No-Excuse for Mail-In Voting and three “interesting” bills

Today we sent the following email to nine legislators proposing a total of six bills this year in Connecticut for no-excuse absentee voting. Some of the bills state the purpose of increasing voter participation. The facts don’t seem to support the claim of increased participation.  Is there any excuse left to support expanded mail-in voting?

Subject: No-Excuse Absentee Voting Bill: __

Senator/Representative ___,

I am writing because you are a sponsor of the above bill for early voting via no-excuse absentee voting.

Consider this PEW sponsored. University of Wisconsin research, that shows early voting has the effect of DECREASING turnout. And candidates are having  challenges with advertising and GOTV.  http://ctvoterscount.org/researchers-early-voting-alone-decreases-turnout/

Here is another article about various concerns with mail voting: http://ctvoterscount.org/vote-by-mail-cheaper-but-advocates-have-concerns/
Including a study of three CA counties showing a similar drop in turn-out in all but special elections: http://weber.ucsd.edu/~tkousser/votebymail.htm

PS: CTVotersCount is primarily opposed to, expanded mail-in or no-excuse absentee voting because of the opportunity and record of fraud – it seems that after every national election we find stories of fraud, prosecution, and conviction based on mail-in voting.  Recent examples:
OH: http://ctvoterscount.org/absentee-ballot-fraud-in-ohio/
FL: http://ctvoterscount.org/no-excuse-absentee-voting-unintended-consequences/
AZ, CA, FL: http://ctvoterscount.org/absenteeearly-voting-raise-questions-and-risks/
TX: http://ctvoterscount.org/how-not-to-increase-voter-participation/

Readers may also be interested in three bills that will likely be dead on arrival:

http://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/TOB/h/pdf/2011HB-05727-R00-HB.pdf

Purpose: To reform post-election audit procedures.

(1) after an audit, a town shall have a four-year exemption to relieve the town from holding a post-election audit, provided such town is a small town; and (2) registrars of voters shall no longer be held personally liable for finesfor failure to comply with audit procedures. Instead, such fines shall be levied against the municipalities.

Reform? It would gut the post-election audit law since random audits of all districts are required to catch fraud and error, at the expense of mid and large municipalities. After an audit, a small town would have a four year open season for covering errors and  insider fraud.

A rather unique concept that municipalities pay fines for the failure of officials to follow laws and procedures. Should that be extended to Mayors and Governors? Perhaps election officials should be required to budget in advance for their future anticipated transgressions. (Note: We are aware of no fines as yet having been imposed for violations of the post-election audit law, and in Connecticut procedures and regulations are unenforceable.)

http://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/TOB/s/pdf/2011SB-00646-R00-SB.pdf

provide that the threshold for state-wide automatic recounts in closely contested elections be lowered to a three-thousand-vote difference.

Quite an accomplishment to lower it to 3000, since the current threshold is a 2000 vote difference. We would likely support the increase.

http://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/TOB/h/pdf/2011HB-05732-R00-HB.pdf

require a receipt for ballots cast by voters who vote by coloring in, with pencil, their selections and feed their ballots into a reader or by electronically recording selections using a station designed for physically disabled voters unable to use a paper ballot.

This would eliminate the secret ballot that protects us from vote buying and coercion. Anyone can use a machine designed for the disabled…so anyone can get a receipt and sell their vote or be coerced!!!  PS: This would hardly help the blind voter, the most likely disabled users of our difficult to setup and use IVS system. Update: On closer reading of the part before the “or”, the act would not only apply to IVS voters, but to anyone who brings a pencil to the polls and uses it to fill out their ballot. No mention of how the receipt would be generated.

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7 responses to “No-Excuse for Mail-In Voting and three “interesting” bills”

  1. mattw

    I understand your objection, but if we’re going to have absentee ballots, what’s the point in creating an artificial hurdle — certifying that you will be absent from town all day — that is never checked or enforced? I think there are three practical options:

    1 – Develop a spot checking procedure (5% of ABs, maybe) to see that the excuses provided were valid — fining those who are in their homes before 8pm on election day.

    2 – Provide for no-excuse absentee voting only in person — those requesting ballots by mail would be required to certify that they have a reason, and those voting in person would not be subjected to the difficulties inherent in mailed ballots.

    3 – Give up: Town Clerks don’t care if you’re really going to be in town or not, nobody has fire in the belly to pursue commuters for fines because they managed to get an early train home on election day, and a number of people wind up disenfranchised because they don’t want to swear that they’ll be out of town, only to get stuck in traffic or whatever else (when nobody at all would have cared if they lied.) So change the law to reflect current reality.

    4 – Yes, I said three options, but #4 would be to shut down ABs entirely. This is a Federal requirement that the state can’t do away with on its own, so it’s not really an option.

    To my view, we’re in the worst of all situations, and something has to change. We can’t eliminate the risk, we don’t enforce the law, and the presence of an unenforced law creates unfair disparities in practice. I wouldn’t have a problem with an enforcement approach, but it would be totally unworkable politically for the same reason that people don’t get pulled over for driving at 30 mph in a 25 mph zone — leading to almost certain selective enforcement.

    My guess is that we’re going to have a constitutional amendment, it’ll show up on the ballot, it’ll pass by like 4- or 5-to-1, and then we’ll have a discussion about the mechanics of obtaining and voting by absentee ballot. “ABs for Me but Not for Thee” is just an untenable position.

  2. mattw

    When you say:

    “There is an alternative: limit mail-in voting to the minimum necessary – those who have a really good reason.”

    … is there a change to the current status quo that you are envisioning? Removing the “outside the town for all the hours of voting” option (which the primary option for those who are just voting AB for convenience now)? Or are you advocating to just leave everything the way it is?

    The one thing I really disagree with you about is that I think a law capriciously applied is worse than no law at all. I think that if we aren’t willing to develop a plan for systematic enforcement (whether that is pre- or post-election, comprehensive or using a sample) then there’s no point to having a law on the books in the first place. Which, come to think of it, is close to the rationale for random or 100% machine audits.

  3. citykid

    I’m undecided about this. I know that mail-in voting–including absentee voting–has the most potential for fraud, violation of voter privacy, and undue influence on voters. The elections officials in Oregon were very frank about this when some of us visited their facility in Portland–they admitted there really was no way to know who’s casting the ballot, who’s pressuring whom, who’s lurking at the door of a senior complex to “help” people complete their ballots, etc…

    On the other hand, I know that those with the best intentions of getting to the polls on time sometimes get disenfranchised–by a late train, a late meeting, or a sick child. Town clerks feel that the law forces people to lie, there seems to be little interest in enforcement of the current law, and the cultural wave we’re riding is gathering more and more momentum for so-called convenience in voting.

    Personally, I used to be strongly supportive of no-excuses AB voting. But I’m leaning more and more toward the keeping the status quo. However, if it comes down to a choice between “early voting” (setting up a voting machine before Election Day, staffing a site, securing it, hoping no memory card fails) vs. no-excuses AB, I’ll go with the no excuses AB.

  4. mattw

    The impasse we have is that we’re not limiting the number presently, and anyone illegally selling their vote or fraudulently completing an application and ballot in someone else’s name wouldn’t be deterred by a checkbox. So we’re not weighing the value of fraud prevention against the cost of disenfranchising honest citizens who just don’t know their schedule in advance: we’re just disenfranchising people with no positive effect to show for it. We’ve got security theater, not security.

    And hopefully you don’t think I’m married to an all-or-nothing approach: I tried to identify some “middle ground” type proposals — removing the vote-by-mail aspect for those without medical reasons for needing an AB, adding systematic enforcement, etc. City Kid above mentioned early voting, which is another alternative (even though he/she doesn’t seem to like the idea.) You have no quarrel from me about no-excuse not increasing turnout, nor about the benefits of introducing EDR. But when you say that convenience ABs are “used mainly by people who always voted anyway,” you have your answer as to why we’d do it absent any benefit to turnout.

    The signature DB is interesting, I’ve actually talked with SOTS (previous administration) and the FOI Commission office about this, and the challenge is that there’s no way to prevent third parties (in the sense of not being election officials, not in the sense of being in a minor political party) from obtaining any such database and using / distributing it as they see fit. I’ve been lazily writing a letter to the new SOTS / Deputy SOTS since their survey last month suggesting (among other things) an FOI exemption for databases consisting primarily of signature images. Absent that protection, I would be very wary of starting up signature digitization for matching purposes. But it might be doable to get that protection introduced this session — you interested?

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