Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Absentee Ballot fraud investigation in Hidalgo County, Texas results in indictments

A more recent report into the ongong investigation of absentee ballot fraud in Hidalgo County, TX is reported here.

Missorui state legislator's "survey" claims early voting more expensive, not supported by respondents

A state legislator in Missouri, Steve Tilley (R-Perryville), says that the results of a constituent survey shows 76% were opposed to implementing no-excuse absentee voting.

Representative Tilley, who also serves as Republican whip, sent out the survey to 7000 households with at least one registered voter. 10% of the surveys were returned to Tilley's office.

The wording of the item in question is not very problematic. From Tilley's press release:

During the 2004 Presidential election, we watched on television as residents of some states went to the polls days and weeks before election day. In Missouri, voters can cast an absentee ballot up to six weeks before election day if they meet certain criteria such as being out of town on election day, confinement due to a sickness or disability, or because of religious beliefs. A legislative committee is studying the feasibility of implementing early voting or "no excuse" absentee voting in Missouri. According to a report compiled by the Secretary of State, early or "no excuse" absentee voting is estimated to cost the state $2,435,699.

5. Should Missouri allow early voting or "no excuse" absentee voting?

Yes = 17.88 No = 76.56 No Opinion = 5.06 Blank = 0.51

Of course, the main problem is that we have no sense of who the 10% who returned the mail questionnaire are. Since the mailing came from a Republican representative, we can assume that a larger proportion of responses came from Republican loyalists, who are also presumably opposed to government spending.

If you look at other question responses here, you see that 80% describe themselves as "pro life, 89% approve of the job being done by Tilley, etc.

Still it is not unfair to include the estimated cost of absentee voting--as reported by the Secretary of State--and ask voters if they approve of the cost.

(One news story makes the odd claim that a large proportion of state employees might have returned the survey expressing opposition because they want a pay increase in order to handle absentee ballots.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Continued problems with military absentee balloting

A letter in today's Washington Post argues that more than 1/3 of all military voters who wanted to vote absentee were unable to, because their ballots were lost, were delivered to the wrong address, or were delivered too late to be cast.

The figures reported by the National Defense Committee (here) differ (they report a 24% "disenfranchisement rate"). Still, anything over a few percentage points would be a point of concern.

There is a problem, however. The numbers in the NDC report are based on the number of absentee ballot request vs. the number actually returned. They do report on the percentage rejected because they arrived too late or had some problems with the address.

But do we know anything about what percentage of absentee ballots were not returned because the individual simply chose to abstain? Obviously, it would be foolish to assume 100% absentee return rate from military personnel.

Perhaps we could compare absentee request and return rates from other jurisdictions. One of the best reporting jurrisdiction is Johnson County, Iowa. In this county, more than 94% of ballots requested in 2004 were returned. These figures are dramatically higher than the military return rate, lending some credence to the NDC report.

Election Updates

Mike Alvarez writes: "This is an area that our colleagues in normative political theory can certainly help us with, but I'm not aware of any initiative to engage normative theorists in these discussions. What basic normative principles should we consider when we talk about election reform? Are fairness, equity and legitimacy the only core principles to focus on? Are there others to consider?"

Dennis Thompson's book, Fair Elections is one attempt to address some of these questions. In a review in Congress and the Presidency , I wrote: "Thompson's air in Just Elections is to identify a set of coherent organizing principles--equal respet, free choice, and popular sovereignty--by which electoral reforms can be debated and judged."

The rest of the review is in Vol. 32 (1) of the journal, which unfortunatley does not appear to be available online.

Thompson's book is out of Chicago, 2002.