Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Senate Bill 5740 may have the inside track

Senate Bill 5740 is probably an election reform bill that’s worth watching. Its prime sponsor is Senator Berkey, the vice chairperson of the Government Operations and Elections Committee. It was introduced at the request of the secretary of state.

Unfortunately, there seems to be little in it that increases the probability that our election outcomes will be decided by the legitimate votes of eligible voters.

Section 1 does require that provisional ballots be distinguishable from regular ballots and be in a form which cannot be put into polling place vote counting machines – which is obviously a good idea.

Section 2 deals with processing of absentee ballots that are returned by voters, and seems not to add anything significant to the process which would protect the integrity of our elections.

It does say: “A voter may not cure a missing or mismatched signature for purposes of counting the ballot in a recount." This would cut out some of the skullduggery we saw in the last general election.

However, section 2 doesn’t add a requirement to take any steps to prevent absentee voters from casting more than one absentee ballot in an election. So far as I can tell, no law or regulation requires any procedure that would make detection and rejection likely for the second, third or thirtieth ballot from a voter who managed to get hold of more than one ballot. And, there is apparently no procedure being followed by the more populous counties to prevent it.

RCW 29A.40.110 sets the requirements for verifying the receipt or postmark prior to election day and for examining the signature to see if it matches the one on file, but it says nothing about checking to see if another ballot has already been received from the voter.

WAC Title 434, Chapter 240 requires procedures to ensure that people cannot vote by absentee ballot and also at the polls.

The poll books are marked to identify voters who were issued absentee ballots, so they would be issued provisional ballots if they also showed up at the polling places.

When absentee ballots are issued after the poll books are prepared, there is a requirement to check the poll books before counting the votes on the absentee ballots to see if the voter also voted at the polls.

But, there is nothing to keep a person who gets hold of more than one absentee ballot from voting more than once.

Since there is a requirement to keep a record of the date that each absentee ballot is received from the voters, there must be some database which could provide the needed information to a counting center worker who is about to verify the signature on the envelope of a recently received absentee ballot.

The “audit trail” required by WAC 434-240-270 only requires a reconciliation of the number of ballots received and the numbers of ballots accepted and rejected. There’s no reconciliation of the number of voters who participated by absentee ballot and the number of absentee ballots accepted.

Maybe someone thinks the county elections officials would take steps to keep people from voting more than once per election by absentee, but I doubt that it is a reasonable assumption.

If it’s not spelled out in the law, I don’t think the bureaucrats can be relied upon to do it. (They don’t even comply with things that are spelled out plainly in the law!)

Enough for now on SB 5740 – there will probably be more later.


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