Beware Absentee By Mail Ballots – mail ballot problems in the news

There are voters who need to be able to vote by mail. The option should not be denied but should be utilized carefully. If you can vote in person, you do have a better chance of having your vote cast and counted.

What could possibly go wrong with absentee by mail voting? Voters disenfranchised by clerical or technical issues, wrong postage, delivery issues such, fraud, vote buying & vote selling. Recently 1 in 10 Minnesota absentee ballots were rejected recently because of technical issues. 4,000 Lee County Florida voters may be disenfranchised because a mail sorting system failure. 12,500 mail ballots in Riverside CA were received past the deadline because of communication failure btwn election officials and post office. Fraud is easier to commit with absentee ballots as seen in Bell, CA.

Here are some news and commentary articles from this past year about problems that can arise with absentee by mail voting.


National Commentary

Chapter 5 — Lies, Damn Lies, And Mail In Elections
http://www.ejfi.org/Voting/Voting-77.htm
Dr. Charles Corry You can have an honest election, or you can have a mail in/absentee ballot election, but you can’t have both at the same time.

Why ‘Vote-by-Mail’ Elections are a Terrible Idea for Democracy
http://www.bradblog.com/?p=6003
Many are unaware that their mailed-in ballots will be scanned by the same error-prone, easily manipulated optical-scan machines which handle paper ballots for precinct-based voting. But even worse, ballots mailed in, if they arrive safely, and are counted at all, are usually counted “in the dark,” versus ballots scanned either at the polls on Election Day, or at county headquarters after the close of polls when citizens are often there to watch.

Vote-by-Mail Doesn’t Deliver
Michael Slater and Teresa James, Project Vote
http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2007/06/29/votebymail_doesnt_deliver.php
VBM reinforces the stratification of the electorate; it’s more amenable to both fraud and manipulation than voting at polling places; and it depends too much on the reliability of the U.S. Postal Service.

Americans deserve an equal opportunity to participate in democracy; vote by mail doesn’t deliver that.

BY STATE, in 2010

AL: Hale County officials worry voter fraud is back
http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20100528/NEWS/
100529584/1007/news?p=1&tc=pg
http://is.gd/ctHNb
Faye Cochran, head of the Hale County Board of Registrars, said many of those casting absentee ballots got help from a man convicted of voter fraud in 1998 and a woman now awaiting trial on voter fraud charges.

AR: Only ‘minor problems’ in election, officials say* (central count/M650)
http://thecabin.net/news/local/2010-05-19/only-%E2%80%98minor-problems%E2%80%99-election-officials-say …Faulkner County …
Twenty-one of the absentee ballots were set aside due to discrepancies, which included missing or mismatched signatures. These will be reviewed by the commission Wednesday.

AZ: Voters need assurance of fair elections * (March election in Yuma County)
http://www.yumasun.com/opinion/election-60930-ballots-news.html
The 10 percent rejection rate for early ballots due to signature problems is much higher than other parts of the state,

CA: Bungled ballots imperil election *
http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/Bungled-ballots-imperil-election-94227469.html
A blunder has left thousands of San Francisco voters holding the wrong mail-in ballot for the June 8 election, in which pivotal primaries for statewide offices are at stake, along with the outcomes of local and state propositions.

Last week, K&H Integrated Print Solutions, based in Everett, Wash., mailed out ballots with the wrong names to at least 1,000 voters

In addition, the company sent out duplicate ballots to 1,317 absentee voters

Arntz said they are working to contact voters…

CA: Vote-by-mail misprint in San Fernando Valley * (Los Angeles County)
http://www.glendalenewspress.com/articles/2010/05/18/politics/gnp-ballots051910.txt
…election officials on Tuesday acknowledged sending vote-by-mail guides to as many as 1,100 Democrats that erroneously listed candidates for the 43rd Assembly District in the same space as votes for or against a controversial parcel tax

CA: Thousands of mailed ballots too late to be counted in California *
http://www.sacbee.com/2010/06/15/2822821/thousands-of-vote-by-mail-ballots.html
(Late by county breakdown)

CA: Verifying vote-by-mail ballots is vital but time-consuming
http://www.mydesert.com/article/20100615/OPINION02/6140335/Verifying-vote-by-mail-ballots-is-vital-but-time-consuming As of Friday, more than 50 of the state’s 58 county elections offices had more than 1 million ballots combined still to verify

CA: More mail-in votes counted, election results largely unchanged
http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_15296026?nclick_check=1
Santa Cruz. At least 11,000 ballots still need to be counted, County Clerk Gail Pellerin reported Monday. The county has until July 6 to report official results, and elections officials don’t expect to update the tally until closer to that deadline.

CA: Miscommunication with post office cited for 12,500 late ballots *
http://www.pe.com/politics/gang/stories/PE_News_Local_D
_ballots15.246469b.html
http://is.gd/cQNzh
A miscommunication between Riverside County and the U.S. Postal Service may have led to as many as 12,500 ballots arriving too late to be legally counted, officials said Monday.

CA: Registrar’s resignation sought over vote-counting delay (Riverside)
http://www.inlandnewstoday.com/story.php?s=14704
Forty-three percent of the votes cast in the election remained to be counted the day after the election. Most were vote-by-mail ballots that voters put in the mail the prior weekend. 20,000 were ‘quarantined’ and not counted because they failed to reach the county election headquarters by the time the polls closed Tuesday evening.

CA: Bill seeks to redefine vote-by-mail deadline
http://www.inlandnewstoday.com/story.php?s=14919
RIVERSIDE – Assemblyman Bruce Nestande wants to correct the ‘wrong’ over the 12,500 vote-by-mail ballots that were not counted in the June 8th election.

Nestande has submitted a bill that would require future ballots postmarked on Election Day to be tabulated before the final election results are certified.

CA: County to purchase better election devices (Riverside County)
County supervisors authorize equipment to avoid future election gaffes
http://www.myvalleynews.com/story/49444/ “Sixty-two percent of ballots cast in this election were by mail. That has a whole lot of implications,” Supervisor John Benoit said during a 90-minute hearing on an Executive Office report detailing what went wrong during and after that election.

“It takes seven steps (to process) every single vote-by-mail ballot,” said Benoit, who represents desert communities on the five-member board..

CA: Residents in troubled SoCal city allege vote fraud * (absentee ballot)
http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_15689668
Some residents of Bell say city officials asked them to fill out absentee ballots which city council members said they would submit on the voters’ behalf, according to a Los Angeles Times report published Thursday

CA: L.A. County D.A. expands probe into Bell government* (absentee ballot)
http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/28/local/la-me-bell-elections-20100728
Investigators are looking into allegations of voter fraud and conflicts of interest, as well as the $100,000 salaries paid to four council members. The D.A. says several elections are targeted.

Sources with knowledge of the investigation said that among the subjects that prosecutors are looking at is the use of absentee ballots during the March 2009 City Council election…

CA: Former Bell police officer alleges serious voting irregularities in 2009 election*
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/07/former-bell-cop-alleges-serious-voting-irregularities-in-2009-election.html A retired Bell police sergeant claimed in a lawsuit filed this week that off-duty Bell police officers in the 2009 election distributed absentee ballots to voters and told them which candidates to select.

The allegations are contained in a lawsuit filed by James Corcoran, who says he was forced out of his job for informing authorities about the officers’ actions as well as for a variety of other actions that he says top city leaders did not like

CA: DA investigates allegations of voter fraud in Montebello
http://www.whittierdailynews.com/news/ci_14438007#ixzz0gJIxeN7n
“I actually went to someone’s door regarding an absentee voter and I learned the person hadn’t lived there for two years,” Veneziano said. “It seems like there is a lot of voter fraud concerning absentee ballots.”

CO: Guest opinion: Keep Colorado’s voting integrity http://www.dailycamera.com/ci_14680272#axzz0iMCdFUqO
As County Clerks and Recorders around the state work to garner support for all-mail ballot elections, it is worth reviewing the vulnerabilities of this method of voting and how voting by mail weakens the integrity of our elections.

CO: Ballot TRACE glitch sends Denver voters wrong message*
http://www.denverpost.com/election2010/ci_15582318
On Wednesday night, a glitch caused the wrong message to go out to 177 of the 233 people signed up. Somehow, data were transposed in the system, which caused the wrong messages
to go out, said Denver Election Commission spokesman Alton Dillard.

CO: Vote early and…not at all? Ballot TRACE glitch has some worried *
http://www.examiner.com/x-41664-Denver-Top-News-Examiner~y2010m7d22-Voter-early-andnot-at-all-Ballot-TRACE-glitch-has-some-worried

CO: Uh-oh, technical glitch baffles Denver voters *
http://www.9news.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=144870&catid=188 That “hiccup” sent emails to approximately 170 voters telling them that their completed ballots had already been received by the Post Office despite the fact that those voters had yet to receive the actual ballots personally.

CO: Be mindful when voting
http://bit.ly/8YiJNY
If a citizen receives a mail ballot, he or she must use that ballot to vote

CT. Absentee Ballots Can Be Decisive – yet Unaudited
September 24, 2009 Story in ConnPost, Primary loser declines to challenge absentees…As we and others have pointed out, there are many issues and risks with any type of mail-in voting, including absentee voting.
http://www.ctvoterscount.org/?p=2419


FL: Ballot blunder could keep votes from counting; envelope design to blame*
http://www.winknews.com/Local-Florida/2010-08-11/Ballot-blunder-could-keep-votes-from-counting It could be happening across Lee County. Over 40,000 absentee ballots were requested, and all sent out with the same faulty return envelope design. Lee County Elections officials are working with USPS on the problem. Still, the ballot blunder is a sorespot for many, who are trying to make their vote count in the upcoming election.

FL: Absentee ballots returned to sender * (Lee Co)
Votes boomerang thanks to automatic sorters
http://www.news-press.com/article/20100811/NEWS0107/8110373/1075/Absentee-ballots-returned-to-sender Turns out a design flaw in the envelopes causes post office machines to scan a voter’s return address instead of the destination address

FL. Editorial: The votes are in the mail
http://www.pnj.com/article/20090924/OPINION/909240309/1006/NEWS01
September 24 Given the choice between a mail election and a special election that asks voters to go to the polls to decide on the proposed new Pensacola city charter, voting by mail is more likely to draw a higher turnout, which is needed on such a crucial decision…The City Council’s committee of the whole approval of a mail ballot makes sense…But there are drawbacks.
Voting by mail is vulnerable to fraud. No one can know for sure who is filling out a mail ballot.

FL. Early voting reshapes campaigning in St. Petersburg elections
http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/early-voting-reshapes-campaigning-in-st-petersburg-elections/1040813 October 4. The growing numbers of people voting by mail has changed the strategies and timing of campaigns for mayor and City Council in St. Petersburg. More than half of the 37,360 ballots cast in the Sept. 1 primary were done by mail ballot.

GA: Voter Fraud Alleged in Brooks County (opposition to absentee ballots)
http://www.wctv.tv/home/headlines/99140784.html
Brooks County residents are concerned there may be irregularities with the outcome of several local races. And now the GBI has launched a probe into these allegations.

MN: Voting absentee? Better have a witness address* (1 in 10 ballots rejected)
http://www.startribune.com/politics/state/99671194.html
Statewide, at least 10 percent of absentee ballots cast in advance of the Aug. 10 primary were rejected on first pass. Some counties neared a 20 percent initial rejection rate.

If any of the envelopes don’t include the proper information, such as the voters’ address, their signature, the name of their witness or their witnesses’ address, the ballots will be rejected, and the voters will be sent a replacement. Closer to the election, officials will call or e-mail the voters to let them know to try again

NJ: Investigators probe overturned election (mail-in ballots)
http://www.northjersey.com/news/politics/passaic_politics/97135704
_Investigators_probe_overturned_election.html
http://is.gd/d49GE
State investigators questioned Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie this week about the 49 uncounted votes that, discovered 21 days after the city’s municipal election, reversed the election’s results.

NY: 9 targeted in vote conspiracy (DNA evidence sought)
http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/9-targeted-in-vote-conspiracy-594751.php
Court records filed in connection with the investigation include allegations that the officials, and several political operatives for the Rensselaer County Democratic Party, may have conspired to file dozens of fraudulent absentee ballots last year in an attempt to seize the Working Families Party line for the general election.

The officials identified as targets of the investigation are: Rensselaer County Board of Elections Commissioner Edward G. McDonough; city Councilmen Michael LoPorto, Gary Galuski, Kevin McGrath, and John Brown; City Council President Clem Campana; City Clerk William A. McInerney; and political operatives Dan Brown, who is John Brown’s brother, and Anthony DeFiglio, a former Troy Housing Authority clerk.

NY. Update: Absentee ballots running late for 23rd Congressional District *
http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2009/10/update_absentee_ballots_runnin.html
October 02, 2009 FORT DRUM, N.Y. (AP) — Military and election officials insist that hundreds of deployed Fort Drum soldiers will have enough time to return their absentee ballots in next month’s special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District, even though they won’t be mailed out for another two weeks…For this election, county boards will accept ballots until Nov. 16, although they still must be postmarked by Nov. 2, elections officials said.

NJ: Informant aided vote-fraud case against Atlantic City Councilman Marty Small, report says http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/communities/atlantic-city_pleasantville_brigantine/article_5fcff138-78f7-11df-9dc5-001cc4c03286.html
Edward Colon Jr., assigned by the campaign to collect messenger absentee ballots from the city’s Hispanic community, recorded telephone conversations and secretly videotaped discussions with the councilman and other campaign workers, the report says.

NJ: UPDATE: Passaic County elections secretary charged in $384K ballot mail theft*
http://www.northjersey.com/news/060110_Passaic_County_elections_office
_manager_accuse d_ of_stealing_384000_from_county.html
http://is.gd/cAksr
A Passaic County elections secretary was charged Tuesday with stealing $384,000 through a fraud scheme in which she allegedly collected postage on ballots mailed to voters.

Di Lella said the alleged fraud was simply a moneymaking scheme and did not harm the integrity of the election process.

OH. Missing ballots cast doubt on Toledo City Council tally *malfeasance*
http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090922/NEWS09/909220398/-1/OPINION02
9/22. The Lucas County Board of Elections has 1,092 ballots that could be added to last week’s Toledo primary election count, putting the final results for Toledo City Council in doubt.
The additional ballots include 166 absentee ballots accidentally left uncounted last Tuesday, Director Linda Howe said Monday.
…In addition to the 166 uncounted absentee votes, 545 provisional ballots were determined to be valid.

PA: Another Threat to Public Scrutiny of the Election Process
http://coalitionforvotingintegrity.blogspot.com/2010/08 … The Elimination of Polling Places through Adoption of No-Excuse Absentee Ballots—the First Step to All Mail-In Voting

SC: South Carolina Proves Statewide Unverifiable Voting Cannot Be Trusted
http://www.opednews.com/articles/South-Carolina-Proves-Stat-by-Garland-Favorito-100724-239.html Alvin Greene was declared the winner based on a near landslide 60-40% margin in Election Day electronic voting results. However Vic Rawl actually won the mail-in paper ballot absentee voting by a solid 55-45% margin. The near 30% total point differential among the two candidates is unheard of in South Carolina election history and perhaps, nationally as well.

TX: Dallas County Judge: Texas Attorney General is investigating local voter fraud allegations (mail in ballots)
http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2010/04/dallas-county-judge-texas-atto.html

TX: Judge to decide Cameron County voter fraud case
http://www.valleycentral.com/news/story.aspx?id=467689
The Precinct 2 Commissioner candidate alleged that mail-in ballot numbers were “blatantly discrepant” with regular in-person voting

TX: Texas Rangers investigate possible voter fraud in Starr County (absentee ballots)
http://www.valleycentral.com/news/story.aspx?id=430386

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