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)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Voting by mail is vulnerable to fraud

The Telegraph (UK) has an interesting article about the weaknesses in the absentee voting system in the UK. A reporter obtained ballots from various jurisdictions by simply sending in a request for a ballot in the name of someone on the rolls – and asking that it be sent to an address other than the registered voter's address.

When Washington's Secretary of State adopted the regulation that required auditors to give "voters" an opportunity to mail in a new signature card once the initial signature on the absentee ballot envelope failed to match the signature on file, did he consider the consequences?

The new rule was adopted on his own initiative, not because it was required by any state or federal law. ("Name of Agency Personnel Responsible for Drafting: Bill Huennekens, Office of the Secretary of State...," the same man who didn't know what "validity of each vote" meant when asked during his deposition.)

The vulnerability in the UK's election system is present in our own.

How many of the 10,000+ ballots that were accepted by King County in November 2004 after "updated" signatures were received had been mailed to addresses other than the residences of the registered voters?

Will Section 8 of Substitute Senate Bill 5499 allow the same kind of skullduggery as is possible in the UK?

The statute enacted this year requires an attempt to contact the registered voters by telephone when signatures don't match. Perhaps this would prevent some fraud, assuming the auditors call the voters rather than whoever may have requested and cast ballots in their names.

The auditors would probably send notices about signature mismatches to the addresses to which they mailed the absentee ballots, so a person committing fraud would get the opportunity to “update” the signature on file without the registered voter's knowledge.

Once the dust settles, the legislature ought to look into those 10,000+ signature updates in King County. If many were sent to mailing addresses that weren’t the same as the residence addresses, how would anyone know (without personally contacting the registered voters) whether someone had requested and cast a ballot in someone else’s name?

The system in Washington is almost as easy to fool as the process in the UK, where they don’t try to compare signatures. If the signature on file can be changed by mail without proving identity, it’s the same as not checking the signature’s authenticity at all.


Blogger Charles Jenkins said...

Good post Micajah.

May 02, 2005 4:14 AM  

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