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I just finished reading a disturbing article from yesterday's New York Times concerning absentee voting. I highly recommend that you read this if you are considering voting absentee.

Much of the article deals with election fraud using absentee ballots. While this is extremely important and definitely needs to be addressed, the part of the article that concerns me at this moment concerns the counting of absentee ballots. The article notes that voting by absentee ballot has increased in the past 30 years and now makes up about 20% of votes, but also notes that this has led to problems.

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.
One of the reasons for this is the complicated instructions and procedures for mailing an absentee ballot including the many places it must be signed, the order of the pages being correct, and where the ballot is mailed from. Another reason is that election officials must decide whether the signature matches the one on record.
“This ‘r’ is not like that ‘r,’ ” Judge Augustus D. Aikens Jr. said, suggesting that a ballot should be rejected.
Now in the case above, the ballot was ultimately accepted after the election supervisor pointed out that the "k" looked like the "k" on record. But it does illustrate the possible arbitrary nature of deciding whose signature is valid. It rang a bell with me because there are a number of letters (s, r, k, and a, in particular) that I write differently at times. No particular reason I do it and I don't think about it, it just happens. And I imagine that other people are also not consistent in how they form letters. Of course, even if one is consistent, health issues, such as arthritis or stroke, lead to changes in handwriting.

The entire article is worth a read, but I wanted to focus on this aspect of the article because of the push to vote absentee, especially in states with new voter ID laws.

2:45 I have to leave for a few hours but will check in again when I return home. Thanks to everyone who has or will participate in the discussion

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good points. For the first time ever we (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wishingwell, sewaneepat, Tamar, Wee Mama

    plan to vote by mail.  My signature sucks uniformly.....

    Move Single Payer Forward? Join 18,000 Doctors of PNHP and 185,000 member National Nurses United

    by divineorder on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 08:40:50 AM PDT

    •  Thanks for this. We're voting absentee in order (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sewaneepat, mindara, divineorder, Wee Mama

      to be available to do voter protection at the polls on election day in one of our neighboring states.
      I'll make sure we sign very very carefully and that everything is in order.
      Doesn't matter, in our case, on the presidential or congressional races since both our state and our congressional district are overwhelmingly blue. But we have a marriage equality referendum and a state dream act on the ballot and I want to make sure our votes are counted for those parts of the election.

      We're not perfect, but they're nuts! -- Barney Frank

      by Tamar on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:45:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oregon has no problem (7+ / 0-)

    Who did this study?

    Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 08:40:59 AM PDT

    •  The article does not say where the numbers (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama

      come from. I would imagine that it is a compilation of what is reported by election commissions from all precincts.

      I would also think that in a state like Oregon where (I think) all voting is done by mail, that they have made the instructions clear and not confusing and that they are better trained in recognizing and accepting signatures. And the populace is better informed about the ins and outs of how to fill out and return the ballot.

      Most, if not all, the examples were from Florida which has significant problems concerning absentee voting.

      You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

      by sewaneepat on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 08:49:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Everybody votes by mail in Oregon (0+ / 0-)

      Obviously,  there can be no different rejection rate between voting by mail there and other methods.

    •  Here is the link to the (0+ / 0-)

      study.

      I missed that it did link to an actual study when I first read it.

      You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

      by sewaneepat on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:17:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If in a democracy vote counting is not "sacred"... (4+ / 0-)

    ...it won't remain a democracy much longer.

    We got long ways to go IMO.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 08:41:37 AM PDT

  •  I hand deliver my absentee ballot (7+ / 0-)

    Directly to the county courthouse, and place it in the final lockbox myself. I don't trust the post office to deliver it, given how much of my incoming mail goes missing. If I can't trust the folks at the courthouse to then count it, then there'd be no reason to vote at all- and I for one do not intend to go there. Is discouraging folks from voting the desired outcome here?

    •  If that method of delivery is legally permissible (3+ / 0-)

      in your state, great. Just be sure the rules for absentee ballots in your state don't require a postmark.

      I think this diary points out that you want to be sure you follow the rules for voting in your jurisdiction, that's all.

    •  Are you asking if I am trying to discourage (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DamselleFly, celdd, GustavMahler

      folks from voting? God, no.

      I knew that absentee ballots were more subject to fraud, but I had no idea about the problems with being counted. I have never voted absentee.

      I live in Tennessee and we have  a new voter ID law so we have been encouraging people who don't have one to vote absentee. And that still may be what they need to do, although they can simply affirm that they are indigent and cannot afford the ID and therefore be able to vote in person. However, that has not been publicized at all and I only recently found that out.

      I just was very surprised and think people should be informed so that if they are going to vote absentee, make sure all instructions are read over and over and everything is signed, collated, and mailed (or taken to the court house) correctly. And that if possible, voting in person either on election day or early makes it harder for your vote not to be counted. After all, if you vote, but they don't count it, that is even worse.
       

      You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

      by sewaneepat on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:09:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Florida (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rian90

        has cut early voting hours, as well as having INCREDIBLY long ballots, etc. (Rachel showed a SIX PAGE one in Tampa). So, I agree that your diary is counter-productive and unhelpful.

        •  Not so much. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sewaneepat, kpardue

          pat sez to make sure you follow the rules and instructions carefully when absentee voting, and you think that's BAD?

          "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

          by leftykook on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:22:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  My mother-in-law is a permanent (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sewaneepat

          absentee voter here in California; her disabilities make it impossible for her to physically get to the polling place. When my father-in-law was alive, he would take the ballots to the polling place; since 2010 my spouse (her eldest son) has done the honors. (She's about to move to a new assisted living place with a higher care level; we need to remember to help her change voting registration.)

          "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

          by Cali Scribe on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:37:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  If she's in her new address by Election Day (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            cheerio2

            you'd have to hustle on the address change. There are only a few days left to make the change. :-D

            rMoney: Just another greedy jerk, lookin' for 4 more wars.

            by OleHippieChick on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 10:48:30 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Just checked (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              sewaneepat

              and as long as she registers by 10/22, she'll be covered; she just won't receive any mailed voting information (just a postcard with her polling place) but we could probably drive down to the registrar of voters to pick up info for her. (Maybe we should go ahead and register her tomorrow before we take off for Monterey for a couple of days...we have to stop by her new place anyway to drop off some measurements.)

              "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

              by Cali Scribe on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 04:34:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  As I said in the diary, please read the (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          smokey545, kpardue

          article in the NYT. Not to keep you from voting, but so that you will be better prepared to make sure your vote counts if you decide to vote absentee.

          While Florida has had a lot of problems with absentee voting, the article also points out that MN rejected 12,000 absentee ballots in 2008 for a myriad of reasons, especially due to confusion  over various forms that had to be enclosed in various envelopes and who could witness the forms.

          “The right to have one’s vote counted is as important as the act of voting itself,” Justice Paul H. Anderson of the Minnesota Supreme Court
          I just want people to be aware of what they need to do to make sure their vote is actually counted.

          You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

          by sewaneepat on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:38:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The ballot in Florida (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sewaneepat

          is 10 pages. Rather than put a synopsis of the propositions, they put the entire thing on the ballot. This was done on purpose, to make the ballot more complicated and resulting in longer lines and such.

          To me the federal ballot should be separate i.e., for a federal election, there should be a separate ballot for prez, senate and house that requires no ID. Then the state voting can have its own separate ballot and rules. At least people can then vote for the federal offices without the onerous state rules.

          The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. - Elbert Hubbard -9.62/-8.15

          by GustavMahler on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 12:29:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  That would be a way to avoid (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sewaneepat

        voter ID. But some states require a reason for absentee ballots while some are no-fault.

        Also, the absentee ballot can be complicated with the folding, sealing and signing required.

        The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. - Elbert Hubbard -9.62/-8.15

        by GustavMahler on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 12:25:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  That is exactly how (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sewaneepat

      I vote. Fill out the absentee and walk it down on election day and put it in the lockbox myself.

      I think we are spoiled in CA, thinking everyone does it this way.

      The diarist makes a good point. I had no idea ballots are being rejected based on signature. I still think it is a safer way than a voting machine.

      The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. - Elbert Hubbard -9.62/-8.15

      by GustavMahler on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 12:22:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If you do vote absentee (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sewaneepat, sunbro

    Please make sure that you put enough postage on the envelope. If you don't, you might as well just toss it in the garbage instead of the mail-box.

    Perhaps one day the Fourth Estate will take their jobs seriously. Or not.

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:01:17 AM PDT

  •  This weeding out the absentee votes sucks big time (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sewaneepat

    Please give us a link to the study

  •  May I take a contrary viewpoint? (5+ / 0-)

    Absentee ballots make it harder to commit the kind of wholesale vote-counting fraud that I believe took place with the use of electronic voting machines such as the ones used by Diebold in 2004 Ohio.

    My biggest concern is that Republicans will commit wholesale vote-counting fraud.  I'm certain that Karl Rove and his followers have no qualms about cheating wherever they can.

    -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

    by sunbro on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:13:03 AM PDT

    •  Except when they just shitcan them! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sunbro, sewaneepat

      which, as I've heard, some election riggers have done in the past...

      I guess it comes down to where and who.

      Rural counties in FL and OH? Probably oughtta arrange to vote in person if you can, and only vote absentee if you have no choice.

      "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

      by leftykook on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:26:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, I'd like a study done on vote-counting. (5+ / 0-)

        I'd like to compare the incidence of vote-counting fraud using regular ballots, electronic ballots, versus absentee ballots.

        We should know more about the probability of vote-counting fraud occurring in each of these cases, and we should work to eliminate both vote-counting fraud (and voter suppression) where and when they are likely to occur.

        We as a democracy have a vested interest in keeping elections valid and effective as the Founding Fathers envisioned....a true reflection of the will of the electorate.

        -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

        by sunbro on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:36:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There are too many forces who want to keep control (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sunbro, sewaneepat

          of the process itself by allowing certain confusions. I bellieve we have reached a point where our votes are pretty much not protected, and our democracy is at risk.
          Bain company is part of the vote counting process!  Who controls the electronic machines, the history is not good.  Military votes are lost or never counted or even sent. Ballots are intentionally made obtuse, look at the one that was recently posted by a DKos member in Ohio.

          The least that could be done is to have a Federal Holiday to vote for President and a standard format for the candidates for the office.

          •  There definitely should be early voting (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sunbro

            including weekend and night time voting for everyone. I'm not sure how they can do standard formats exactly since different people qualify in different states to be on the ballot. One of the main problems, I think, is that elections are  state controlled. I suppose one would need a constitutional amendment to make all voting days and hours uniform and have the same candidates for national elections in all states.

            But the limitations on voting are ridiculous and getting worse each year. Hopefully, Democrats will take back some of those state houses, like mine, which are trying to suppress votes, instead of protecting your right to vote.

            You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

            by sewaneepat on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 11:30:59 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Charles Stewart, a political scientist at MIT (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smokey545

    did the study and estimated that out of 35.5 million voters who requested absentee ballots, 27.9 were actually counted.

    He calculated that 3.9 million ballots requested by voters never reached them; that another 2.9 million ballots received by voters did not make it back to election officials; and that election officials rejected 800,000 ballots.
    Obviously, some of those who received ballots decided to vote in person or not vote, but still that is a huge number of lost or rejected ballots.

    I have not had time to read Mr. Stewart's study, but I assume that the characterization of it by the NYT is correct.

    I was in somewhat a hurry to get this diary up because we have to leave soon so I apologize for not reading the source material at this point.

    You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

    by sewaneepat on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 09:25:32 AM PDT

  •  A little late, don't you think? (0+ / 0-)

    We have four absentee ballots, one for each of the adults in our house.  We are planning to fill them out after researching the myriad of awful amendments on our Florida ballots.

    If we don't send them in, we will have no vote at all now since we already have the ballots.  While you might be right, this only discourages me, and even more so, my young adult kids.

    This info should have come out months ago, not today, not now.  Besides, as a Florida resident, I know there are no guarantees.  I will be mailing mine in and will carefully read the directions.

    I actually wonder how many people get absentee ballots, often after receiving calls from well intentioned activists and the just don't bother to send them in.  That might account for many of the discrepancies between requests and receipt.

    •  Since the article from the NYT came out (0+ / 0-)

      yesterday and I only saw it this morning, I could not have written this before since I personally had no idea it was a problem.

      I do not mean to discourage you; I do want to alert you to the fact that you have to really make sure all i's are dotted and all t's crossed.

      Yes, the article notes that you cannot determine how many of the 2.9 million ballots that reached recipients but did not get back to the election commission were simply people who changed their minds. That still leaves 3.9 million people who did not receive requested ballots and 800,000 whose ballots were rejected.

      Would you rather not have seen an alert to make sure you are very careful in following all the instructions and trying to remember how you signed the signature they have on file?

      You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

      by sewaneepat on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 10:04:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Who was the female politician (0+ / 0-)

      who made a big show of turning up in her home precinct to vote, but was turned away because she had previously requested an absentee ballot?

    •  Why mail them? (0+ / 0-)

      Now you are relying on the post office to deliver them on time. I walk mine down to the polling place on election day and put it in the  lockbox myself.

      The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. - Elbert Hubbard -9.62/-8.15

      by GustavMahler on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 12:33:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Campaigns know when you're voting absentee (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sewaneepat, OleHippieChick

    At least that's true in Michigan where I live.  

    I've received numerous postal mailings from Republican campaigns asking me how I should vote on my absentee ballot.  I haven't seen anything obviously targeting absentees from Democrats.

    I suppose I can understand why folks would need to know if you have an absentee ballot, but it's kinda creepy being targeted just because of the kind of ballot you have.

    •  I saw or read something recently that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OleHippieChick

      campaigns know who votes early so they can leave those people off their targeted mailings or phone calls. I guess they can decide whether to really target people who have received absentee ballots, trying to influence them before they mail them back or to just leave those people off their lists of mailings and calls.

      You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

      by sewaneepat on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 10:47:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I vote absentee (0+ / 0-)

    and I have worked on counting absentee ballots.  My experience is that in our township every effort is made to count every ballot and the tally is included at the end of the day of voting.  The ones that were rejected during the primary were the same ones that would have been rejected if the person had voted in person - crossing party lines.  Even those were accepted if most of the ballot was cast for one party and only one vote was for a different party.  (We just counted the  votes for the majority party).  Otherwise, if it was too mixed up, at least the non-partisan votes were counted.  So if a person reads the instructions, their vote will be counted.  Signatures get the most leeway, btw.  We never compared individual letters, or rejected ballots if the signatures used a middle initial in one signature and didn't in another signature - things like that.

    •  I would hope that most election commissions (0+ / 0-)

      do try to count all votes, but apparently some are not so generous.

      It does disturb me (if I am understanding you correctly) that you do not count the votes if the person votes a non-straight ticket. Why would you not count the vote if a person votes Democratic for one office and Republican for all the others or vice versa? Do you count votes if someone is a registered Republican, but votes for  a Democrat in one or more offices or vice versa?

      Or is this just in the Primary? We don't have party registration in TN. You just say which primary you want to vote in, but then the ballot just has the people in that party. I guess I am just confused as to the situation you are describing.

      Thanks for your work.

      You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

      by sewaneepat on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 11:57:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sounds like a multi-party ballot is used (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        myrealname

        in the primary even though it is not permitted to vote for both parties?

        •  Yes, exactly (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sewaneepat

          And that was confusing to some people.  There was an effort made to inform people that they could only vote for one party, but absentee ballots go out early  and some people didn't get the message, unfortunately.  As I mentioned to sewaneepat, I don't think we completely discarded any ballots - we at least counted non-partisan votes.

          •  Pardon my cynicism (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            myrealname

            But don't you at least sometimes get the feeling that laws that inherently produce voting confusion are part of the right wing effort to interfere with the electoral process?

            •  Well, if it is a Republican (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MKSinSA

              plot, they failed in our election - people wanted to vote for local politicians, so they voted Democratic.  The few odd Republican votes on the ballots where they cross-voted were not counted.  I think it is considered cheaper to print one ballot with all parties than to have separate ballots for each party.

        •  Must be. I can't quite wrap my head (0+ / 0-)

          around that. Each state is so different in how they do things.

          You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

          by sewaneepat on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 12:41:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  We do count the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sewaneepat

        votes if a person votes for 7 Democrats and 1 Republican.  We counted the votes for the Democrats.  We don't know and don't care how a person is registered.  In our primary, there is only one ballot with all the parties listed.  You can only vote for one party, though.  That actually happened frequently in our primary, because only Democrats were running for township offices, and people really liked most of the candidates, so they wanted to vote for them.  If they then voted for one Republican for a different office, the Republican vote didn't count, but the votes for the Democrats and the non-partisan votes counted.  If they crossed party lines a lot then only the non-partisan votes counted.  But I think every ballot got some votes counted.

  •  Depends on the STATE and who's in charge! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sewaneepat

    In MD, I have no doubt that every vote is counted. There is no effort to suppress the vote. the League of WOMEN voters have been very active and strong in WATCHING the election process. In AA County, there is a strong effort to count every vote, one where the election judges, no matter the party, have the personal integrity and the respect for neighbors to make sure the process is fair. That is why, I find it so hard that there are some many cheaters across the country. It is unfathomnable to me, that people who really care about democracy can participate in VOTER SUPPRESSION. It is treason and betrayal of all that is good about a democracy.

    An EGG is not a person, A corporation is not a person!

    by CarmanK on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 11:55:23 AM PDT

    •  Absolutely! (0+ / 0-)
      It is unfathomnable to me, that people who really care about democracy can participate in VOTER SUPPRESSION. It is treason and betrayal of all that is good about a democracy.
      As I said before, I had no idea this was a problem before reading the article this morning. I knew that it was easier to commit election fraud especially by unduly influencing elderly voters but I did not know that the counting of them was in question, at least in some places.

      You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

      by sewaneepat on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 12:39:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  2004 Napa case re mail ballot "issues" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sewaneepat

    The results of a 2004 Supervisorial election were taken to Court in Napa County, California. At issue was whether the absentee/mail ballots were tampered with in the elections office. See story from the New York Times at the link below:

    http://www.nytimes.com/...

    The room in which the ballots were being stored was kept locked, but 26 employees had keys. There was no internal security camera system and the ballots themselves were not secondarily locked up in the storage area. The storage room was adjacent to another room with even less security, and the two rooms were separated by an 8 foot wall which a person could climb over to gain access to the ballot storage area.

    An expert in ink identification testified that all the selections on some of the ballots were marked in one type of ink except for the race in question, which was marked in a different type of ink. Another anomoly was that these ballots with the different type of ink for this particular race were found in clumps within the stacks of ballots.

    The retired Judge who had been brought in to hear the case found that the required high burden of proof had not been met and dismissed the case.

    Eradicate magical thinking

    by Zinman on Sun Oct 07, 2012 at 12:41:17 PM PDT

  •  minnesota franken senate challenge... (0+ / 0-)

    most of the contested ballots that dragged out the resolution of this recount were absentee.  this includes the now famous 'lizard people' ballot.  these votes were counted and then the challenge was mounted during the automatic recount due to the slim margin of decision.  i am perfectly comfortable voting absentee in our state.

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