Grand Theft Absentee

The Miami Herald: Miami-Dade grand jury: Absentee voting fraud clouds confidence in tight election results <read>

A Miami-Dade voter drops her absentee ballot at the ballot box on Tuesday morning, November 6, 2012, at Miami-Dade Elections Department. Florida and Miami-Dade County should tighten rules for voting by mail and make it easier to vote early in order to prevent fraud and plug “gaping holes” in absentee voting, a Miami-Dade grand jury has concluded. To prove their point, grand jurors made an astounding revelation: A county software vendor discovered that a clandestine, untraceable computer program submitted more than 2,500 fraudulent, “phantom” requests for voters who had not applied for absentee ballots in the August primary. The grand jury issued 23 recommendations, from reinstating a state requirement that someone witness an absentee voter sign a ballot — thereby making it easier for law enforcement to investigate potential fraud…

“Of the three methods of voting, the one that has always been the most vulnerable, the one where we know fraud has occurred historically … is in the absentee-ballot process,” Fernández Rundle told The Miami Herald on Thursday, referring also to voting early and on Election Day. Absentee voting, she added, “happens in the shadows. It happens in the dark. It’s the least monitored.”

We have often discussed the risks of absentee voting and warned of the increased risks of unlimited absentee voting, including all-mail voting. It is refreshing to see a grand jury recognizing the risks. We also note a bit of bad news/good news here – the bad news of vote stealing via “clandestine, untraceable computer program” and the good news, in this case, of its detection by insiders – yet, perhaps less blatant or more clever theft would or has gone unnoticed, or worse actually perpetrated by insiders.

As we have said before, our concerns are mainly with the risks, yet beyond that unlimited absentee voting does not increase turn-out, and disenfranchises voters unbeknownst to them, all the added risks are thus in the name of convenience.

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One response to “Grand Theft Absentee”

  1. mattw

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and my thinking lately has been that expansions in absentee availability should be paired with explicit and proactive verification procedures such as signature matching or follow-up on a subset of applications to ascertain that the voter requesting the ballot is actually the one receiving and voting it. (I’ve been asking that signatures from the new online voter reg system be made available for these purposes.) Making return envelopes postage paid would remove a common point of inappropriate contact with campaign personnel.

    I do have a problem with requiring an “excuse” when there is no penalty for lying — it impedes and disenfranchises honest voters while excusing lying but legitimate voters and placing no obstacle in front of actual fraudulent voters. (Most common in my experience are parents and spouses completing materials in the name of family members). If we’re going to keep these restrictions, I hope we can find a way for them to be enforced in a uniform fashion.

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