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November 06, 2012

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Cheryl Rofer

In New Mexico, anyway, provisional ballots are counted once they're validated. I was a pollworker in 2008, and a good friend is in charge of all Santa Fe County poll personnel.

It looks like the Ohio Secretary of State is planning to burn the provisional ballots, but this is not the case generally.

Provisional ballots are issued when it looks like there is some kind of mixup - like the registration book says the voter has received an absentee ballot and the voter says he hasn't. Also for mixups in addresses.

In a precinct of a few thousand voters, we issued maybe half a dozen provisional ballots.

SolHughesWriter

Well most of the shenanigans you list are voter supression rather than voter fraud more widely, they are about stopping people voting rather than conjuring up fake votes (by ballot stuffing or personation). The Democrats have a long history of voter supression, from when they were the racist party of the South. But since the Republicans took over being against black voters, I guess they took over most of this ugly business.

john b

The first two (ie "falsifying data" rather than "banning people who you think will vote against you from getting the chance") are certain to be nonsense.

"Provisional ballots" mean you can vote if you forget your ID as long as you bring it later. They're counted if-and-only-if the state is close enough for them to be decisive. Completely reasonable.

The others are Republican election-stealing standard-operating-procedure. Democrats aren't doing it for two main reasons:

1) classic Mayor Daley ballot-stuffing voter fraud is now basically impossible: there's too much traceability, record-checking and observation. Of course, the rules that prevent those shenanigans are also the rules the Republicans are abusing in their voter suppression efforts.

2) voter suppression is a tactic that only really works when deployed by the more powerful against the less powerful. Even if a Democratic state legislature and governor wanted to bully Republicans out of voting, they'd have trouble coming up with a mechanism (you could theoretically play silly buggers with rural precincts in a state like Virginia, I suppose).

which leads us to 3) voter suppression requires a swing state where the legislature and governor are on Team Suppression. Colorado is the only swing state this time round with a Democratic governor.

Barry Freed

Alas, we're unlikely to ever see the diabolical genius of a Ferdinand Marcos staffing polling stations with lepers in unfriendly precincts again.

*I did mean to ask you at the time, Jamie, where you picked up that delicious little tidbit.

nick s

The voting machine and the political machine grew up together.

The OSCE is giving its press conference at 3pm ET tomorrow in DC, which will be attended by three bored journos, issue a report that will be politely ignored by the Obama administration, and in four years' time the US will once again show that it can't run a national election for its chief executive to the standards expected of the various countries that it has eased into democracy. over the past few decades.

dsquared

"Provisional ballots" mean you can vote if you forget your ID as long as you bring it later. They're counted if-and-only-if the state is close enough for them to be decisive. Completely reasonable.

although, like all-postal ballots in a small minority of West Midlands local government wards in the UK, the provisional ballot does have a number of characteristics that can make it what the Catholic church calls "an occasion of sin".

belle le triste

I don't really buy john's total dismiss of even the possibility of any falsification: the voting machines have proprietary software which is rendered uncheckable by reason of intellectual property and protection of competitiveness and such, no? There's certainly room for some: how much is a matter of the election-stealer's delicate sense of his art, and the taste of the air on the night.

I can entirely see the loathsome Husted sitting in his Ohio lair, seeing the returns pop in on his master-screen, in quite unexpected numbers, for the dems, and staying his hand on the flipping-knob, because this surge is just too large (too unexpected) for this kind of steal not to backfire.

Of course part of the point of spreading the rumour that you have total secret power over the count is PRECISELY to depress the opposition (as Alex just pointed out over at Unfogged) (ps where I am tierce de lollardie, for those bothered to keep tabs on my absurd internet blizzard of cognomens). RUMOUR NEED NOT BE TRUE TO BE EFFECTIVE. But probably requires a significant level of plausible anecdata. Works until it stops working, like any political stuntwork.

belle le triste

(ps I have had abt 4 hrs sleep and am not necessarily at one with my logic-centres any longer)

john b

AIUI the parts of Ohio that were being slated for crookery has paper ballots that are scanned by machine but saved and stored by precinct, making them more robust than anything done in the UK.

Absolutely 100% with you on paragraph three, which is why I'm so keen on unequivocally pushing the "this is bollocks" line - not so much here as in places where the discussion is *cough* less informed - even if the real answer is a Silver-esque "this has a 98% chance of being bollocks".

john b

(the comment captcha was "anyway flowers", which I thought was a rather lovely attempt by our robot masters to change the subject)

belle le triste

Tony Cliff's line on infiltration of the revolutionary party by secret policemen is IT DOESN'T MATTER SO DON'T WORRY. If we win big enough they will turn out always to have been on our side anyway. I feel roughly the same about election-stealing technology -- in places with reasonably long-standing traditions of democracy it really only ever operates at the margins, where it can push a contest into territory gameable by other means, viz nobbling thr judges (I'm thinking of LBJ-related demo victories up to and including Kennedy's as much as Gush-Bore). So the point is not to say "cain't never happen" -- it sometimes can! -- but to be clear the solution is very much to avoid close-run-things. Close-run-things = Rove's favoured territory, if I am not mistaken: I am liking his fall.

Look at me citing Tony Cliff there, what an odd glad morning this is!

Cian

Greg Palast's book did a very good job of documenting exactly what happened in the last two elections, along with the preparations for the current one.

The electronic voting machines are certainly part of it, though probably not a major one. Now I suppose one could argue that the ACM are a bunch of tin foil conspiracy nuts, but this does seem unlikely. Subverting these machines is very easy, particularly if you control the electoral machinery. And subverting can be as simple as making sure that they forget to record the vote. And who would know? And given the partisan nature of local electoral boards... Certainly some of the results to come out of machines in certain ethically challenged parts of the country are, um, interesting.

However, its far easier to simply suppress the vote. Ways to do this are to have machines that break, that are not calibrated properly (calibrating resistance touch screens is a pain, as I'm sure anyone who's bought a train ticket realizes), that mislay votes. In poor areas it really is amazing how many voters cannot be bothered to vote for a candidate. You can also challenge voters, or persuade them to cast a provisional vote (filling in the form correctly so it won't get thrown out is very hard. The Republicans in particularly have got very good at getting provisional and mail in votes rejected for truly trivial reasons). And then of course there are the queues.

But even if the voting machines were built by a company that gave a damn, they're a bad idea. Optical counting works, is cheap and is robust. There's no excuse for not using it.

Cian

"Provisional ballots" mean you can vote if you forget your ID as long as you bring it later. They're counted if-and-only-if the state is close enough for them to be decisive. Completely reasonable.

Actually they're often thrown out for trivial reasons. They're very difficult to fill in properly - deliberately so I suspect. Its been a Republican tactic for a while to pressure 'democrat' voters into casting a provisional vote. Of course one way is to tell the voter they need an ID, when they actually don't. Oddly this only happens in the poorer democrat wards...

classic Mayor Daley ballot-stuffing voter fraud is now basically impossible: there's too much traceability, record-checking and observation. Of course, the rules that prevent those shenanigans are also the rules the Republicans are abusing in their voter suppression efforts.

It's depressingly trivial with the computer based voting machines, which have none of that. And you can have traceability and the rest of it, but if the person responsible is a Republican, they can do a fair bit to subvert it. Votes get disposed of illegally before they can be recounted, they get lost. Boxes have been known to appear mysteriously. This blase attitude isn't really justified.

2) Even if a Democratic state legislature and governor wanted to bully Republicans out of voting, they'd have trouble coming up with a mechanism (you could theoretically play silly buggers with rural precincts in a state like Virginia, I suppose).

My boss queued 6 hours yesterday to vote. This was due to incompetence, but he lives in a wealthy, reliably Republican area. Voter turnout was depressed as a result.

voter suppression requires a swing state where the legislature and governor are on Team Suppression.

Not necessarily. It also benefits Democrats. Primaries are where the action are in one party states. If you're a right leaning democrat (and plenty are), a depressed turn out will benefit you.

john b

Provisional ballots: as hard to fill out as any form that isn't mandated to be easy to fill out. But their point is to stop people from being disenfranchised by Republican voter suppression. It's like blaming the AA for the fact that your car is shit.

Voting machines: "selling the usual crap for too much money, unproveably" is a much more plausible solution than "do something proveably fraudulent". They *can* be audited, and Anonymous and suchlike exist. Life is much easier and more jail-free if there aren't thousands of devices out there with a "multiply R by 1.05" default or a "Karl Rove's Cellphone" override, compared with passive measures to achieve the same result.

Queuing: I've forgotten where you live. D/R governor and legislature? Assuming the latter, it's incompetence, which is remarkable by developed-world standards, and reminds me this really isn't like a sensible election. And yet. The point is, if a crowd of wealthy Republicans are stuck queuing for six hours by a D conspiracy, they have far more opportunity to utterly kick shit than if a crowd of unwealthy Democrats find themselves in the same position due to an R conspiracy.

Suppression: yes, but this is a general election. Also, right-leaning (in the US context) Democrats are a seriously dying breed - that's the whole point about the red-state polarisation that's occurring, it's the last collapse of the New Deal coalition between FDR and the very worst people in America.

Cian

Provisional ballots: as hard to fill out as any form that isn't mandated to be easy to fill out.

No, as hard to fill in as any form that has been designed to be hard to fill out. Responsibility for the design is the state electoral board. If the electoral board is Republican controlled, well now. I'm not sure why you find this hard to understand. These things are not ultimately the responsibility of disinterested professionals - it's very partisan.

Voting machines: "selling the usual crap for too much money, unproveably" is a much more plausible solution than "do something proveably fraudulent".

So the fact that Diebold is controlled by hyper-partisan Republicans is not vaguely relevant. I'm not sure what proveably fraudulent has to do with it, particularly given Diebold (and the Republican party) have resisted attempts to make these machines auditable. That's the point, you can't prove it (unless the machine registers 105% of the voters, as happened in one Republican ward). They are designed in such a way that they can be used fraudulently, without any trace. Now maybe that's deliberate, and may it isn't (though given the firm involved...). Again, what do you find hard to grasp here.

They *can* be audited, and Anonymous and suchlike exist.

The Association of Computer Machinery disagree with you about this. Quite strongly. They have been pushing for these machines to be auditable, with little success. I'm not quite sure what you're saying about Anonymous. Script kiddies aren't known for their auditing skills...

Life is much easier and more jail-free if there aren't thousands of devices out there with a "multiply R by 1.05" default or a "Karl Rove's Cellphone" override, compared with passive measures to achieve the same result.

Huh? Who made any such claim? The point is that these machines can be subverted very easily, and remotely if you so wish, by the people installing them. The same people who are responsible for illegal attempts at voter supression. Just because you don't understand these things, doesn't mean they're not possible. Plenty of people have demonstrated how utterly trivial it is.

Queuing: I've forgotten where you live. D/R governor and legislature? Assuming the latter, it's incompetence, which is remarkable by developed-world standards, and reminds me this really isn't like a sensible election.

S. Carolina, where the state motto is "Thank God for Alabama".

Oh where I live it was total incompetence. The voting machines, which really are pieces of crap, broke down and they didn't have enough of them (thus breaking state law for the god knows Xth time). This is what happens when stuff like voting, traffic signals, etc are handled by local amateurs, rather than professionals. See also the bat shit crazy plan to have email voting.

And yet. The point is, if a crowd of wealthy Republicans are stuck queuing for six hours by a D conspiracy, they have far more opportunity to utterly kick shit than if a crowd of unwealthy Democrats find themselves in the same position due to an R conspiracy.

Well only if they can prove it was a conspiracy. The thing about a 6 hour queue is that it looks like incompetence - and well, incompetence is not exactly in short supply. But if the queues are longer in certain districts, and the machines break more in certain areas. Well, it will have an affect. And most people would accept it, depressingly.

Suppression: yes, but this is a general election. Also, right-leaning (in the US context) Democrats are a seriously dying breed - that's the whole point about the red-state polarisation that's occurring, it's the last collapse of the New Deal coalition between FDR and the very worst people in America.

This isn't true at a state level, and its debatable at a national level. Sure racist Democrats are a dying breed, but plenty of Democrat politicians are business friendly, have real estate interests, etc. Ralph Emmanuel would be a good example of such a Democrat. The poor and unions are a problem for them, typically.

jamie

re Barry @4 from James Hamilton-Patterson's 'America's Boy'

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/55569/lucian-w-pye/americas-boy-the-rise-and-fall-of-marcos-and-other-misadventures

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