Absentee Voting

The "Shocking" Truth About Election Rigging in America

Monday, 05 September 2016

By Victoria CollierTruthout | News Analysis

RICK: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
POLICE CAPTAIN RENAULT: I'm shocked! Shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
CROUPIER (handing Renault a pile of money): Your winnings, sir.
CAPTAIN RENAULT: Oh, thank you, very much... Everybody out, at once!
(Scene from Casablanca.)

If there is anything positive to say about the 2016 elections, it's that they have finally forced an end to the official denial of computerized election rigging. In the past month, the fact that our voting technology is a hacker's paradise has been validated by no less than all the major TV news networks: NBCABCCBSReutersThe Washington PostThe New York TimesThe Boston GlobeThe AtlanticUSA Today,The HillThe GuardianMother JonesPolitico, and a dozen other outlets.

Of course, the corporate media and political parties are now professing "shock" at the very prospect that US elections can be manipulated, and yes, even stolen. 

Yet it has long been an open secret that game-changing races have been decided not by voters, but by insiders; from the presidential race of 1960, appropriated for John Kennedy by Democratic muscle in Chicago, to the two victories secured for George W. Bush by GOP fixers in Florida and hackers in Ohio. Among other suspect elections in recent years are key Congressional races hijacked by combinations of voter suppression, gerrymandering, dark money and the ugly little secret of American elections: rigged voting machines.

WHY ALL MAIL BALLOT ELECTIONS ARE A BAD IDEA

Adapted from Why 'Vote-by-Mail' Elections are a Terrible Idea for Democracy by Brad Friedman


Lack of Transparency: Absence of evidence does not mean absence of fraud
As with any voting system that is not fully transparent, proving mail-in fraud can be difficult or impossible. Once we drop our ballot in the mail, we can't verify what becomes of it, and elections become a matter of faith. Additionally, should our ballots arrive in the central aggregating location untampered, they are likely to be counted by the same private, secretly programmed electronic systems that have been proven vulnerable to rigging, hacking, and undetectable error. Central counting makes fraud on a large scale easier to accomplish and harder to detect. 

Lack of Security 
Ballots are stored in hundreds of thousands of locations with no security for two to three weeks. The chain of custody lacks security as the ballots are handled by many anonymous persons throughout the process. Any unmarked contest on a ballot can be marked by someone other than the voter when the ballots are opened for counting.

Voter Intimidation 
Voting can be done as a group at churches or union halls with people looking over the voter's shoulder to make sure they vote "the right way."

Election Fraud 
There is no way to be certain that the person who signed the envelope is the person to whom the ballot was sent. Ballots can be stolen from mail boxes while the voter is at work or away from home on an errand. Other tactics include vote harvesting by persons who show up at your door to "help" you vote. The elderly and those with disabilities are particularly vulnerable.

Potential for Ballot Mishandling 
Post office or contract mailing company illegally forwards ballots; more than one ballot sent to voters; postal workers put ballots in the trash. (All of these thing have happened in Colorado)

Lack of Secret Ballot 
When election judges check in your ballot, they can see how you voted when they match the inventory number on your ballot to the inventory number next to your name on the voter rolls. The Colorado Constitution guarantees your right to a secret ballot. [ed note: as do most other state Constitutions and elections code.]

Additional Resources"Why Mail Ballots Are a Bad Idea" by Charles E. Corry, Ph.D

Oregon Vote-by-Mail Process Scrutinized by GMO Labelling Supporters

Published at Pew Charitable Trust

The way in which local election officials verify signatures on mail ballots in Oregon, where elections are conducted entirely by mail, and the guidance the state provides to the counties were the subjects of a recent legal challenge.

During the November 2014 election, about 13,000 voters (out of 1.5 million statewide) submitted ballots with signatures that did not match their voter registration cards. These voters were given the opportunity to fix the problem within 14 days after the election. Roughly 8,600 responded, matched their signatures, and had their ballots counted. However, about 4,600 did not return corrected signatures, and their ballots were not counted.

The suit, which was denied by the court, alleged that some of those uncounted ballots were improperly rejected because:

  • Some voters never received notification their signatures did not match.
  • For some voters with disabilities, their signatures had changed or they had used stamps for their signatures.
  • The secretary of state’s office did not confirm that counties consistently applied the instructions for signature verification.
  • The instructions provided to voters did not state that the signatures had to match in order for the ballots to be counted.

Supporters of Proposition 92, which would have mandated the labeling of genetically modified foods, brought the suit. The race went to an automatic recount, and the lawsuit sought to have the rejected ballots considered for counting before the results were certified. The proposition lost by only 812 votes.

Error and Fraud at Issue as Absentee Voting Rises

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — On the morning of the primary here in August, the local elections board met to decide which absentee ballots to count. It was not an easy job.

The board tossed out some ballots because they arrived without the signature required on the outside of the return envelope. It rejected one that said “see inside” where the signature should have been. And it debated what to do with ballots in which the signature on the envelope did not quite match the one in the county’s files.

“This ‘r’ is not like that ‘r,’ ” Judge Augustus D. Aikens Jr. said, suggesting that a ballot should be rejected.

Ion Sancho, the elections supervisor here, disagreed. “This ‘k’ is like that ‘k,’ ” he replied, and he persuaded his colleagues to count the vote.

Scenes like this will play out in many elections next month, because Florida and other states are swiftly moving from voting at a polling place toward voting by mail. In the last general election in Florida, in 2010, 23 percent of voters cast absentee ballots, up from 15 percent in the midterm election four years before. Nationwide, the use of absentee ballots and other forms of voting by mail has more than tripled since 1980 and now accounts for almost 20 percent of all votes.

Yet votes cast by mail are less likely to be counted, more likely to be compromised and more likely to be contested than those cast in a voting booth, statistics show. Election officials reject almost 2 percent of ballots cast by mail, double the rate for in-person voting.

“The more people you force to vote by mail,” Mr. Sancho said, “the more invalid ballots you will generate.”

Election experts say the challenges created by mailed ballots could well affect outcomes this fall and beyond. If the contests next month are close enough to be within what election lawyers call the margin of litigation, the grounds on which they will be fought will not be hanging chads but ballots cast away from the voting booth.

In 2008, 18 percent of the votes in the nine states likely to decide this year’s presidential election were cast by mail. That number will almost certainly rise this year, and voters in two-thirds of the states have already begun casting absentee ballots. In four Western states, voting by mail is the exclusive or dominant way to cast a ballot.

The trend will probably result in more uncounted votes, and it increases the potential for fraud. While fraud in voting by mail is far less common than innocent errors, it is vastly more prevalent than the in-person voting fraud that has attracted far more attention, election administrators say.

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