Sunday, August 28, 2016

The North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting is a grassroots non-partisan organization fighting for clean and verified elections. We study and research the issue of voting to ensure the dignity and integrity of the intention of each voting citizen.
The NC Coalition for Verified Voting worked for a new law, passed in August 2005, that requires paper records for all voting machines and random post election audits. The law also requires machine manufacturers to explain how their equipment works. 

Voting in North Carolina - Questions about Same Day Registration, Early Voting, Absentee Ballots, Residency, Accessibility, Provisional Ballots visit the North Carolina State Board of Elections
Check your voter registration status
Find your polling place
Find an early voting site
Find your County Board of Elections Office

Voter ID Requirements in NC  On July 29, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down photo ID requirements and associated laws in North Carolina (S.L. 2013-381, as amended by S.L. 2015-103).  The state is considering its options.  Barring a different outcome on appeal,  photo ID will not be required in the upcoming general election.  Further details will be posted as they become available.
For more information on photo identification requirements beginning in 2016, click here.  

If you have election questions or experience problems at the polls, please call the Election Hotline: 888-OUR-VOTE (888-687-8683) 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

North Carolina's Phony Voter Photo ID Law

North Carolina's GOP lawmakers hope to override veto of the voter photo ID bill. Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory is even using Photo ID as a campaign issue. Greensboro News-Record Editor Doug Clark describes this as sheer "political gamemanship" in   Political Trash Talk   

"That's all this is about. The concern about voting fraud is phony, contrived, calculated to arouse the gullible."
Lawmakers KNOW that photo ID won't stop "voter fraud". The photo ID legislation has no mechanism to do so. And Rep David Lewis, a key proponent for voter photo ID, admits that in email correspondence with me. 

The Greensboro News and Record has a story on that:

Is that ID on the up and up?
Doug Clark, Editor. Tuesday April 19, 2011

There was a lively discussion on our letters blog today about the proposed Voter ID bill. Supporters of the measure simply can't understand why anyone would see a problem with requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls.

Joyce McCloy of the N.C. Coalition for Verified Voting didn't weigh in there, but she forwarded some email correspondence she's had with legislators. One question she asked was what mechanism the bill creates for election officials to verify whether the ID presented is legitimate. After all, the fake ID industry is thriving.

Today, at the behest of Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, she received a reply from Kara A. McCraw, staff attorney and legislative analyst for the General Assembly's Research Division. It said:

"HB 351 requires the voter to present a photo ID to the local election official assigned to check registration when the voter enters the voting enclosure.  Voters are currently required to state their name and address, and HB 351 would add the additional requirement that the voter present one of the forms of photo ID listed in the statute.   The bill does not address the issue of "fake" IDs, specify a verification process by the election official, or require other agencies to share databases for verification of IDs.  So Ms. McCloy is correct that the bill does not include a system or funding for verification of the IDs,
and as a result the remaining questions (computer system for ID verification, electronic pollbooks , cost of such a system, security,  etc.) are not addressed in the bill.

"In reviewing the laws of the other 8 states which require photo ID, none appear to have established a process or system to verify whether an ID is fake or not at the polling site.  The challenge procedure in current NC law established under G.S. 163-87 for challenges on election day could still be used to challenge a voter on any of the grounds included in that statute, such as the person is not who they represent themselves to be, even if that voter has presented identification."

What does this mean? For one thing, election workers will have a much tougher assignment without clear guidelines. Because many of us have driver's license photos of questionable quality, or that don't really resemble us, election officials might challenge more voters, which will trigger additional investigation and expense. Responsible election administration might demand that pollworkers undergo training in how to scrutinize IDs, much as bank tellers have to learn how to tell real currency from fake. Yet, they're also trying to keep voting lines moving.

The bottom line is that an ID in and of itself is not necessarily proof of a person's identity. People working at the polls, however, will have to make a judgment about the authenticity of each one presented to them. As this law assumes that voter fraud is a significant problem in North Carolina, election workers will be expected to assume many of the IDs they see are phony and they should challenge all those that raise suspicions.

That will include your picture if you had gray hair when your photo was made but you're a vibrant redhead now. Or if you've shaved your beard or added a few pounds. Or if anything else raises a question. Obviously the verification process is going to be highly subjective and predicated on the suspicion that you're not entitled to vote unless you can prove otherwise.
In Why Photo ID Laws Are Not the Answer,   Thomas Bates with Rock the Vote describes the hurdles a would be "voter impersonator" would have to overcome to commit "voter fraud": 
  • Travel to the proper polling place for a particular voter whose name and address is memorized
  • Accurately forge the voter's signature
  • Potentially have to provide other information about the voter (utility bill, last four digits of her Social Security number)
  • Make sure that voter has not already voted absentee or requested an absentee ballot
  • Know that the voter has not moved and re-registered at her new location or hasn't been removed from the rolls for another reason
  • Know that the voter has not already voted that day and does not plan to vote before the polls close
  • Wait in line to cast a ballot in that voter's name
  • Risk detection from a poll worker who may know the registered voter
  • Face fines and jail time
All this just to cast one misbegotten vote? Consider that mail ballot fraud is a much more efficient and less risky way to commit election fraud. One fraudster or his/her team can rig more than enough votes to impact the outcome of an election, with far less risk of exposure.

Just like Bob Hall said,  “Voter photo ID bill is a sham, as phony as a three dollar bill."

The voter photo ID law is just what we don't like about Big Government. It is costly, complicated, and doesn't work.  It has the added flaw of disenfranchising masses of legal voters, including the elderly, the rural, women, and disadvantaged whose vote may be their only voice in govt.


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Monday, March 28, 2011

NC Photo ID Bill won't stop voter fraud, may be unconstitutional, will make mail ballot fraud easier

North Carolina photo ID bill, H351/S352 is everything we hate about Big Government.

1. It is costly.
2. It is complicated.
3. It doesn't solve the problem it is set up to solve.
4. It creates new problems.
5. It is likely unconstitutional, says NC Ctr for Constitutional Law
6. It is not adequately funded and doesn't protect vulnerable voters enough so it will be face numerous court challenges 

1. The fiscal note for this bill says it will cost $3.3 million in first year. 
H351/S352 will also cost the DMV income in future years as anyone of voting age who wants a FREE photo ID will be able to ask for and get one, whether they are indigent or not. $3.3 M is lowballing it but this was done by non partisan leg staff. True costs will be higher after courts knock down the law until it is really funded.

2. The bill is very complicated. See for yourself.

3. Photo ID doesnt solve problems it is purported to solve.
a) Requiring Photo ID does not prevent voter impersonation - officials have no way to verify the ID, there is no computer system or database in place that can be accessed to check that the ID is legit. Hence, you can go to E-bay, get a photo ID card kit for around $14.99 with hologram option available - and make several really good fake ID cards.
b) NC drivers licences do not indicate citizenship status, nor whether the person is a convicted felon who hasn't had their rights restored.
c) the bill won't stop "dead" people from voting. If a person is still on the voter rolls, then if someone has a good fake ID, then they can impersonate this dead voter. (Reported cases of "dead" voters in fact are people who cast a ballot early or by mail and passed on. Others are cases of reports of dead people on the voter rolls but who haven't voted. )

4. The photo ID bill makes absentee by mail fraud much easier. This bill, H351/S352 will make it possible for organizations to commit mass wholesale absentee ballot fraud, something that was rare in North Carolina. How? By allowing outside groups to create or fill out forms for absentee ballot voters.
There is always risk of absentee ballot fraud, and there have been instances of investigations and convictions, but it has been rare. Now it will be too temptingly easy for fraudsters to resist, and once the election is over, too late to undo the harm.

H351/352 Photo ID Requirements will be challenged in court because 1) it may not be constitutional and 2)  it doesn't go far enough to educate voters and provide free accessible ID to voters nor to fund the bill:

5. H351/S352  is likely unconstitutional, says NC Ctr for Constitutional Law
MAR 15, 2011: Justice Orr on the Voter ID requirement of HB351: An Act to Restore Confidence in Government.
...The General Assembly does not have the authority to add "qualifications" for voting, absent a constitutional amendment.  Does the requirement for presentation of a Photo ID constitute a "qualification" for voting?  If it does then I would predict a court would strike the requirement down.

6) H351/S352 Is not adequately funded and doesn't protect vulnerable voters enough so it will be face numerous court challenges. H351/S352 doesn't make IDs sufficiently accessible and affordable, and does not provide enough notice or education to current and new voters. 

The Brennan Center for Justice cites three basic principles that must be satisfied to avoid a constitutional challenge of any photo ID law:

“First, photo IDs sufficient for voting must be available free of charge for all those who do not have them.” States cannot limit free IDs to those who swear they are indigent...

“Second, photo IDs must be readily accessible to all voters, without undue burden.”..

“Third, states must undertake substantial voter outreach and public education efforts to ensure that voters are apprised of the law’s requirements and the procedures for obtaining the IDs they will need to vote...”

Photo ID sounds like a good idea, until you think it through and find out that it won't stop voter fraud but will stop honest or vulnerable folks from voting. Maybe it will "only" be tens of thousands, but the result will be disenfranchising legitimate voters because of their vulnerable circumstances. Worse, this bill, if passed, will facilitate massive mail ballot fraud.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

On Veterans Day, thanking N Carolina State Board of Elections for helping troops vote

Veteran's Day is a good day to thank the North Carolina State Board of Elections for going the extra mile to help our troops vote. Our troops relocate often and some vote from overseas, so they need more help in updating their registration records and getting a ballot. The State Board of Elections recognized that and asked the Dept of Defense for help. See the request letter below, and DoD press release later.

On Oct 8, 2009 the NC State Board of Elections sent a letter to Robert Gates, Secretary of DOD enlisting their cooperation. They joined Senator Coryn and Senator Schumer in this request. An excerpt:

"I request that the Department of Defense, in its operation of military pay/personnel offices in North Carolina, agree to be designated as a voter registration agency. This designation would allow military citizens helped by your agency to be offered the same voter registration services given by state and county public services agencies to the persons they serve. "

Our elections board also offered the DoD assistance and materials to do so

The Department of Defense agreed and in January 8, 2010 sent out this press release

"The DoD's Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) kicked off its training program geared to help voting assistance officers at military bases worldwide at a 2010 Election Year press conferenceJan. 7.
Thousands of voting assistance officers will help an estimated 6 million uniformed and overseas citizens vote absentee.DoD and DoS directives require a voting assistance officer at the unit level and at every embassy and consulate to facilitate this effort..."

This solution will help alleviate some of the problems military voters have in voting. Troops can more easily keep their voter registration updated and get help in obtaining a ballot and getting that ballot returned.

Our military deserve to excercise their right to vote. We thank our state's election officials for striving to help them.

North Carolina's election officials, both state and county - are dedicated professionals who deserve our appreciation for making our state one of the best to vote in, and for going the extra mile to help our military vote.

# # #

The North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting is a grassroots non-partisan organization fighting for clean and verified elections. We study and research the issue of voting to ensure the dignity and integrity of the intention of each voting citizen. The NC Voter Verified Coalition has consistently fought for increasing access, participation and ensuring the voter franchise. Contact Joyce McCloy, Director, N.C. Coalition for Verifiable Voting - phone 336-794-1240 website

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

North Carolina statewide Instant Runoff election and legal challenges

Updated Sept 20, 2010. Thanks to instant runoff voting, the November 2010 election for North Carolina Appeals has all the potential for a Florida style meltdown. See 13 candidates file for open NC appeals court job AP News August 31, 2010. Instant runoff voting, aka IRV will be used statewide to fill NC Appeals Judge Wynn's seat and our voting machines can't tally it. Other contests will use regular election methods. That makes it extra confusing. The possible confusion may impact other contests as voters and poll workers deal with a mixture of voting methods all in one election.

North Carolina will be the beta test for this first statewide instant runoff voting election conducted in the United States. “Instant runoff” elections represent a dramatically different system of how votes are cast, counted and valued. To avoid legal challenges and protect the confidence in elections, the election process must be as transparent as possible. The good news is that the candidates will be lawyers and judges. Wouldn't it be ironic if this election was tallied by a jury-rigged system? No matter how you cut it, a statewide IRV election will clash with many existing election laws.

Instant runoff voting will be used statewide to fill the NC Court of Appeals seat vacated after Judge Wynn retired. Additionally, North Carolina voters in at least three counties (Buncombe, Cumberland and Rowan) also will use Instant Runoff Voting to decide the winners in three Superior Court races this fall. Under state law (NCGS 163-329), vacancies on the Superior Court, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court which occur after the primary but more than 60 days before Election Day are filled through an election that allows voters to rank their choices. Here's the legal code.

The SBoE has a difficult task. It must conduct instant runoff elections for the statewide contest for NC Court of Appeals without compatible voting machines, without a thorough fiscal analysis, and without state funding for implementation and voter education. Voter education is essential, since with 13 candidates, voters 2nd or 3rd choices probably will decide the outcome of the election. Unfortunately, many voters will be unprepared to rank choices, as the state will be spending a paltry $500,000 on voter education for 6.1 million voters. Lack of tallying software means counting could take days or weeks. IRV is not additive so votes can not be tallied at the polling places on election night.

"There are no provisions on ES&S equipment to tabulate
~ Keith Long , Voting System Project Manager for the North
Carolina State Board of Elections Jan 7, 2008

"IRV is not an approved function at the federal or state level of current ES&S software, firmware or hardware. Subsequently, we will work at the direction of the SBE and counties to assist but cannot be held responsible for issues as a result of IRV...

....IRV Tabulation*Printelect and ES&S will only take responsibility for and support tabulating the IRV contests individually.Methods for deciding a runoff winner by others will not be supported by Printelect or ES&S. This risk will be the sole responsibility of NCSBOE and the counties.

*IRV voting tabulation methods are not an EAC or state certified portion of our voting system and have not undergone the testing that would normally be required to receive these certifications. ~ Letter From voting vendor PrintElect to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, dated August 31, 2010

Statewide IRV is dangerous. North Carolina’s only experience in counting IRV votes is in Cary, NC in the October 2007 pilot, and officials were unable to tally just 3,000 IRV votes correctly. Cary has since rejected IRV. Hendersonville has "piloted" IRV in 2007 and 2009, but never has tallied the IRV votes. The NC SBoE admitted that IRV is too risky when mixed with statewide elections:

"Current state law says we must comply with federal regulations…

We can use November 2007 as a pilot and not use IRV in May 2008 because it poses too much of a risk.”

Violating existing election law and standards for voting systems to try to “automate” instant runoff voting with un-certified work-arounds will result in headlines such as we saw in 2004:

"A Florida-style nightmare has unfolded in North Carolina in the days since Election Day, with thousands of votes missing and the outcome of two statewide races still up in the air."

Legal challenges: No matter how this election is administered, election laws will be broken. It is unavoidable, because IRV clashes with many election laws and standards.

NC Verified's full comments to the North Carolina State Board of Elections on procedures and risks for upcoming instant runoff voting elections

Outline of comments:

1. There is no software to tabulate IRV that meets the standards of our state law. In guidelines for IRV pilots set by the State Board of Elections in January 15, 2009, the State Board of Elections proposed to use an uncertified method of vote tabulation with DRE machines that allows for an “electronic sort” using uncertified software that requires five pages of over 100 single spaced instructions. Experts warn that this spreadsheet tallying method is error prone, lacks an audit trail, and is not good enough for elections. See Standards for IRV Pilots -Approved by the North Carolina State Board of Elections on January 15, 2009 The voting vendor warns that IRV is not an approved function of our voting systems and has not been federally tested or certified as required by state law.

To comply with existing state law, IRV must be counted manually until IRV software and its accompanying algorithm is federally approved. This is workable with optical scan ballots, but in order to count the touch-screen paper trails, the vendor should be made to modify the software to print a ballot summary. Touch-screens currently print all selections made by voters, but not a final summary. While a simple contest can be recounted on the touch-screen paper trail, an IRV contest would be more laborious. For a simpler process, touch-screen counties could borrow or purchase optical scan machines for IRV elections.

2. IRV ballots cast on election day must be counted where they are cast just as “regular” ballots are counted as per § 163-182.2. Initial counting of official ballots. In Cary, NC - the 2nd and 3rd choice votes cast for the "instant runoff" were not counted on election night. Instead, they were carried away from where they were cast and then counted at a later date. This differs from the treatment of absentee ballots and early voted ballots might be tabulated at the central office, these are “retrievable ballots”, not cast on election day. All votes cast at the polls on election day, including IRV ballots, are to be counted at the polls on election night once the polls close. The solution is to count all votes, 1st, 2nd and 3rd on site using the “Australian” method.

3. State law requires election night reporting for voters' second and third choices. Law requires reporting of votes on election night. IRV ballots are not retrievable and cannot be reported at another date.

4. All votes must be counted. In free, fair and open elections, all votes are recorded and counted. This means counting all votes, whether 1st, 2nd or 3rd choices. To do otherwise violates a core principle of democracy and tells voters that their choices and votes do not matter. Candidates, voters and officials want to know the breakdown of the votes. Votes must be counted for transparency sake. In the 2007 Pilot program, only partial data was reported for the District B contest where voters’ second and third choices were ultimately counted. In Cary’s other IRV contests for City Council, only some, not all of 2nd or 3rd place data was recorded or reported.
In Hendersonville, the IRV votes were never counted or reported.

5. Provisional ballots must be counted before advancing to the 2nd round. In the 2007 IRV pilot, Provisional ballots were not counted until after the 2nd and 3rd choices were counted, and supposedly "added" back in. Since IRV is not "additive", it is not clear how these votes could possibly be added back in without doing a complete recount.

6. Absentee ballots must be counted before advancing to the 2nd or 3rd round. It is not clear when the absentee ballots were counted, so the question is - were they counted with the first, second and third rounds? They must be counted with the first round of voting before going to the next.

7. Canvassing of all first round votes, absentee and provisional ballots must be done before counting a second round of ballots. This has to be done to get an accurate vote count.

8. Audit protocols will have to be developed in coordination with the state appointed statistician and according to current state laws. Each round of voting must be proven correct if the subsequent round is to trusted. Audits and recounts must be publicly announced and observed, and notice must be given in time for the public to attend.

9. Voter education is expensive, must be repeated, and is not necessarily effective. The results of Cary NC’s 2008 bi-annual citizen survey indicate that 22.0% did not understand IRV at all.

10. Overvote protection lacking. North Carolina state law and the Federal Law, Help America Vote Act requires that voters be notified of over votes. NC’s voting machines are unable to notify the voters if they have “overvoted” in the IRV contests - if voters rank the same candidate more than once. The Help America Vote act defines overvotes: “In every election, some voters make more choices than are permitted in a contest, which creates what are called overvotes.”

With IRV, voters are not permitted to vote for the same candidate more than once in a given contest. To do so, renders their 2nd and 3rd choices invalid.

11 “Instant runoff voting” should be renamed “Ranked Choice Voting”. Instant runoff incorrectly infers that the method provides the same results as a runoff election and does so instantly. It can take days or weeks to get the results of an IRV election.

12. IRV does not guarantee a majority winner. The “instant runoff” contest in Cary, District B City Council in October 2007 was decided with less than a majority of votes.

13. IRV is a difficult way to provide the same results as plurality elections. The fact is that most often, “Instant runoff voting” historically provides the same result as a plurality election, only with more effort.

14. Instant runoff voting is non-monotonic. In other words, you can hurt your preferred candidate by voting for him or her.

15. Exit polls, should be conducted by election officials or impartial groups -not advocates, in order to preserve the appearance of objectivity in the results. Exit polls should be carefully crafted to avoid being push polls. Pierce Co Washington mailed surveys to 91,000 voters, to be completed in the privacy of their homes.
This letter, along with my comments and recommendations set forth in the documents referenced above, and expanded upon in following pages, is my testimony.

The full report at this link:

IRV is not as "easy as 1-2-3" as other jurisdictions have learned.
Forget majority outcomes: if a candidate does not win a majority in the first round, with IRV it is a near impossibility that a candidate can obtain a majority with 2nd and 3rd round votes. This happened in Burlington Vermont in their 2009 mayoral contest. With chance to rank only 3, and since ranking isn't mandatory, and since there are 13 candidates, the math is against getting a majority win.


Joyce McCloy, Director
NC Coalition for Verified Voting
212 Evergreen Drive, Winston Salem, NC 27106

About us: The North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting is a grassroots non-partisan organization fighting for clean and verified elections. We study and research the issue of voting to ensure the dignity and integrity of the intention of each voting citizen. The NC Voter Verified Coalition has consistently fought for increasing access, participation and ensuring the voter franchise. Contact Joyce McCloy, Director, N.C. Coalition for Verifiable Voting - phone 336-794-1240 website


Order in the court election!
September 5, 2010. BY ROBERT ORR. Raleigh News & Observer
RALEIGH -- Thirteen is associated with bad luck, and for North Carolina voters, 13 candidates' filing for the state Court of Appeals vacancy recently created by Judge Jim Wynn's move to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is not merely bad luck - it's downright ridiculous.

Editorial: Judicial election will allow state to test instant runoff
September 4, 2010. Star News Online

Editorial: On the wrong track
September 3, 2010. Greensboro News-Record

Test vote
September 3, 2010. Raleigh News & Observer
Democracy, said the ever-quotable, often-cynical H.L. Mencken, "is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." North Carolina voters are about to embark on a journey to democracy's farther reaches. Here's hoping the excursion - the first use of statewide instant runoff voting - turns out well.

13 Candidates for Wynn Seat
September 1, 2010. North Carolina Appellate Blog. Bob Numbers.
...If no candidate receives the necessary number of first place votes, the two candidates with the greatest number of first place votes advance to the "instant runoff." In the instant runoff round, each ballot counts as a vote for whichever of the two final candidates is ranked highest by the voter. The candidate with the most votes in the second round wins the election...

Lucky 13
August 31, 2010. Greensboro News and Record. Doug Clark, Editor

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

N&O: Handle N.C.'s ballots with care

I wrote this op/ed out of concern that our paper ballot law would be the victim of the political foodfight in Raleigh.

Handle N.C.'s ballots with care
Raleigh News & Observer
editorial | point of view

WINSTON-SALEM -- News stories about a lack of competition for ballot printing in North Carolina feed a storyline of political corruption - but before we form conclusions we need to understand why there's a lack of competition for ballot printing, and work for a solution that does not undermine the integrity of our election process.

Calls for more competition ignore the history of elections in 2004 and earlier, when we had a multitude of voting vendors with few legislated standards. That led to the loss of thousands of votes and an election dispute that lasted months. To prevent further election nightmares, the General Assembly in 2005 passed a one of the strongest election integrity laws in the country, one that has become a model for the nation.

It mandated paper ballots, post-election audits, higher standards for voting-supply vendors and systems, and set penalties for vendors caught lying. The law helped us weed out weak, incompetent or irresponsible voting-equipment vendors. In the process, three vendors were certified by the bipartisan State Board of Elections. Only one was willing to meet the standards of the law. Diebold dropped out of the bidding after a failed attempt to gut our paper-ballot requirement.

Subsequently, our state's elections have improved. An audit showed that our 2008 presidential election was accurately counted. In the last presidential election we cut the "undervote" rate by more than half, from around 3 percent to only 1 percent. Many states still do not even have election audits. The State Board of Elections deserves praise for its effective implementation of this important law.

Competitive bidding for printers has to be very carefully conducted, with a certification process that requires long lead times to be effective. Printer tolerances are generally measured in fractions of an inch. Mistakes are easy to make and hard to detect. Switching printers in an election year means officials might discover printer problems too late in the game to fix them in time for an election. After one or two other printers have blown it, dependable printers tend to get the inside track.

And while there may not be a lot of competition in ballot printing here, there is some. Wake and a few other counties are paying from 13 and 15 cents apiece for ballots from a local printer who has been certified. So there is no monopoly on ballot printing.

Many counties have been buying ballots from a North Carolina business, Printelect at prices of 30 and 33 cents per ballot for many years. This price may be higher, but it is within industry standards and lower than what many other jurisdictions pay for ballot printing. Counties are free to seek out a certified printer that has a lower price, but it is crucial that printers are certified to meet standards.

Lowering our standards in the name of competition will bring back the bad vendors who caused so much havoc in 2004. That won't do anything to reduce the costs of ballot printing, but it will bring back news stories such as we saw in 2004: "A Florida-style nightmare has unfolded in North Carolina in the days since Election Day, with thousands of votes missing and the outcome of two statewide races still up in the air."

Competition is a good thing if there are strong competitors who are willing to stand behind their products. It is not the Board of Elections' fault there is a lack of competitors. For example Diebold, which provided equipment used in a miserable election in Gaston County in 2004 - when 12,000 votes were not reported or tallied on election night - has since been sold to our current vendor, ES&S. Carteret County has said goodbye to the Unilect voting machines that lost 4,400 votes

If we are serious about reducing costs, and if we want to retain election integrity, we need to look toward open source voting systems, still with paper ballots. This will reduce maintenance costs while making upgrades easier. Open source systems are years off.

Meanwhile, weakening the Public Confidence in Elections Act to satisfy partisan outrage will not increase competition, will not reduce the costs of ballot printing and will threaten the integrity of our elections. How much will that cost?

Joyce McCloy is with the N.C. Coalition for Verified Voting.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

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
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
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
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
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) ...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)
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 *
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)
...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 *
(Late by county breakdown)

CA: 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
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 *
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)
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
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 "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)
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)
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* 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
"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
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*
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 *

CO: Uh-oh, technical glitch baffles Denver voters * 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
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.

FL: Ballot blunder could keep votes from counting; envelope design to blame* 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 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
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 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)
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)
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)
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)
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 *
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
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*
_manager_accuse d_ of_stealing_384000_from_county.html
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*
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 ... 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 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)

TX: Judge to decide Cameron County voter fraud case
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)

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