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  #1  
Old 04-20-2012, 08:23 AM
RitterSport RitterSport is offline
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Absentee ballots

This is a general question, I suppose, but I think a debate may break out.

I've never voted by absentee ballot. How is the voter properly identified when voting absentee? Do you send in your various forms of ID that's required by in-person voting, which is then sent back to you?

It seems like it would be possible for someone, say a worker at an old-age home, to send in requests for absentee ballots for people who may not realize they are missing their chance to vote. Or, someone in a military mail room could intercept many ballots.

Having not ever voted absentee, how are these problems avoided?
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  #2  
Old 04-20-2012, 08:31 AM
Gedd Gedd is offline
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Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
Having not ever voted absentee, how are these problems avoided?
They aren't. I voted absentee in college. They sent me a packet, I punched holes (checking for no hanging chads), signed it, and sent it back.

It would be easy to intercept and even easier to tell someone, "Hey, I'll give you $20 if you just sign your name and let me do the rest."
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  #3  
Old 04-20-2012, 09:08 AM
RitterSport RitterSport is offline
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I guess I don't understand, then, why all the new voter ID laws don't also tighten up the standards for absentee ballots. Can anyone enlighten me? If nothing else, it would be easier for a single mailroom person, for example, to fraudulently vote for many people than it would be for someone to, in person, go from voting area to voting area pretending to be other people.

In order to create fraud on any reasonable scale with in-person voting, you need many people. It seems like it would be far easier to commit voter fraud in size using absentee ballots.

Why the focus on in-person voting rather than absentee voting?
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  #4  
Old 04-20-2012, 04:15 PM
D-bear D-bear is offline
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In theory, when you register to vote, your signature is on file. When you sign to vote at your polling place, your signature is checked against the voter registry. When you vote via mail, your signature is placed on the outside of the mail ballot under a zip section on the envelope and they rip the tab off to check your signature.

What is preventing someone from giving you twenty bucks for a signature and a blank ballot? Not a darn thing. The mail ballot has the potential for fraud just like all other forms of voting, as far as I can tell...
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  #5  
Old 04-20-2012, 04:51 PM
Lord Feldon Lord Feldon is online now
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In Ohio, you have to include your drivers license number, the last four digits of your SSN, or a photocopy of another identifying document like a utility bill or bank statement.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 04-20-2012 at 04:52 PM..
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  #6  
Old 04-20-2012, 05:03 PM
Lanzy Lanzy is offline
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In FL everyone is allowed to vote absentee for any election.

A guy came by my house, gave me a form and that's it, no one ever asked for an ID. Now weeks before all elections I get my ballot in the mail, fill it out and send it back.
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  #7  
Old 04-20-2012, 05:55 PM
Jenaroph Jenaroph is offline
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Originally Posted by Lanzy View Post
In FL everyone is allowed to vote absentee for any election.

A guy came by my house, gave me a form and that's it, no one ever asked for an ID. Now weeks before all elections I get my ballot in the mail, fill it out and send it back.
And if you don't get your ballot (the guy at the post office intercepted it) you complain to the clerk's office, they say "Gee, that's funny, we have your returned envelope sitting right here" (the guy at the post office voted it and returned it) and the investigation begins.

There is, honestly, a lot more possibility for fraud with absentee ballots than in-person voting, but the success of a mass operation depends on a lot of possible failure points. If you're going to try the stunt in the OP, for example, and impersonate a lot of people in the old folks home, you'd have to depend on the cascade of possibilities that A) not one of them will try to request a ballot themselves, B) none of their relatives will request a ballot for them either, C) nobody working at the old folks home unaware of your plan suggests a voter drive where they request absentee ballots for anyone who wants one, D) nobody's relative shows up to take them to vote in person on Election Day, E) everyone you request a ballot for is actually registered to vote in that precinct, F) you have all the pertinent information such as SS numbers and date of birth for each request form, and G) you're the only person working the mailroom when the absentee ballots arrive in the mail. There's probably a few other failure points I haven't thought of. That's all before you get the ballots back to the clerk's office and they start checking signatures.

One reason I can think of for not tightening up absentee restrictions is that it could legitimately disenfranchise people. If you're disabled enough to be unable to travel to vote in person, then requiring you to travel to the clerk's office and show ID in person to request an absentee ballot kind of defeats the purpose of the absentee ballot, for example. But another reason may be that, simply, old people vote a lot. And old people who vote, vote absentee a lot. And if you try to make it harder for a lot of people who vote a lot to vote, they're not likely to vote for you.
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  #8  
Old 04-20-2012, 06:03 PM
Age Quod Agis Age Quod Agis is offline
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As hinted by Lanzy and Lord Feldon's responses, the various states each have their own regulations governing what you need to cast a ballot. (An Arizona law requiring voters to show ID before voting has been in the news lately as legal challenges make their way through the courts.) That includes absentee ballots. So what is required depends on which state the voter is casting the ballot in.

Even people casting absentee ballots from overseas -- frequently military personnel stationed abroad -- are considered "residents" of a particular state for voting purposes. A soldier could be stationed in South Korea for 5 years, but he still votes in his home state of Florida, or Pennsylvania, or wherever.

I don't think anyone would deny that absentee ballots are riskier in terms of possible voter fraud. But, as with the Arizona law, the more restrictions you pass, the more difficult you're going to make it for people to vote. And, considering that a sizable proportion of our military is stationed overseas and therefore is forced to vote by absentee ballot, a lot of people find restrictions on absentee ballots to be unpalatable. How is a soldier stationed at a forward operating base in the wilds of Afghanistan supposed to show his ID before voting?
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  #9  
Old 04-20-2012, 06:27 PM
Ibn Warraq Ibn Warraq is offline
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Originally Posted by Age Quod Agis View Post
As hinted by Lanzy and Lord Feldon's responses, the various states each have their own regulations governing what you need to cast a ballot. (An Arizona law requiring voters to show ID before voting has been in the news lately as legal challenges make their way through the courts.) That includes absentee ballots. So what is required depends on which state the voter is casting the ballot in.

Even people casting absentee ballots from overseas -- frequently military personnel stationed abroad -- are considered "residents" of a particular state for voting purposes. A soldier could be stationed in South Korea for 5 years, but he still votes in his home state of Florida, or Pennsylvania, or wherever.

I don't think anyone would deny that absentee ballots are riskier in terms of possible voter fraud. But, as with the Arizona law, the more restrictions you pass, the more difficult you're going to make it for people to vote. And, considering that a sizable proportion of our military is stationed overseas and therefore is forced to vote by absentee ballot, a lot of people find restrictions on absentee ballots to be unpalatable. How is a soldier stationed at a forward operating base in the wilds of Afghanistan supposed to show his ID before voting?
Moreover, I think absentee ballots are becoming an increasingly higher percentage of the population.

In some states, I think around 20% of people vote absentee, and in one state, Oregon, it's 100% via the mail.
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  #10  
Old 04-20-2012, 06:39 PM
Age Quod Agis Age Quod Agis is offline
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Originally Posted by Ibn Warraq View Post
in one state, Oregon, it's 100% via the mail.
Egad, I completely forgot about that. Thanks for pointing it out.
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  #11  
Old 04-20-2012, 10:10 PM
amarinth amarinth is offline
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Washington is also all vote by mail. Ballots here only need to be postmarked by election day (in OR, they need to arrive by election day). Which leads to calls at 9, 10pm on election night telling you it's still not too late to vote.

Ballots come with two envelopes, and you are supposed to sign the outer one and the signature is supposed to be validated.
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  #12  
Old 04-20-2012, 11:46 PM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is online now
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Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
I guess I don't understand, then, why all the new voter ID laws don't also tighten up the standards for absentee ballots. Can anyone enlighten me? If nothing else, it would be easier for a single mailroom person, for example, to fraudulently vote for many people than it would be for someone to, in person, go from voting area to voting area pretending to be other people.

In order to create fraud on any reasonable scale with in-person voting, you need many people. It seems like it would be far easier to commit voter fraud in size using absentee ballots.

Why the focus on in-person voting rather than absentee voting?
Because the point of those laws is NOT to prevent voter fraud, but to make it harder for certain people to vote. Specifically, people who mostly vote Democratic. Like young people at college, renters, blue-collar shift workers, poor people who don't drive, etc.

Absentee ballots are mostly from older people or active-duty military, and they mostly vote Republican. So that doesn't concern the people pushing these laws.
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  #13  
Old 04-21-2012, 12:44 AM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
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Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
I guess I don't understand, then, why all the new voter ID laws don't also tighten up the standards for absentee ballots. Can anyone enlighten me? If nothing else, it would be easier for a single mailroom person, for example, to fraudulently vote for many people than it would be for someone to, in person, go from voting area to voting area pretending to be other people.

In order to create fraud on any reasonable scale with in-person voting, you need many people. It seems like it would be far easier to commit voter fraud in size using absentee ballots.

Why the focus on in-person voting rather than absentee voting?
In 1968 I voted absentee. I had to go to the registers office and fill out the form requesting an absentee ballot. I also had to have a reason for needing to vote absentee. I was going to college in a different part of the state. And each time I wanted to vote absentee I had to refile.

Now days it is possable to be a perminate absentee voter. They try to get voters to register absentee. I thin this is dangerous.
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  #14  
Old 04-21-2012, 04:32 AM
Randvek Randvek is offline
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Originally Posted by Ibn Warraq View Post
in one state, Oregon, it's 100% via the mail.
And it's awesome, let me tell you.
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  #15  
Old 04-21-2012, 07:03 AM
RitterSport RitterSport is offline
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Originally Posted by t-bonham@scc.net View Post
Because the point of those laws is NOT to prevent voter fraud, but to make it harder for certain people to vote. Specifically, people who mostly vote Democratic. Like young people at college, renters, blue-collar shift workers, poor people who don't drive, etc.

Absentee ballots are mostly from older people or active-duty military, and they mostly vote Republican. So that doesn't concern the people pushing these laws.
Thanks to everyone who has responded. I knew that each state would have its own rules, but I didn't realize just how diverse they would be.

I'm attempting to keep my cynicism level below catastrophic, so I'm replying to this message.

I understand that those in-person rules were designed to keep voter fraud down and also may have the effect of making harder for traditionally Democratic voters from being able to vote. However, I cannot believe it would be so transparently one-sided as to tighten up in-person rules, but not tighten up absentee rules. The legislature would have to at least give a nod to worrying about absentee voter fraud.

Since the Arizona law is in the news lately, does someone here live there? Can you lay out how the absentee rules work, and whether they were tightened with this law in a way similar to how the in-person rules were tightened up?
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  #16  
Old 04-21-2012, 12:04 PM
Ibn Warraq Ibn Warraq is offline
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Originally Posted by t-bonham@scc.net View Post
Absentee ballots are mostly from older people or active-duty military, and they mostly vote Republican.
I dont' think that's been true for quite awhile. Each election the number of absentee ballots increases dramatically.

Moreover, I suspect that more college students vote via absentee ballots than active-duty military and they generally vote democratic.

Do you have a cite for that.
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  #17  
Old 04-23-2012, 10:43 AM
Jenaroph Jenaroph is offline
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Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post

I understand that those in-person rules were designed to keep voter fraud down and also may have the effect of making harder for traditionally Democratic voters from being able to vote. However, I cannot believe it would be so transparently one-sided as to tighten up in-person rules, but not tighten up absentee rules. The legislature would have to at least give a nod to worrying about absentee voter fraud.
Why would you assume this? I understand why you're trying to remain non-cynical, but on a lot of issues, politicians really are that transparent. For example, look at the anti-abortion and vaginal ultrasound laws some state legislatures are trying to ram through. Supposedly they're not anti-woman, oh, no, just trying to help women "make an informed choice", but when you have a pro-life legislator come right out and say he'd feel better about abortion if a woman had to get a permission slip from a man, it's transparently, simply, anti-woman thinking. The "official" reasons are just window dressing.

And if they get these kinds of voting laws passed in enough places, they can be even less transparent, because there's less and less anybody who thinks differently from them can do about it, because they won't have the numbers of registered voters to oppose them. Restricting the ability of people who tend to vote WITH them would be counterproductive. It's the official reason, but it's not the real reason.
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  #18  
Old 04-23-2012, 03:33 PM
RitterSport RitterSport is offline
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You know something? You're right. I just checked the requirements for absentee voting in Arizona and here's what you need to provide:

Full Name
Date of Birth
State and Country of Birth

As far as I can tell, these were not tightened up when the in-person rules were tightened. To go after in-person voter fraud (which would require an army of people all in on the fraud in order to make any material difference) and ignore absentee voting (where a single person in the right place could affect many more votes) is either:

(1) Irresponsible, if the concern is really voter fraud, or
(2) Blatantly partisan
(3) Some third option? Help me out here.

I'll go with blatantly partisan, I guess. Gah! I was hoping to hang on to some vestiges of idealism.
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  #19  
Old 04-23-2012, 06:39 PM
Age Quod Agis Age Quod Agis is offline
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Originally Posted by RitterSport View Post
You know something? You're right. I just checked the requirements for absentee voting in Arizona and here's what you need to provide:

Full Name
Date of Birth
State and Country of Birth

As far as I can tell, these were not tightened up when the in-person rules were tightened.
I just Googled "Arizona absentee voting requirements," and found this page that has the Arizona absentee ballot application. Before you'll be sent an absentee ballot, you also have to provide proof of citizenship. You can satisfy proof of citizenship by using a driver's license or non-operator's ID.

I don't know whether that was changed recently (IIRC, the law in the news was passed in 2004, so "recently" is used advisedly). But there are certainly requirements for all voters -- whether in person or absentee -- beyond those you list.
Quote:
To go after in-person voter fraud (which would require an army of people all in on the fraud in order to make any material difference) and ignore absentee voting (where a single person in the right place could affect many more votes) is either:

(1) Irresponsible, if the concern is really voter fraud, or
(2) Blatantly partisan
(3) Some third option? Help me out here.

I'll go with blatantly partisan, I guess. Gah! I was hoping to hang on to some vestiges of idealism.
First, I don't agree that absentee ballots are "blatantly partisan." I'd be curious to see whether the absentee ballots in the most recent Presidential election did, in fact, tilt Republican. I remember reading stories suggesting that the military has become more Democratic in recent years. And with the proliferation of absentee ballots, it seems more likely that there's not a distinct advantage to either party. I mean, the entire State of Oregon now votes absentee, and it's a solidly blue state (In 2008, Obama won Oregon by 16 points).

Moreover, if there's voter fraud in absentee ballots, why would that voter fraud favor Republicans? They're fraudulent votes. The way they're voted presumably has no relationship to the way that the absentee voters would tend to vote otherwise. So the fact that absentee ballots may (or may not) tend to favor Republicans doesn't mean that fraudulent absentee votes would favor Republicans.

There is a third option that you didn't mention: practical considerations. They're absentee ballots. It's easy to ask someone to present ID when they're voting in person. How do you force someone to present ID if they're not in the state in which they're voting? That wouldn't work to prevent voter fraud so much as make it impossible for them to vote.

Finally, are you aware of any studies suggesting that voter ID laws actually diminish turnout for Democratic voters? In a logical sense, I can't see why that would be the case. If they're actually eligible to vote, why would the need to present ID dissuade Democrats from doing so, but not Republicans? It doesn't make any sense to me.
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  #20  
Old 04-24-2012, 07:48 AM
RitterSport RitterSport is offline
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First, the form: As far as I can tell, the form says that you have to prove your citizenship when you register to vote, not when you ask for an absentee ballot. If you're registered already, you don't need to provide that. If it says otherwise, please point it out -- I'm not saying it doesn't, I just couldn't find it.

You miss my point regarding voter ID laws. I'm not saying that absentee ballots swing one way or the other (there may be reasons they do, see below, but it's not important to my point). However, in-person voter ID laws can accomplish two things:

1. Prevent in-person voter fraud
2. Make it difficult for people without current ID to vote

Let's stipulate, for a moment, that in-person ID requirements make it harder for the poor to vote. If that's the case, these rules make it harder for the poor to vote, and the poor vote tends to go for Democrats. So, in-person ID requirements may disproportionately disenfranchise Democratic voters.

However, it may also prevent voter fraud. However, it's difficult to perpetrate any effective in-person fraud without getting many people in on the scheme. It's easier to perpetrate widespread absentee voter fraud with fewer people because a single mail-room person, for example, could have access to many absentee ballots.

If the only purpose of these rules is to prevent voter fraud, a juicier target (or, at least, an equivalent target) would be absentee voting, not in-person voting. If, however, the main purpose is to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning voting, then going after only in-person voting makes sense.

Since it's easier to vote absentee than in-person, I can only conclude that the primary purpose is to disenfranchise legitimate voters, not to prevent voter fraud. That's the case, whether absentee voters skew one way, the other, or are evenly split.

In practice, though, I could certainly imagine that absentee voters (wealthy voters with more than one residence, older voters who have difficulty going to the polls, military voters who are stationed at bases around the world) may skew Republican. However, that's not necessary in order say voting laws that make it difficult to vote in person are blatantly partisan, if they don't also make it more difficult to vote absentee.

The Oregon case is irrelevant -- if all voting is absentee, it clearly is non-partisan and won't affect how the state skews, right?
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  #21  
Old 04-24-2012, 08:34 AM
Drum God Drum God is offline
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Originally Posted by Age Quod Agis View Post

Finally, are you aware of any studies suggesting that voter ID laws actually diminish turnout for Democratic voters? In a logical sense, I can't see why that would be the case. If they're actually eligible to vote, why would the need to present ID dissuade Democrats from doing so, but not Republicans? It doesn't make any sense to me.
I am not going to search for any studies, but I will be happy to answer this point. If we take as true that poor people and ethnic minorities tend to vote for Democrats, then it is easy to see how voter ID laws dissuade Democratic voters. Had Texas' voter ID law gained preclearance from the US DoJ, voters would have been required to provide a photo ID such as a Texas driver's license or state-issued ID or a US passport. To avoid cries of a poll tax, the legislature made provision that the ID would be free for those who claimed to be too poor to pay for it.

Now, let's take voters in my small, Central Texas town as an example. My town is far from unique. In fact, it is quite typical in this regard. The DPS office that issues ID's in my town was closed. There is no ID office anywhere in my county. The nearest office is 30 miles away. There is usually only one person working, so the wait is long. (This is not a knock on the person working. She does a great job and manages to friendly and pleasant in spite of it all.) To get an ID, one must present a birth certificate. IRC, a birth certificate from the State of Texas costs ~$20. At $3.50 per gallon, the trip costs $11 in gas and one hour round trip. Let's say that it takes two hours to complete the transaction (wait time and actually filing the application). At minimum wage, the time invested costs $21.75. So, our "free" ID for voters in my town costs $52.75. With such a steep price, it is easy to see why this disenfranchises voters. This is why Democrats see voter ID laws as a direct assault. It is no coincidence (IMHO) that the ID office in my town closed at the same time that IDs became mandatory.

Voter ID laws are a solution in search of a problem. Their only purpose is to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters. Real, effective election fraud does not take place at the polls. Election fraud takes place when the votes are counted. However, no new laws are out there to address that. I wonder why....
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  #22  
Old 04-24-2012, 11:41 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by Ibn Warraq View Post
Moreover, I think absentee ballots are becoming an increasingly higher percentage of the population.

In some states, I think around 20% of people vote absentee, and in one state, Oregon, it's 100% via the mail.
Nit pick... it's not "absentee" when everyone does it.

In CA, I think we're up to about 30% at least. I've been voting by mail for about 20 years now. It's the only way to fly, at least until we can do it online.
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