Sunday, August 28, 2005

Washngton county prepares to hold first by-mail elections

Whatcom County is the next in what is sure to be a long line of Washington state counties switching to by-mail elections. Already, neighbor Oregon has held elections by mail for nearly a decade with few problems. Quite the contrary, Oregon officials believe their system is superior to traditional precinct-based elections with large numbers of absentees (what they call a "mixed" elections system).

In Washington state, more than 75% of voters choose absentee ballots already. And a new state law, requiring paper trails for all ballots, has made it even more cost effective to switch to a full absentee, or fully by mail, system.

As in Oregon, Whatcom County officials are using the US Postal Service to clean their ballot rolls, having removed 4,000 names already as election notices come back "return to sender."

Story referenced here:

Friday, August 26, 2005

Early voting is no joke

A nice column in the Chicago Sun Times by Mark Brown (courtesy of (thanks Doug!) comments on the impact of early voting in Illinois.

Marc does a good job identifying the impact of the change. I'd add a few points.

  • The "groundhog" day quote way, came from an Oregon GOTV organizer about a decade ago and has been reused over and over again. It's often attributed to Congressman David Wu but that's also wrong.
  • Marc is right about field organization with early voting. What will be critical is if Illinois (or the counties) make the voter records available before the election. For instance, in Oregon, I can find out the date that your ballot was processed (it is a public record), and therefore can *stop* calling you once you have cast your ballot.
  • There is dramatic variation in the ease and costs of getting this information. We don't know yet how Illinois will handle this.
  • In other early voting states, the systems have benefitted Republicans because a) more early voters are Republicans and b) mobilizing the early vote is a cost intensive process, benefitting the better funded party. The third reason is purely speculative on my part at this time, but early voting will detach many voters from the ongoing campaign, thus hurting a party (like the Dems) that rely relatively more on people rather than capital.

Story referenced here:

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Everett Herald editorial critical of vote by mail

An editorial critical of vote by mail, from Sunday's Everett (WA) Herald. Not fully accurate--as with any voting method, the question to ask is not whether the method is prone to fraud, but whether it is more prone than other methods.

Election officials in Oregon (and I tend to agree with them) admit that vote by mail has flaws and might be taken advantage of (although this is a Class C felony). However, the question is whether traditional voting methods, where all you do is show up at a precinct, sign a paper (with a never verified signature) and vote is more or less prone.

The story referenced is here:

Friday, August 19, 2005

Washington County votes to keep precinct voting

Snohomish County (WA) commissioners voted 3-2 to keep precinct level voting, even though the state-required paper audit machines will cost nearly $1,000,000.

As I wrote previously, these decisions will be coming fast and furious in Washington state over the next few months, since the state passed a law requiring paper audits. For many counties, they face the choice between retaining precinct polling for a dwindling portion of voters (less than 20% in many counties) and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, or else simply tossing in the towel and going to all absentee/by mail voting.

See the story referenced here:

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Another Washington County calls for by-mail voting in response to state law requiring paper records

HeraldNet: Auditor calls for switch to vote-by-mail election

Turnout issues in Lousiana. Is early voting a cure?

I've seen some of the data that Louisiana is relying on, when they hope that early voting will increase turnout. It's based on a report issued by Curtis Gans after the 2004 election.

Problem is that Gans's study is incomplete--he only compares differences in turnout from 2000 and 2004 based on one difference: whether or not a state had early voting.

But as this paper, "Consequential Reforms or Innocuous Tinkering? Another Look at Efforts to Increase Turnout in American Elections," written by James T. Smith of Catholic University and John Comer
of University of Nebraska - Lincoln, shows, once you control for all the other reasons that turnout may be higher or lower relative to other states, there is no relationship between turnout and early voting.

To take just one example, the State of Oregon claims on its webpage that vote by mail increases turnout, because turnout in the first post vote by mail presidential election (2000) was higher than in 1996. Two problems. First, Oregon has always been a high turnout state. Second, 2000 was a hard fought election in which Oregon was a battleground state.

More evidence on this point is posted at the earlyvoting website: News

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Absentee Voting by Sri Lankan migrant workers

A call in another country for voting rights for workers living abroad:

The Peninsula On-line: Qatar's leading English Daily

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Carter Baker Commission Report: Ballot Integrity under Oregon's Vote by Mail System

The Oregon Secretary of State's Office has been kind enough to post my report to their website. The EVIC website will be in place in a few days, but until then:

Ballot Integrity and Voting by mail: The Oregon Experience

Precinct Voting a "Relic", so says Gronke??

My report to the Carter/Baker commission has made the press. In Maricopa County, where as I reported yesterday, they are debating all-mail voting, my report on Oregon's vote by mail system is making the rounds.

I actually did not call precinct voting a "relic" but said it may become a relic, if current trends continue. Ah, well, so much for fame.

Glad to see that I'm gaining some traction.

Arizona Capitol Times

Kitsap County, WA adopts all by-mail voting

Kitsap County, on beautiful Bainbridge Island (east of Seattle, across the bay), has announced that it is moving to all absentee voting (essentially, vote by mail).

They took this action, according to the story, because 80% of Kitsap county residents vote absentee anyway, and they want to avoid the cost of obtaining new voting machines that meet HAVA requirements for precinct place voting.

This may end up being an unanticipated consequence of HAVA. By imposing expensive new requirements on the states, many may decide that it's cheaper and easier to simply shift to alternative balloting systems.

See the story here: Local

Monday, August 08, 2005

Maricopa County Elections Director Endorses By-Mail Voting

A nice interview in today's Arizona Capitol Times with Karen Osborne, director of elections for Maricopa County, Arizona. Osborne addresses the challenges of administering elections when an area is experiencing rapid growth, and attendant problems with new registrations, change in old registrations, administering provisional ballots, and the like.

There is a fairly extended treatment of mail in balloting by Osborne. She calls it the "most secure" form of any type of voting because they check every signature. Of course, one could imagine more secure systems--for instance, you might have thumbprint or retinal scanning, or more realistically, check government issued photo IDs. Surely both are more secure than a signature verification system, which has its own problems (as outlined in our report to the Carter Baker commission).

Osborne also says that Maricopa County may be establishing "mega" voting centers, analogous to the "super precincts" that are under consideration in other states.

The interview seems to endorse by mail voting, although she expresses concerns that campaigns may have to "peak" 33 days before the election.

Story referenced is here:
Arizona Capitol Times

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

State charges former mayor with vote fraud

Update on the absentee ballot fraud case in Virginia

News from The Roanoke Times - State charges former mayor with vote fraud

Monday, August 01, 2005

Mexico's 2006 Election and Expatriate Voting

Fine article by Maite Salazar.

It is the best and more comprehensive story yet on expatriate voting by Mexicans living abroad (primarily in the United States). It looks like individuals may be charged for the costs of administering the absentee ballot; that millons will be unable to vote because they are not currently registered (and have to return to Mexico to register); and that Mexicans will have to return ballots by certified mail.

There is also a citation to some scholarship on expatriate voting coming out of Harvard and UCSD.

Story referenced in this post:
Will immigrants vote in Mexico's 2006 election?