Jon Kantrowitz Talks with Denise Merrill – Discussion of EDR, Early Voting and Vote Counting

John Kantowicz posted comments from a discussion he had with Secretary of the State candidate Denise Merrill on MyLeftNutmeg <read>

I had a nice talk with Denise Merrill, candidate for Secretary of the State, last night. She is not in favor of election day registration, but asked me for some evidence that it increases voter turn-out.

Here is the evidence:

Nine states have some form of Election Day voter registration: Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Montana began Election Day voter registration in 2006, North Carolina in 2007, and Iowa in 2008. Connecticut also has Election Day registration, but only for presidential elections. (North Dakota, unique among the states, has no voter registration requirement at all.)

She does favor early voting, by the way. While not allowing registration on Election Day itself (the last day to vote), the states of Ohio and North Carolina offer a period where voters can register and then early vote.

Voter turnout is much higher in states using Election Day registration than in states that did not. In the 2004 presidential election, voter turnout in same-day voter registration states was 12 percent higher than states that did not;] in the 2006 midterm elections, states with same-day voter registration had turnout rates 10-12 percent higher than in other states. In the 2008 election voter turnout was 7% higher in EDR states. The top five states all had Same Day Registration.

This has led to a lively discussion of Election Day Registration (EDR) and Early Voting with several activists and a registrar joining in the discussion.  I would suggest reading the whole discussion.  On MyLeftNutmeg,  where I am ‘BlastFromGlast’, here are my comments there:

EDR, if it is done safely and effectively. Early voting done well is Expensive

EDR has been done well by other states at the polling place with no problems, I am in favor if its done well. However, doing it the way the legislature has proposed for the last couple of years is  risky and disenfranchising.

The proposal has been to have it done in one central location per town and the ballots handled sort of like absentee ballots but with even less controls specified in the law than exist for absentee ballots. The risks are that 1)voters can be disenfranchised because they don’t get a chance to revote if they have over votes. 2) Unless there is a legal, enforced, and enforceable chain of custody the votes can be changed or trashed along the way.

Don’t think of EDR as a few votes. In can be 20-30% of the vote like it is in some other states, much more work than the current Presidential Ballot, and much more influential on election results.

EDR votes should be handled like any other vote in a full polling place with ballot clerks, machine tender, scanner and placed in the ballot box by the voter, who has an opportunity to correct the ballot for any reason including overvoting. Presumably new voters can make mistakes even more than the average voter.

To gain the same benefits from EDR as other states have, we need to vote in the same general way they do: Polling place EDR with the same voting methods as all voters.

EDR has savings as well as costs. Less registration work in advance of the election. Less arguments between Assistant Registrars and voters who think they registered (some who probably did). None of the hassles of the Presidential ballots. In the end it likely costs a bit more, especially since there would be more voters overall, which would overall be a good thing.

Early voting has its own risks but is also very expensive and difficult to do in New England with town by town voting.

The risk is that the ballots and the voting machines need to be kept secure between each voting session, the current level of security might be insufficient for EDR. Currently, machines and blank ballots are often delivered to polling places the night before and then returned to town hall after late on election night, but there is a whole new level of security needed to protect voted ballots and machines between early voting sessions. (And we need to beef up the current level of security which leaves ballots and machines in most towns subject to access by single persons, via a single key, for almost unlimited time, undetected).

Without changes in the State Constitution and dramatic changes in organization, early voting would require one polling place in each of 169 towns. Each day costing a minimum between $1,500 and $2,000 per town. Each day of early voting would thus cost several times what the post-election audit costs.

Of course early voting could also be accomplished by mail-in voting (also called unlimited absentee balloting) but that has its own risks) [With a couple editing fixes which I cannot do on comments at MyLeftNutmeg]

John Kantowicz continues with another thoughtful post: Denise Merrill and Counting Votes <read>


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