by programmed pre-set the day before.

Vote-by-Mail is like (Churchill's) 'democracy' the worst method for the task except for all other methods. Here is what fretfully awful Vote-by-Mail is better than:
the entire rest of the country's way of voting.

'I Can't Tell You Who I Voted For': Obama Casts Early Vote on 100% Unverifiable E-Vote System -, By Brad Friedman on 10/26/2012

* Sequoia touch-screen systems, found vulnerable to failure and undetectable manipulation, to be used again in 13 states...

President Barack Obama may have voted for Mitt Romney yesterday when he cast his Early Vote .... Nobody knows for sure. Even him.

He cast his vote on a 100% unverifiable touch-screen e-voting system made by Sequoia Voting Systems (which is now owned by a Canadian firm named Dominion Voting.) It is scientifically impossible to ever know if his vote was recorded accurately, as per his intent, or not on that type of voting system.

"I can't tell you who I voted for," the President joked, as noted by our colleague Mark Crispin Miller in a short blog item today wryly headlined "Obama votes for Romney". The President's joke may not have been nearly as funny as he had intended it.

We confirmed with the Chicago Board of Elections that Early Voters in the Windy City must do so on the oft-failed, incredibly-vulnerable, and easily-hacked (see below for details) Sequoia AVC Edge touch-screen voting system which is still used according to's database for Early, Disabled-Accessible or Standard polling place voting in some 234 jurisdictions across all or part of some 13 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. ...

A few other quick points of note which should deeply concern every voter in the nation --- of any party, or none at all --- about the 100% unverifiable Sequoia touch-screen voting systems that the President foolishly entrusted yesterday to accurately record his vote...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

I mean, can people not understand reports which explain a voter's 'touch button' on TV isn't necessarily the 'vote' that the computer stores in memory, no matter what the computer prints out and says it did? What part of 'The Computer Is Programmed' don't they understand?

Vote-by-Mail has NO 'touch TV' buttons.

Gee it must be tin foil hat time!

So... no one thinks it might be a good thing if people who don't care about a particular race or measure vote according to the choices of someone who does care about it? (Genuinely curious.)

Tenskwatawa... Your argument that if both sides do it, they will cancel each other out, only applies if there are equal numbers of people on both sides. If there are more of one party than the other (with both parties filling in the circles on other people's ballots in equal percentages), then whichever party is in the majority gets the margin of its majority widened.


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