Any poll workers here? Two questions on voting and vote-counting (US

Question 1:
I know that my neighbour John Smith, a crotchety old soul, has sworn off voting this year because they’re all the same - a bunch of crooks!
So I get there early at the voting place, say my name is John Smith at 123 Main Street, and vote in his place.
Later, his daughter visits him unexpectedly and drags him to the polling place because she says it’s his duty. John Smith shows up and tells the lady “I’m John Smith and I’m here to vote.” What happens? Will the real John Smith be able to fill out a provisional ballot? (Note: In my state an ID card is not required for voting.)

Question 2:
My good friend Don has decided to tell all his buddies to vote for him for City Council. He never managed to get his name on the ballot, but we know he’ll be great and we all promise to vote for him. So I put in his legal name (it’s on his driver’s license and his birth certificate!) as a write-in candidate:
Donald Duck
Will my vote be counted or will the vote-counters just ignore it?
(In other words - are any of the write-in votes discarded as frivolous? Is there any attempt at tabulating them or checking the identity of the write-in name?)

  1. In New York, you have to sign the poll book, which has your signature from your voter-registration form pre-printed on it. Theoretically, the poll worker should have blocked you from voting unless you’re a good forger. If the real John Smith shows up, I don’t know what the procedure would be, but it would probably involve casting a provisional ballot. Obviously, there would be no way to remove the fraudulent John Smith’s vote.

  2. Most states require write-ins to file a form and/or pay a fee to be an official write-in candidate. If Mr. Duck did so, then it should count. Only a small number of states allow anyone to be written in. In those I would guess they have to count anybody.

Thank you friedo. At my polling station, I signed the poll book, but I didn’t notice any place where they had a signature to compare it to. I guess next year I should volunteer as a poll worker and see first-hand for myself.

In Ohio you sign a book which has a copy of your signature from the last time you voted. You must also present some form of ID, usually a drivers license or state issued identity card, but a utility bill from your registered residence is accepted, too.

Arnold, I can describe what happens to writeins in my area, having worked closely with election staff, but never actually a poll-worker. The particular software we use (and I don’t have the name) is obviously designed for larger municipalities, as it lumps all writeins in one group and reports them as a sum. There is no provision for a clerk to enter names or separate them; if necessary, this will be done by hand and cannot be reported thru electronic means (at least not automatically thru the election software).

An example of the generated report for the last election is here.

Now the lack of writein handling might seem insignificant, but there have been at least two local elections in recent memory where the writein candidates won. One case was a local resident who got fed up with the official ballot choices and started his campaign on the Sunday before the Tuesday election. He won with 160 votes.

Another case was a tie with a writein candidate, which was settled by a coin toss.

I don’t have an answer to #1 for Massachusetts, except to say that your scenario is certainly feasible here. If you know someone’s address & name, you can vote as them. They don’t check ID, you don’t have to sign anything. No idea what happens if the real person shows up later.

In a recent election, I voted for myself for U.S. Senator. When I looked at the results online, I saw that I received one write-in vote.

So at least in Camden County, NJ, the write-in votes are counted.

In Illinois, ditto what others have said for their states.

(1) There’s a book of “applications,” one sheet per voter. First, when you arrive, you need to state your name, and the check-in judge finds your sheet and asks for your address. Any hesitancy would be noticed. The slip shows your gender and birthdate, so if you’re 30 years younger than John Smith, presumably that would be noticed. Then you sign a paper that has your on-record signature. Two check-in judges compare signatures, so that if I were your friend, I couldn’t let you slip by as John Smith. If the signatures don’t agree, the judge can ask for ID – typically photo ID such as drivers license. (I actually did that yesterday, many times – mostly people in their early 20s whose signature when they registered four years ago doesn’t resemble their signature today. One was an elderly person who had suffered a stroke, and lost the use of his right hand, so his signature was way off.)

If you show up and our records show that you had already voted (or someone had already voted for you), you would file a sworn affadavit and a “provisional ballot.” The authorities would investigate in the next two weeks and decide what to do about your ballot. (I don’t know whether there is actually follow-up if the election wasn’t close, but I suspect the follow-up depends partly on the reason for the provisional ballot. We didn’t have any saying they had voted before, we had the opposite – people had requested an absentee ballot and so were on record as having already voted, but they said they never mailed in – or never received – the absentee ballot. My guess is that the county wouldn’t bother to investigate those.)

By the way, the penalty for voting fraud (e.g., voting under someone else’s name) is pretty high (certainly involves a jail term), and anyone with half a brain would figure the one extra vote isn’t worth the risk.

(2) In terms of write-ins, in Illinois (well, in the county where I worked, I assume it’s true throughout the state) the judges have a list of “registered” write-ins for each office. After the polls close, the ballot machine tally told us there were two write-ins, and we had to sort through all the ballots until we found them. We then compared them to the registered list; last night, neither of the write-ins were on the registered list (one was for Hillary Clinton, the other for some unknown name.) Since those names were not registered, the votes didn’t count. So, basically, a write-in candidate needs to have declared candidacy through official means to appear on the registered list. If you just write-in any old name, it won’t count.

I suspect this isn’t well known, but it’s the election law and the judges certainly know it. I also suspect that Illinois is more rigorous in trying to prevent vote fraud because of Chicago’s dire reputation (most vote fraud schemes probably started in Chicago!)

OTOH, in my small town, no one presents IDs since all the poll workers know everybody. It would be hard for me to vote as someone else unless I put on a wig, dark glasses, a bushy mustache and had a very convincing fake ID.

Better luck next time! Perhaps if you actually campaigned, e.g., told your friends that you were running, you might get more votes.

Hearing all this signatures-get-compared business makes me feel all the more strongly that North Carolina would be a very easy state to steal an election in.

When I voted last week (early voting), I walked up to one person, told him my name, said “yes” when he asked me my address, signed a little form he printed out that basically said, “I’m not lying about who I am,” handed that to someone else so they could program the machine for my precinct, then voted and left.

When I have voted at my polling place in past years, it was even easier. State my name, they find me in a book, either they check-marked my name or I initialed by my name, I don’t remember for sure, then went and waited for a free machine.

Oh God, please do. I think part of the problem with poll workers is that most of them have been doing it for too long. The two ladies I work with are pretty good, but I’ve heard some mind-boggling comments at the county training sessions. If they do some of the things they talk about at training, I pity the voters in their precincts.

I have nothing against old people – I’m one – but this job needs new blood.

Virginia is much the same way. I had to recite my name and address, and then either show ID or sign a form. There was nothing visible on the table to suggest that the poll workers had any previous copies of my signature on file to compare. Even if they did, the obvious way around that is to wear a brace on one’s signing wrist, and then scrawl awkwardly.

Thanks everybody and especially C K Dexter Haven for the detailed answer. I’m going to find out the rules for California write-in candidates. AuntiePam, I’ll see you at the polls next year!

This is pretty much like it is in California. You give your name and address. Then sign next to your name. There is no comparing of signatures.

In North Carolina, you’re home free to vote for Mr. Smith. No IDs, no vote signing, no nothing: just spell his last name, verify his address (verbally), and you get his ballot. An investigation would occur when the real John Smith showed up later mit daughter, but because there’s no way of identifying your ballot from the others, your vote would still count, and his would be provisional until election officials verified who he was.

It’s a wonderful thing this election isn’t coming down to NC. This state is rife for corruption charges.