Liberty Watch Analysis of HB11-1131 All Mail In Ballot by LW Legislative Team

January 30, 2011

Liberty Watch Analysis of All Mail Ballot Elections

In 2003, the Colorado State House and members of the Senate looked at the potential problems associated with mail- in ballots and concluded they should not be the used for major elections. HB 03-1258 was introduced with intent to repeal the “Mail Ballot Election Act.”  The legislators wrote the bill as, “Prohibits any governing body that is responsible for conducting elections, including a home rule municipality and a home rule county, from conducting an election in which the governing body sends unsolicited ballots or unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters by mail.  House Sponsors Schultheis, May M., Harvey, Briggs, Brophy, Cadman, Clapp, Cloer, Crane, Decker, Fritz, Hefley, King, Lundberg, McCluskey, McFadyen, Mitchell, Rhodes, Rose, Sinclair, Spence, Stafford, and White. Senate Sponsors: Lamborn, May R., and Jones.

All mail-in ballots were recognized as negatively impacting the public’s trust in free and fair elections then and those concerns remain today.  It is appreciated mail-in ballots can save costs associated with managing elections. However, there are great concerns over the potential for fraud, disenfranchisement and damage done to the integrity of the election process as applied to an all mail in system.

These are a few concerns which must be adequately addressed and proof provided of any “fixes” within the current system before an all mail-in system can be considered:

1. Falsified voter registrations: “Fake or invalid voter registrations are not limited to mail ballots, but precinct voting puts an additional check as the individual must appear in person at each polling place. Since no personal appearance is ever required with mail-in registration and a mail-in ballot, it becomes trivial to vote under a fake or assumed name.

Identity theft is widely recognized as a major problem“, says Dr Corry. Why then should it be a surprise that fake voter registrations are common?

2. Voter registration rolls inaccurate:

- While precinct voting requires the voter to appear in person and present some identification that matches the information in the precinct poll book, anyone can mail in a ballot for a name that appears on the statewide or county voter registration rolls. Please note SB11-018 has been introduced to vastly improve the voter registration process. Potential problems inherent in mail in elections could negate this effort.

- In research conducted by Dr. Corry, past Teller County Clerk and Recorder Patricia and other election officials said the problem can’t be fixed easily because state and federal election laws, intended to protect people’s right to vote, make it difficult to purge the rolls. “There’s nothing we can do about it,” Crowson said”.

- Crowson said a number of common factors contribute to the inflated voter rolls. “It’s really no mystery,” she said. “Every clerk in the nation probably has the same problem — similar problems.”

- When moving to another county or state, few people bother to notify the clerk and recorder in their former county of residence that they’ve relocated or registered somewhere else — so they remain on the rolls.

- Lisa Doran, a past spokeswoman for the Colorado secretary of state’s office, said “she’s aware that many counties in the state have inflated registration rates.”Some are better at working their lists than others,” she said. “There are some county clerks that just flat don’t do it. They don’t purge.” Added Doran, “It’s very difficult to purge. You have to really make an aggressive effort.”

– Though Teller County reported having more than 16,000 eligible voters during the November 2002 federal election, a regularly scheduled purge of the rolls later that month brought the official number below 15,000. The potential for fraud was over 10,000 votes in Teller county alone.

- Even with requested absentee ballots about 10% may be returned by Post Office as undeliverable to that address. Anyone who has ever walked a precinct for a candidate using voter rolls would concur.

- From “How to Steal an Election, by Jeff Jacoby, September 16, 2004 — A recent [August 21, 2004] story that didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved was the New York Daily News report that 46,000 registered New York City voters are also registered to vote in Florida. As the Daily News noted, “efforts to prevent people from registering and voting in more than one state rely mostly on the honor system.” Those who break the law rarely face prosecution or serious punishment. It’s easy — and painless — to cheat”.

- What assurances do Colorado voters have this is not or will not occur here or past problems negatively impacting elections can be permanently corrected?

Voter disenfranchisement with mail ballots

- We have all seen and have be disturbed by reports of mail in ballots of overseas military personnel being disallowed by problems associated with mail ins. What assurances are there that these problems will not impact every Colorado voter in a major statewide or national election?

- Voter disenfranchisement of about one-third of registered voters can occur if ballots are only mailed to active voters. While “inactive” voters, i.e., anyone who didn’t vote in the last federal election can obtain a ballot by contacting the county clerk, most voters are unaware of that requirement and are never given a chance to vote.

- Experience has shown if there is a loophole in the way an election is run, that someone will take advantage of it. There is simply too much money and power traded in an election for fraud not to be an issue. What proof can be offered to Colorado voters an all mail in system is more accurate and secure?

4. Inaccurate records caused by identity theft is an issue:

- Per Dr. Corry, “Election officials are either unaware of, or choose to ignore the exploding problems with identity theft. In February 2006 150,000 voter records went missing in Denver, Colorado.

- Identity theft is a crime with wide ranging implications for voter fraud. What has Colorado done in eliminating this from impacting voting by mail?

Statements from Colorado Springs voters and Liberty Watch members:

JB

: “The mail-in ballot system does not have sufficient safeguards in-place to limit fraudulence. There will never be a fool-proof system to eliminate fraudulence. “ 

JH: “The draft bill is so long and detailed because it tries to address every possible scenario and contingency, but I think it’s evidence that the system it’s created is too complicated, difficult to understand, implement and will be able to be manipulated by those crafty enough to fully understand it.  I have strong disagreements with the underlying paradigms behind the bill.

“Lowest cost” is not the best or only mechanism for making a decision of this sort. If efficiency and cost savings are the only metrics, then any number of bad scenarios are justifiable. Neither is “Increased voter turnout.” Neither is rapid turnaround and reporting of results. The overarching concern and the singular mission here should be election integrity, and I don’t think this bill or its underlying premise will deliver that. Voter fraud is an historical and current reality. It’s not a risk, which implies probability; it’s a problem, and we need a system that will increase systemic security and integrity, not make fraud more likely. Saying “there will be no cheating” belies either dangerous naiveté, total disregard for history, lack of intelligence, or desire to get an easily defrauded system in place. I am concerned about the obvious potential for voter fraud. Ballots may be sent to non-citizens or non-voters. Positive voter identification and chain of custody are made much more difficult with this scenario. How will I be able to verify that MY ballot was registered and not switched or ignored altogether?  There needs to be a detailed risk analysis, and the comparative costs benefits for at least two alternatives—this proposal versus the status quo as a minimum. It strikes me that the risks are being transferred to the postal service (a government union) and software programmers, and software-based systems can be hacked and defrauded in ways more sophisticated than possible with manual systems.”

Sources and Links:

How to Steal and Election by Jeff Jacoby

Why Mail Ballots Are A Bad Idea by Charles E. Corry, Ph.D.

http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/cheaper-popular-mail-ballots-worry-critics-7479

http://www.ejfi.org/Voting/Voting-78.htm#pgfId-1399102

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