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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Restoring Ballot Integrity

NOTE: Sorry this posting was a mess earlier. 

From: "Harmer For Congress"
Date: December 14, 2010 11:17:31 AM PST
Subject: Restoring Ballot Integrity

Recommendations from campaign counsel Catharine Baker


As illustrated in my previous message, California's current system of casting and counting votes has gaps that can be exploited by the unscrupulous. Avoidable errors can determine the outcome of close elections. If we want to ensure that only legitimate votes are counted, then we must do the following, without delay:
Secure the right to challenge voter signatures. If we can't challenge missing, mismatched, or invalid signatures on vote-by-mail (VBM) and provisional ballots during the canvass, we have no assurance of ballot integrity. We must secure the right to challenge signatures in every jurisdiction in the state. We must pursue this right on many fronts, including through the current court action pending in Contra Costa County, legislation, and public pressure on the secretary of state and local registrars and other elected officials.

Require voter ID at the polls.
It is time for Californians to require voters at the polls to show identification in order to vote. Several states already implement this requirement in ways that protect the integrity of the votes without disenfranchising voters, and we can accomplish the same here.

Use poll rosters more effectively to prevent fraud.
A voter who votes at the polls must sign a roster, yet, except in rare circumstances, that signature is not compared to the registration card. This leaves an opportunity for fraud by impersonation at the polls. As long as there is no voter ID requirement, registrars should compare roster signatures to the registration card for verification. We also should require those delivering another voter's VBM ballot to sign a roster at the polls to provide another means of accountability and ballot integrity.

Reform permanent absentee voter status.
Permanent absentee voting is increasing, and so are the opportunities for fraud and mistake with it. For example, if a permanent VBM voter moves and does not notify the registrar, a ballot is still sent to the residence, and anyone who obtains it can cast it (albeit under penalty of law). At a minimum, permanent absentee voters should need to re-register periodically, and other reforms deserve consideration.

Determine whether members of unions involved in the election should process ballots.
Most employees at the registrars' offices are members of public-employee unions that endorse candidates, dedicate powerful resources to those candidates, and urge their members to do everything they can to get those candidates elected. For those same union members to handle and process ballots raises a conflict of interest. Imagine the outrage that would result if membership in the Tea Party Patriots or Republican Women Federated were required for a person to count ballots or verify signatures. We should decide whether members of public-employee unions involved in the election should be allowed to process ballots, and if so, with what measures in place to address any conflict of interest.

Secure uniform and clear guidelines for ballot processing and counting.
The processing of ballots varies widely among the counties. As a result, whether and how a ballot might be counted can depend on which county processed it. We must demand of our secretary of state that clear, standard guidelines be provided in order to secure our constitutional right to equal protection.

Update the voter registration records.
The voter registration rolls are inexcusably inaccurate. Volunteers making GOTV calls often reached households where the person registered to vote had moved or, worse, had never resided at the address in the first place. This was particularly a problem in those communities hardest hit by the economy and foreclosures. The secretary of state and registrars must update the rolls. Registrars also should use on-line and other resources to obtain registration signatures from voters so we can put an end to counting VBM and provisional ballots for which there is no registration signature on file to compare the ballot signatures.

Modernize on-line information systems for voters.
Voters must be able to determine on-line if their VBM or provisional ballot was counted or rejected. In some counties, a voter can confirm on-line whether the ballot was received, but cannot determine if it was actually counted and not rejected during the verification process. Voters should have access to this information through a means other than a recount or election contest.

We cannot walk away from this election unwilling to fix the voting problems we identified just because the fixes won't change the outcome of this particular race. Unless we make these and possibly other reforms, and start making them now, we cannot have full confidence in our election outcomes.

Kind regards,

Catharine Baker

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