A Response to Madeline Rawley’s article in the Coalition for Voting Integrity News and Opinion
Dear Ms. Rawley;
I address your very weak arguments in opposing mail-in voting in Pennsylvania in which you seek to maintain the status-quo rather than eliminate the primary cause of endemic election fraud – unverifiable voting machines.
As reported last month, the German Supreme Court ruled last year that the use of electronic voting machines in elections in Germany was unconstitutional because it violates the constitutional mandate that “all aspects of the election process must be available for public scrutiny.”
Meanwhile, here in Bucks County, we still must vote on these unreliable and unverifiable electronic machines. However, we do have very limited public scrutiny as poll workers and poll watchers can watch absentee paper ballots counted by hand and observe their tabulation with machine counts in the polling place on election night. This tiny window of public scrutiny could disappear if Pennsylvania ever adopts no-excuse absentee ballots as 27 states have. (It may take a constitutional amendment.) No-excuse absentee ballots seem to be the first step to the elimination of polling places. In two states, Oregon and Washington, there are no polling places. All voters drop off or mail in their ballots.
Rawley, you agree that the machines are unreliable and unverifiable. But then you go off track: “this tiny window
of public scrutiny will disappear” … if PA goes to “no-excuse” absentee
ballots. You are fearful that polling places would be eliminated as they have
been in WA and OR, the only states with 100% mail-in ballots.
One example of how a no-excuse absentee ballot voting state may turn into an all mail-in state can be seen in California. In their recent primary, in San Joaquin County, 49% of the voters sent in no-excuse absentee ballots. A county grand jury concluded that there was no longer a need for polling places and issued a call for all mail-in voting. Election officials like no-excuse absentee ballot voting because they don’t like having the public looking over their shoulders and finding poll workers so they emphasize possible cost savings.
Election officials “don’t like having the public looking over their shoulders and finding poll workers so they emphasize possible cost savings”? You can’t be serious. First of all, cost savings are guaranteed. Compare to the cost of installing and maintaining voting machines. Corrupt election officials all over the country (including PA) installed unverifiable touch screens without doing a credible hardware and software inspection.
Here in Pennsylvania, well-intentioned groups like Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and minority and disability organizations are in favor of no-excuse absentee ballots. These groups have not focused on the loss of public scrutiny that results when ballots are mailed in, kept, and counted at the courthouse. They are motivated by their belief that this method of voting will increase voter turnout. Most research studies have shown that voter turnout does not increase substantially; some studies have shown that there is no increase.
Voter turnout has increased substantially in OR since it changed to mail-in ballots in 1998. In the three elections from 1988 to 1996, it had a 7% average uncounted vote rate. In the three elections from 2000 to 2008, the rate was reduced to 1.5%.
The “well-intentioned” groups in PA that are in favor of no-excuse “absentees” have not “focused” on the loss of “public scrutiny” because the chain of custody can be nearly foolproof if election officials want it to be – as in OR and WA. Mail-in ballots are scanned and counted by computers and then precincts are randomly selected for hand-recounts to confirm the machine counts. According to Oregon officials, there has never been a discrepancy of even a single vote between the hand-count and machine-count.
In 1992, Oregon had a whopping 13.6% unadjusted exit poll discrepancy (WPE). That was surely one of the reasons why the state mandated a 100% paper ballot voting system in 1998 (either mail-in or in-person). The results speak for themselves. In Oregon, unlike PA and most other states, the recorded vote has closely matched the True Vote. Here is the evidence:
In 2000, Gore won the recorded national vote by 48.4-47.9%. Nader et al had 6.5%. Gore won the unadjusted aggregate state exit polls by 49.4-46.9%, a small 2.0% within precinct discrepancy. Gore won Oregon by 47.0-46.5%, matching his 0.5% recorded vote margin.
Kerry won Oregon by 51.4-47.2%, a close match to his 52.2% share in the exit pollster telephone survey in Oregon. In Pennsylvania, Kerry had 55.1% in the unadjusted exit poll but only 50.9% in the recorded vote - a whopping 8.4% WPE.
The 2004 National Exit Poll indicated that returning Nader voters broke for Kerry over Bush by a whopping 65-13%. Assuming an equal defection of returning Gore and Bush voters, returning Nader voters accounted for the 3.7% increase in Kerry’s Oregon margin over Gore. The numbers add up.
Kerry led the unadjusted exit polls in virtually every Battleground state. He led in OH, FL, NM, IA, VA and CO but lost them all. Oregon was the only Battleground state in which Kerry did better than Gore. Is it just a coincidence that OR was the only 100% paper ballot state?
It is much more convenient to vote in your pajamas then to stand for hours waiting to vote and then possibly see it switched on the screen. And even if the vote appears to have been properly recorded, there is no way of knowing if malicious software has switched the vote at the DRE or if it will be miscounted later at remote central tabulators in cyberspace. The only deterrent to electronic fraud is a mandated hand-count of paper ballots in the required number of randomly-selected precincts in order to meet a desired statistical level of confidence.
For full transparency, there must be a paper ballot for each and every vote cast. DRE voting machines should be thrown away. Optical scanners produce a paper ballot, but election officials resort to the bogus claim that a hand count would not be efficient - even though they would only be required in a subset of (randomly selected) precincts. Oregon’s random hand counts are a powerful deterrent against election fraud. Now Washington will surely follow suit.
Another unfortunate effect of no-excuse absentee ballot voting is that voter fraud and intimidation may occur. In a primary election this year in New Jersey, which has no-excuse absentee voting, 49 unopened and uncounted absentee ballots mysteriously turned up in a closet in the courthouse when a recount in a close election was requested. (This is not unusual.) The recount produced a new winner. An investigation found that the49 ballots had been delivered by three men. Some contacted voters denied having voted. The on-going investigation with its finding of fraud and intimidation is detailed in these newspaper articles here and here.
Were voting machines used in that “close” election – and if they were how did you verify those votes? Voter fraud is a canard; it is virtually non-existent. On the other hand, election fraud and intimidation on the part of election officials is systemic.
In addition to this threat to election integrity, the elimination of polling place voting reduces the sense of community that develops when voters meet poll workers and other voters from their neighborhood in the polling place. If citizens vote at home and the ballots are handled by anonymous workers and counted by machine in the courthouse, not only is public scrutiny lost and opportunities for fraud increased, but a sense of community disappears.
You are concerned that eliminating polling places will somehow detract from the “sense of community” that is created as a result of voting? Your priorities are mixed up. If you want a “sense of community” why don’t you organize community events, like town-hall meetings? Votiing is not a “community event”; it is (or should be) an exercise in democracy in which the votes are properly counted – and verifiable. The electronic voting machines in PA do neither.
Voting in public at your neighborhood polling place is needed in our increasingly isolated society where people interact with screens and phone instead of other people. In Pennsylvania today, if a person is not able to come to the polling place due to his or her duty to be elsewhere on election day or a physical disability, he or she can vote by absentee ballot. Allowing everyone to vote by mail is convenient, but is that the value that should take pre-eminence in a democracy when some of our citizens have put their bodies on the line for our democracy? Why can’t voters, in order to preserve the integrity of the election process, express their belief in democracy by going physically to a polling place two days a year?
Express their belief by going to a polling place where they can’t be sure that their vote will be counted fairly? It would be better if they just stayed home, filled out a paper ballot and then mailed or delivered it in person – and held election official’s feet to the fire by making sure they have a documented policy to insure a foolproof chain of custody – as they do in Oregon.
You confuse priorities by resorting to a phony concern of “isolation”. The concern that millions of voters have is from not knowing if their votes were correctly counted. They are well aware that voting machine “glitches” and exit poll anomalies have favored the GOP candidate over 90% of the time. In 2004 the exit poll discrepancy was just 2% in paper ballot precincts, 7% in electronic voting machine precincts and 12% in lever precincts. What does that tell you?
Ms. Rawley, are you for true voting integrity or the status-quo?