Sunday, November 4, 2012

Vote by mail - rife with problems?

When I moved to Oregon I was surprised by the requirement that you vote by mail. It is either that or drop-box. I don't know how other counties have drop-boxes, but for me in Multnomah County they have always been inconvenient. I don't drive and don't typically venture out of my neighborhood where drop-boxes don't exist.

Drop-boxes also seem subject to votes just disappearing. One wonders just what security measures are taken to ensure that votes dropped are votes counted? Whatever one might say about the post office - I trust them to deliver the mail and do it on time.

Did you know that it is not illegal for "volunteers" to collect ballots? [Investigations continue in Clackamas Co. ballot tampering]. Apparently, it was not illegal for two canvassers for Oregon House Democrats to collect ballots.  Why not?

But just how many ballots could possibly be invalidated because of this collection? But worst is the potential ballot invalidation because of insufficient postage. Or is it? The Oregonian had the story about the alleged legal insufficiency of a vote delivered by the USPS without proper postage. [Charges fly in Oregon secretary of state race over rules for ballots lacking postage].

One wonders just what percentage of votes arrive without proper postage? And why should it matter? If it doesn't seem to matter that volunteers collect ballots for delivery - should it matter that the USPS delivers the ballots without postage? Which one of the two is likely to be more reliable?

How reliable is the USPS? There are allegations that the number of lost or stolen mail nationwide is rising. "In 2008 there were 3,144 allegations. In 2009, the number rose to 7,016. And in 2010, it again rose to 9,464." [I-Team: 9,464 customers report lost or stolen mail].  Allegations are not the same as confirmed lost or stolen mail. And, 9,464 is hardly a staggering figure.

From a personal perspective - I lived in many cities and nearly as many states in my long lifetime, and my work in the legal industry depended on the reliability and timeliness of the USPS.  At no time have I or my recipients ever missed receiving mail.

Sure missed deliveries happens. Yes there are the stories about the postal worker who hoarded mail rather than delivering it. It is rare, rare, rare folks. And, the legal system gives credit to the mail system for accuracy and timeliness.

And by the way - first class mail service cost 44 cents in the US, but in places like Great Britain it cost .74 cents. In 2011 the USPS handled over 73 billion (73,000 million) pieces. [USPS 2011 Annual Report].  I would argue that the mail service is not only inexpensive but reliable.

And there are arguments that vote by mail is subject to intimidation by family or other household members. I guess that could be an issue, but how different is that from polling place voting? Is it really a significant issue? Your vote is only as private as you want it to be.

But voter fraud seems more likely an unevent. In a Wall Street Journal Blog - Voter Fraud: Hard to Identify - it has little statistical sufficiency. One study (News21) quoted determined that "there have been 2,068 cases of alleged election fraud since 2000 . . . ." Alleged? And it was the absentee ballot that comprised the majority - 23.7% - of allegations.

Candidate or ballot measure passed because of actual voting fraud - not likely. The voting system is not flawless nor is it porous to fraud. And while vote by mail is alleged - alleged mind you - to be flawed, there hasn't been any cases leading reasonable and rational people to be concerned.

Just the facts - please. Too much to ask?

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