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Tue Jan 29, 2013, 08:14 PM

My Testimony Against Washington State SB 5291 and SB 5317

I currently reside in the 34th legislative district, and I advocate that the state legislature refuse to consider SB 5291 and SB 5317.

These bills amend RCW 29A.40.091 to mandate that ballots must be returned by Election Day, and deleting language that currently allows ballots to be postmarked by Election Day. This change will disenfranchise voters, which is an inherently undemocratic process. No voter should be penalized because they were unable to determine how long it would take for their ballot to arrive on time given this unpredictability of the Post Office. In addition, SB 5317 recommends electronic signature validation, a method that has already been rejected as insufficiently accurate by King County Elections.

Since all mail-in voting was instituted in Washington State, we have been subjected to a barrage of propaganda, the main point of which is that we no longer get election results fast enough, and Oregon gets their results much faster because they require that ballots be returned by Election Day. This premise is utter nonsense.1

In 2012, Oregon's largest county, Multnomah, recorded 55 percent turnout on the Monday before the election—comparable to King County's 52 percent, Kitsap County's 58 percent, Pierce County's 57 percent, and so on. In both states, about 70 percent of ballots cast are received by the day before the election. The difference is that Oregon receives the remainder of its ballots by Election Day, while 98 percent of Washington's ballots are received by the day after.

In the larger counties in both states, elections departments are well behind in the process of validating signatures on Election Day, so the issue of when the other 30% of the ballots come in on Election Day or the day after is totally irrelevant. Oregon does do more frequent reporting after the polls close, but that is because they pay their elections workers a lot of overtime to keep working through the night.. Both King and Multnomah tallied about 60 percent of ballots cast shortly after the polls closed Tuesday night and reported the results. This percentage is sufficient to call all but the closest elections. But Multnomah released seven additional reports after that, the latest one occurring at additional returns at about 5am the next day.

The most obvious way to get faster results, other than hiring more elections workers and paying them more money, would be to bring back poll voting. The poll scanners allowed voters to self-correct on the spot if their ballots were not accepted, and the scanner tallies were available shortly after poll closing. The mail-in alternative for dealing with ballots that don’t scan is to pay two person teams of poll workers to tally them and cross-check with each other before entering the data. Since voters themselves can no longer self-correct, errors they make must be lined through, which makes their ballots unscannable. Data from ballots damaged in the mail must also be entered manually.

I find it hard to believe that state legislators don’t understand a basic rule that applies to any process, be it a chemical reaction series or a project executed by human beings, that the overall speed of the process is determined by its slowest step. In the case of mail-in voting, that would be signature validation. Since this isn’t exactly rocket science, I conclude that the real intention of the proposed legislation is voter suppression—reducing the number of ballots counted to the greatest possible extent.

As Paul Weyrich of the Heritage Foundation once said2, “Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome — good government. They want everybody to vote. I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

In a democracy, voting should be a citizenship right and duty, not a carnival kewpie doll prize that voters earn by overcoming all of the barriers placed in their way. In many states, voter enfranchisement has been seriously undermined, with older people who can no longer drive and who have been voting since the 30s being turned away from the polls due to the lack of a difficult to obtain picture ID. In Florida, you are thrown off the voter list if there is a mere 80% match between your name and a name on the list of felons3, bad news for people named Smith or Jones who live in non-affluent zip codes.

Luckily, Washington State has traditionally had far higher ethical standards. In my experience as an elections observer in King County, I have noticed that our elections department has always favored maximum accuracy and enfranchisement over maximum speed. In addition to their rejection of electronic signature validation because of its inaccuracy, their past refusal to compromise on quality resulted is altering how they use scanned ballot images. At first they thought they would be able to do ballot corrections directly from the scanned images using their new equipment, but it turned out that some ballot scans were too light and indistinct to accurately discern voter intent. Therefore they went back to using the actual paper ballots for determining voter intent, though the new system still allows direct data entry instead of requiring ballot duplication by hand.

Recalling the old saw “Our work is fast, good, cheap—pick any two out of three,” and noting that “cheap” is just about carved into stone because of state and local budget problems, I’ll take “good” over “fast” any old day. I’m very glad to hear that our new Secretary of State Kim Wyman feels the same way—very likely because she has been an auditor for one of our larger counties and therefore understands the whole voting process firsthand. Shortly after the first of this year, she editorialized against requiring ballots to be received by Election Day4, and I urge you to pay serious attention to her opinion in this matter.

In 2012 voter turnout in Washington State reached 81 percent—the highest voter turnout nationwide5. If it ain’t broke—don’t try to fix it! Stop looking for excuses to throw out ballots. Elections departments do not determine their own budgets, so those who want faster election results should take that up with institutions which do appropriate money for budgets—state and local taxing authorities. This means YOU!


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Reply My Testimony Against Washington State SB 5291 and SB 5317 (Original post)
eridani Jan 2013 OP
rsmith6621 Jan 2013 #1
eridani Jan 2013 #2
KT2000 Jan 2013 #3
eridani Jan 2013 #5
cheapdate Jan 2013 #4
eridani Jan 2013 #6

Response to eridani (Original post)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 08:34 PM

1. Honestly I Want Ballots Received By

....Election day. I think 99.8% of the voters know who and what they are voting for by the Friday before.

I lived in Oregon last election and it was nice to know for the most part what the likely results were before bedtime election night.

It is ridiculous that some of the legislative races were not called until the end of the week unless there was a rather large lead.

Sorry for disagreeing with you.

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Response to rsmith6621 (Reply #1)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 08:59 PM

2. IOW, you want to keep people from having their votes counted

--and care more about a silly stupid superstition than about actual data. I live in WA, and it was also very nice for me to know for the most part what the likely results were before bedtime. What in goddam hell prevents you from comprehending the statement

Both King and Multnomah tallied about 60 percent of ballots cast shortly after the polls closed Tuesday night and reported the results

Receiving ballots on Election Day vs the day after has FUCKALL to do with these 100% IDENTICAL results in WA and OR. Both states totally and utterly fail to keep up with signature validation on Election Day. Yes, it's nice that OR taxpayers pay extra to keep election workers working nights and weekends to clear the backlog faster, and it would be nice if WA would pony up the necessary bucks as well. But this has zero relationship to when ballots are received.

Just about ALL of WA elections were called the day after Election Day, and only the close ones required waiting until the end of the week. And if an election is that close, it's all the more imperative to do it right rather than fast.

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Response to eridani (Original post)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 09:49 PM

3. Good testimony!

I guess this is so the GOP can make robo-calls a week before election day saying "If you have not mailed your ballot by now, it is too late."

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Response to KT2000 (Reply #3)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 01:18 AM

5. More and more people in WA State are coming to realize that they can avoid these annoying calls--

--by voting soon after they receive their ballots. OR has had all mail-in for much longer, so their voters are ahead of the curve on this. This knowledge is vastly more important than imposing a receipt deadline in getting more ballots returned. Still, signature validation is an inherently slow and expensive process, and will continue to be the rate-limiting step.

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Response to eridani (Original post)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 09:51 PM

4. An official USPS postmark is widely accepted for all kinds submissions,

such as filing income tax returns. It's damn well good enough for mail-in voting.

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Response to eridani (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 01:21 AM

6. One of my election integrity contacts just pointed out to me that I missed something in SB 5317

Sec. 2. RCW 29A.40.110 and 2011 c 349 s 18, 2011 c 348 s 4, and

23 2011 c 10 s 41 are each reenacted and amended to read as follows:
24 (1) The opening and subsequent processing of return envelopes for
25 any primary or election may begin upon receipt. The tabulation of
26 ((absentee)) ballots ((must not)) may commence ((until after)) at 8:00
27 ((p.m.)) a.m. on the Monday immediately before the day of the primary
28 or election. Tabulation results must be held in secrecy, as provided
29 in RCW 29A.84.730,

This change allows election officials, a day in advance of the election, to basically peek at the election results to see who is leading and who is losing. This allows notice and time for election rigging if "necessary." This is one reason why the law is at it currently is, that tabulation cannot begin until 8:00 pm on Election Day.

This is the worst of all the proposed changes, and I feel really stupid for missing it.

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