Sunday, March 21, 2010

Polling place voting is more secure and more accurate than mail ballots..

March 19, 2010
TO: Boulder County Commissioners: Ben Pearlman (Chair), Will Toor, Cindy Domenico
CC: Boulder County Clerk and Recorder: Hillary Hall

RE: Arguments for conducting the 2010 Primary Election as a Polling Place Election.

Dear Commissioners:

Before addressing the voting method, we beg you to take necessary action to remove the unique ballot bar-code/serial-number from our ballots. The unique identification of ballots denies voters the right to cast an anonymous ballot. Identified ballots can be linked back to the voter, despite official admonitions to “trust the government”. Please forbid this violation of voter’s rights.

At the time of the writing of this appeal, the public has seen no real numbers to support the official claims that eliminating in-person voting will cost less and increase turnout. How much less cost, and how many more voters? Where are the historical and forecast numbers to support these assertions? And, what is the threat assessment for each of the voting methods? Please ensure that the facts are available for verification before making a decision based on emotion and hearsay.

It is important to keep in mind that elections can be won by one vote. One single case of undetected fraud or error can change the outcome.

We submit the following to encourage Boulder County to conduct the 2010 Primary Election as a polling place election.
  1. In a polling place election, voters can choose to vote in person or by mail ballot.
  2. A polling place election will honor the wishes of electors who have signed up to vote as permanent mail-in elector.
  3. A polling place election is more secure.
  4. A polling place election is more accurate.
  5. There will be less opportunity for mischief in a polling place election.
Despite intensive promotion by Colorado election officials, fewer than 50 percent of Boulder County’s 219,600 eligible electors are scheduled to receive a permanent mail ballot. The remaining 50 percent are free to choose whether to vote in person or by mail. Forcing these electors to vote by mail-in ballot would deprive them of this freedom of choice.

Electors who want the freedom to choose to vote at a polling place do so for a variety of reasons:

1. Objections to overreaching by government.
Some electors object to being forced to vote using a mail-ballot system that they believe is insecure and inaccurate.
2. Some voters want to know the facts before they vote.
Late breaking news, available on Election Day, can affect a voter’s choices. Mail-in ballots must be posted days in advance of Election Day.
3. Campaigns are less costly.
Shorter campaigns can be less expensive, and candidates have a less difficult time programming their campaign activities. Mail-in ballot voting might start a soon as 20 days before Election Day. A lot can happen in 20 days. Instead of scheduling election activities around one day, Election Day, broadcast advertising and literature mailings for mail ballot elections must be repeated in order to reach voters near the time that the voter is preparing to mark their ballot. These costs are incurred by each of the campaigns.

4. Polling place voting is more secure.
a. There is much tighter control over the physical ballots since the ballots never leave the control of the election judges.
b. It is more likely that the person who marks the ballot is the eligible elector. Electors must show their face at the polls.
c. There is much tighter control over electioneering.
5. Mail-in voting is less secure.
a. Ineligible ballots can be voted and the votes counted.
b. Mail ballots are sent to electors that are not eligible because they no longer live in the County.
c. Incorrect mail ballots are issued to people who are ineligible to vote the ballot style because they have changed jurisdictions within the county.
d. The Postal Service does not guarantee delivery of ballots to the intended elector.
e. Ballots are delivered to addresses where the elector is no longer eligible.
f. Ballots are delivered to an address, but the elector never receives the ballot.
g. People can vote by mail in Boulder County and vote again in another out of state location.
6. Non-professional signature verification is not proof that the eligible elector freely marked and cast a mail ballot.
a. Identity theft can be used to forge signatures on ballots that are harvested in dumpsters and Post Office trash barrels.
b. Family members, roommates, and office mates can successfully forge an elector’s signature.
c. With modern technology, it is relatively easy to scan a stolen signature and adjust its size and density for printing onto a ballot return envelope.
d. Temporary election workers are not certified to accurately detect false signatures.
7. Polling place voters have less possibility of suffering voter intimidation.
a. When a private voting booth is available to a voter, the voter cannot be pressured by others, including friends and family. The voter can say that they voted X when they actually voted Y.
b. Votes on mail ballots can easily be traded, and/or sold.
c. Electioneering can take place in the elector’s home, as the elector is encouraged to mark their ballot in front of somebody electioneering.
8. Claims of increased voter turnout in mail ballot elections are not substantiated.
a. High voter turnout results from competitive contests and the elector’s belief that their vote can affect the results. High turnout does not result from forcing everybody to vote using mail ballots.
b. Even year elections have higher turnout than odd, and general election have higher turnout than primary elections. Given two supposedly equal mail ballot elections, the turnout in one varies from another.
c. In past Boulder County Primary elections, where voting by mail ballot was available to all electors, turnout has varied:

· DEM 13,230 REP 10,267 1998 Governor’s Primary (both contested)
· DEM 7,742 REP 6,561 2002 Governor’s Primary (both uncontested)
· DEM 12,963 REP 6,537 2006 Governor’s Primary (both uncontested)

d. It is common for the same voter to have a different turnout on the same ballot in the same election. They vote for some contests but not others.
e. Even when a permanent mail in elector is sent a ballot, a large percentage of these ballots are not accepted for counting.
f. And among those mail ballots accepted for counting, there is no hard evidence that the ballots were voted by eligible electors voting without intimidation and/or vote trading.
9. Inappropriate electioneering of Permanent mail-in voter option.
a. Using public funds to engineer an overturn of the 2002 Amendment 28 vote of the people, election officials have misinformed electors. Electors, therefore, do not have the facts needed to make an informed choice when deciding whether or not to elect permanent mail ballot status.

· With no explanation of risk, driver license officials encourage new registrants to sign us as a permanent mail-in voter.
· Election offices persuade electors to sign up for permanent mail-in ballots.
· Government sponsored literature stresses (potential) benefits, and fails to disclose the uncertainties and problems associated with mail ballot elections.
· Rosy claims about fabulously low costs and deliriously high turnout are not supported with detailed cost and turnout data.
10. Attempt to overturn 2002 election results.
a. Special interests, despite the fact that Amendment 28 was defeated in 63 out of 64 Colorado counties, did not give up when they lost the 2002 statewide contest to eliminate polling place elections. (60 percent of Boulder County voters voted NO to this scheme.) Since then:

· Officials worked against the public to create the permanent mail-in option.
· They have expended public money to persuade electors to sign up for permanent mail-in status.
· They have worked to permit forced mail-in voting for partisan Primary elections.

b. And who are these special interests? Some are unknown, but one is the Colorado County Clerks Association. CCCA is a secret association that influences its members to eliminate polling place elections. The association refuses to permit representatives of the public to observe their meetings, and refuses to permit representatives of the public to present facts that contradict their dogma.
11. Election cost detail is not available.
a. The public is unable to analyze the differences between mandatory mail-in ballot and polling place elections, because the detail needed for such an analysis is not available to the public. A questioning public might discover opportunities to cut costs.
b. Mail ballot packets cost more to print, package, and mail than polling place ballots -- a great deal more.
c. Many permanent mail ballots are returned as Undeliverable. This demonstrates that the voter list is not accurate, it releases live ballots into the wild, and it costs the County a great deal to print, package, and mail these ballots. Postage costs extra for returning the undeliverable ballot packets to the county.
d. Boulder County residents benefit when money spent on elections is kept in Boulder County. It appears that a polling place election will keep more money at home than would a mail ballot election.
e. If we understand correctly, there is no publicly verified estimate of the cost for running the Primary as a polling place election or a mail ballot only election.

· Whatever the difference, it is not sufficient to deprive voters of the right to vote in person if they choose to do so.
· It is not sufficient to accept the additional threats to integrity which come with a mail ballot election.

f. Is Boulder County prepared to sacrifice the integrity of its election for money?
g. We hope that the commissioners will require cost data with sufficient detail to determine if all of the related costs are included. For example, fees to HART, postage in and out and undeliverable ballot packet returns, how many early voting locations for each voting method, etc.
12. Election integrity is threatened with mail-in ballots.
a. Mail ballots are issued, accepted/rejected, opened and processed up to 22 days before Election Day, and votes may be counted up to 15 days before Election Day. This makes possible the leakage of voting information to “friendly” campaigns, opening the possibility of unfair elections. For example, a visual assessment by an “insider” of the number of votes cast for each contestant in a key contest is valuable information. This data could be used by campaigns to tune their last minute spending and activities, and thereby unfairly influence the outcome of the election.
13. Polling place elections build and nurture community.
a. Some electors believe that elections have a secondary benefit – they build and nurture community. People directly participate in the election processes as workers, poll watchers, and election judges.
b. More community involvement has the secondary benefit of increasing public confidence that the election results are fair and accurate.
c. Whereas, mail ballot elections are sterile, and most of the activity occurs in the back room.
14. Polling place elections have independent oversight.
a. Most of the election workers in a mail-in only election are staff and temporary employees of the Clerk. In polling place elections, most election workers are election judges who are not employees of the Clerk. We need the transparency of independent oversight.
Boulder County is fortunate to have a well-intentioned County Clerk. Pressure on her to minimize cost is high, as it should be. However, as outlined above, it is vital that election cost is not awarded a higher priority than election integrity and voter confidence. The first job for government is to protect the integrity of the ballot box. The second job is to do so as efficiently as practical.

We encourage Boulder County to conduct the 2010 Primary Election as a standard polling place election. Let those who wish to vote by mail ballot do so. Let those who wish to vote in person, and cast a ballot that is not enclosed in an envelope that is coded with the voter’s name and address, do so.

And please keep in mind that each and every single vote counts.

Al Kolwicz
Colorado Voter Group
2867 Tincup Circle
Boulder CO, 80305

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