Monday, November 5, 2018

Why We Need Mail -In Ballots In Every State

If mail balloting was available in FLA - like here in Colorado - voters would not have had to wait in line for hours only to find not enough ballots available at the polling station in North Miami.

"Save your hundreds of millions of dollars Don't replace your aging machines. Throw them on the scrap pile.. Go back to paper ballots. Then think hard about abolishing the polling place and moving to a system that puts the voter first and ensures in every election far more people are casting ballots." -  Phil Keisling, former Oregan secretary of state, in interview with Cynthia McFadden on NBC Evening News Saturday.

 Colorado Mail Ballots arrived at our home more than two weeks ago and we each filled our ballots  out : a total of three pages of voter choices, including for positions such as Governor, and state Attorney General as well as minor (county) positions and at least a dozen propositions and amendments. The latter included a proposition (112) to prohibit frack wells within 2500' of homes, an amendment (A) to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude, and another amendment (73) to provide increased funding for public schools by raising state taxes.

Both of us, let me note, have also done the traditional thing of going out to the polling station - both here in the Springs and earlier in Columbia, Maryland - and believe me there is no comparison.  It is far easier to not have to take time off from a job to vote, or to battle illness, physical handicap or whatever. Nor is it necessary to stand in long lines to wait to cast a ballot- only to learn on arriving at the polling station there are no more ballots (See top graphic, in what transpired over the weekend in North Miami). 

In the N. Miami case the powers-that-be in Dade County had underestimated the number of ballots needed. Such fiascoes are avoided with mail ballots because ab initio the voter records are checked before ballots are mailed out.

Why don't more states offer the convenience of mail ballots and early voting? Who knows? But my suspicion is basically they want  to make it difficult to vote for certain demographic groups they don't trust - such as African-Americans, Native Americans and others.

Now it appears libertarian knucklehead Jon Caldara wants to take the state back to the olden days of traipsing to the polls to cast votes. Never mind if you're deathly ill, an invalid, or can't get time from work.  He believes it's the "American" way, like he believes other balderdash (such that health care is not a positive right.)

On Caldara's Independence Institute bio page it proclaims he "hates bullies".  Well, for a guy who hates bullies he sure as hell does a good job emulating them.  His latest target - after going after those who defended health care as a right- is Colorado's mail in ballots.He insists these "skew results to the left" - but when one reads between the lines of his recent tract (Denver Post, Sunday, Oct. 28, p. 2K) it is clear he considers them unAmerican, or at least not patriotic.  He blabs, for example:

"The  ballot isn't just the symbol of democracy - it is democracy. It is the very instrument of self-governance.  The ballot is the fundamental building block of our Republic....So isn't it a little odd that in Colorado we fling these sacred ballots through the mail like King Sooper's coupons...."

Well hey, Jon, would you rather show up at a "proper" polling station after wasting hours of your time waiting in line only to find out they are all out of ballots?  Or, would you prefer a station inundated with electronic voting machines, for which there isn't an iota of QA?  No ability to check that the "sacred" ballot you cast has any paper trail?  Hell, we already know some of  the most notorious hacking stories have recently been exposed e.g.

An 11-Year-Old Hacked Into a U.S. Voting System Replica in 10... - Time

Wherein we learned:

"Emmett Brewer , the 11-year-old who successfully hacked the replicated Florida voting site, wasn’t the only child who got into the election systems at the conference. In total, about 50 kids ranging in age from 8 to 16 attended the conference, DEFCON said in a tweet, and around 30 of them were able to hack into the imitation election websites."

For any who gullibly believe Diebold machines - for example- are as good as paper ballots, I invite you to take a gander at the machine below showing vote switching (from 2012) in action, e.g. at:

Things better now, you say? Problems solved? Not so, as one early voting Texan observed, who voted whole ballot D, and found his vote being switched to Ted Cruz before his eyes (instead of Beto O'Rourke)

Zeynip Tufekci in her recent NY Times piece ('The Election Has Already Been Hacked') puts a further light on the underlying issue with elections in this country:

"This election has already been hacked even if not a single voting machine has been compromised. It has already been hacked even if not another ruble has been spent on spreading disinformation. It has already been hacked even if voter registration information has been undisturbed and no vote tallies are altered.

Why, because in much of the United States, we are no longer able to assure people that none of those things has happened. A recent poll shows that 46 percent of the American electorate do not think their  votes will be counted fairly, and about a third think it is likely that a foreign country will tamper with the results."

My bet is if all these Americans could use mail in ballot like those of us in Colorado, Oregon and Washington, that would not be such a huge concern. Why? Because we (all 3 states) use PAPER ballots that are not vulnerable to outside hacks given they're counted by hand. Also our internal checks disclose integrity, i.e. as Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett put it, quoted in The Boulder Daily Camera :

Local governments and county clerks do a really good job regulating the integrity of elections, and I’ll stand by that record any day of the week. "

The same holds in Oregon and Washington, the only two states where voting is done completely by mail (CO still allows voters to go to polling places if they prefer. Kind of antiquated, but maybe it gives mainly older folks something to do or perhaps feel more red, white & blue.) .  Indeed, in an NBC News segment on Friday ('Securing the Vote')  reporter Cynthia McFadden traveled to Oregon where she interviewed  Phil Keisling former Dem secretary of state and  current officer holder, Republican  Dennis Richardson.

As Keisling explained: "I think the polling place has become the single biggest voter suppression device in American politics."

Both agree their state's system (the first to adopt an entirely vote-by-mail method):  "gets more people voting and is cheaper and more secure."

The reason? They use only paper ballots.  Each of 2 1/2 million registered voters receives a ballot via the U.S mail, no form has to be filled out, it doesn't have to be asked for.  As Keisling put it: "You just give everyone their ballot and let them decide how they want to mark it, if they want to mark it at all."    There's no need to be impeded because of child care demands, or inclement weather, or the artificial barrier of having a specific kind of ID card which 32 states now require. Kind of ridiculous, just as Caldara's insipid complaints, in a nation that features one of the lowest voter participation rates on the planet.

As for security, like here in Colorado each signature is verified by comparison to that on the voter registration card.  What about voters who've died, moved or changed their names? Is there a danger someone might use their ballot? According to Phil Keisling:

"They'd be committing a felony, vote by vote. This is about one of the stupidest ways to try to steal an election."

When McFadden asked the duo about the plans of many other states to invest in new electronic voting machines, the advice was instant:

McFadden concluded that "though much of the country is divided along party lines, these two are in total agreement when it comes to the state's vote by mail system".

The point is, contrary to Caldara's vapid presumptions about single day polling at specially assigned places, there is nothing "sacred" or "sacrosanct" about ballots if they can be hacked or votes switched.  Or if the process in general raises suspicions concerning fairness!  The sacredness of the voting process then inheres in its being faithfully executed according to the will of the voter. This also means the mechanics of how voting is done are immaterial, again so long as the process bears integrity and is faithful to the  voter's will. Mail balloting, contrary to Caldara's bitching, is one of the best ways to ensure the franchise is protected, as both Keisling and Richardson agreed.

But Caldara's bitching goes further,  fulminating  that "But wait there's more! Colorado is currently the only state that has same day voter registration!"

So what? The idea is to make voter registration, and hence voting, easier not more difficult,  you dumb cluck.  But he goes on to tie that ease of mail balloting and same day registration into a conspiracy ideation involving "big data" and using "social media, email, snail mail, phone calls etc." to vacuum up votes.  Nope you can't make this up.

Caldara still in a feverish mental state adds:

"all mail ballots fundamentally changed electioneering, giving an advantage to the team that is more tech savvy and with the most foot soldiers to chase voters."

In other words, the fool is whining about the side having the better ground game, which I thought any one into :"electioneering" would grasp is top priority. I mean, if you don't get your voters out - especially tomorrow for one of the biggest elections in our history, it's all for naught.  So truly all Caldara has presented us with is a big straw man complaint.

Probably figuring he needed another alternate gripe he then bitches - get this - about mail ballots allowing too much time to vote. Can you believe this?  He writes:

"We used to have an election day, a 12 hour period for civic minded folk to get to their polling place. Voting was for those with the tiniest bit of motivation. Political 'machines' had only 12 hours to get their people to the polls.  We no longer have election day, we have election month.."

So what?  Caldara seems to also forget the U.S. is one of the few nations that has voting on a workday. Well, newsflash, for  many citizens that is a difficult bar to voting.  It often presents a choice of  going to a polling station or lost time (and money) on the job, and other inconvenience, especially if one must wait in a long line. Mail voting totally eliminates all of that, as well as possible intimidation tactics used by a suspicious opposition at polling stations- sporadically questioning or confronting people.

Rather than have to face such barriers, as well as possible vote suppression or other tricks - like being told one's name doesn't perfectly match the voter record (as in Georgia, used by bullyboy Kemp) why not mail ballots? Caldara's incredible answer:  It's too easy!

Why is voting, especially requiring special IDs and polling places, rendered so damned hard in the U.S. of A.?  Michael Moore on 'The Last Word' Friday night, offered perhaps the best explanation:

"The reason it's made hard is that those in power, who are beholden to the rich, the wealthy who buy our politicians and elections, don't want more citizens voting.. The last thing those in power, the one percent, want is for you to show up, because there's so many more of working people and poor people than rich people. The more that they can make it hard for people to have their voice heard, the longer they can continue the status quo. So to upset that status quo, you have to get out there and vote."

Moore then advises for each person who may be dithering, to think of 5 friends or family members who don't tend to vote and consider "making it your mission to get them to vote".  Also, maybe having a  voting party to go together to the polling place and cast votes then celebrate after.  As for possibly losing a day's pay, Moore says: "There is no more important day to sacrifice for your country- even giving up a day's pay -  than Tuesday."

But really, it shouldn't be that damned difficult, no matter what Caldara says.

Folks, it's time - after this election - to push activism in the direction of getting your state reps to implement mail and paper ballot systems. Systems that put you the voter at the center of your right and franchise, not an artificial place that is a venue for suppression-  or a vast and inefficient waste of time and energy as the North Miami voters discovered.

See also:

Stop Blaming Millennials for Not Voting. Blame America’s Screwed-up System—and Fix It!


Here's Why Democrats' Chances for a Big Midterms Win Are Looking Even Better — And What Still Stands in Their Way

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