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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : opinions May 24, 2016

10/29/2013 4:18:00 PM
Letter: Declining to vote at all isn't a sensible option


Several friends of mine didn't want to vote by mail in this school override election. Judging by comments on the VI's website, some Verde Independent readers share their trepidation. After 15 years dealing with voters' concerns in Los Angeles, I don't consider this unusual or unreasonable.

Vote-by-mail originated as an imperfect accommodation for those who, due to physical distance and unavoidable obligations, could not be in their precinct on election day. It's appropriate for votes of confidence and corporate proxies (where those who don't like the results can sell their stock). But it was never intended to carry contested public elections all by itself.

VBM can't be as secure as walking into your polling place, signing the separate voter register, being immediately verified, and only then receiving a ballot from a supply signed out to a precinct inspector, who has to account for every single one immediately after the polls close and personally return them all to the County Elections Division with affidavits signed by every poll worker. No one else handles the ballots. No one else has access to the Roister of Voters. The voted ballots are delivered in a sealed box, ready for tallying that night.

By necessity, mail-only elections first broadcast ballots to everyone whose registration is still on file. The voted ballots trickle back -- with no record of how many the Elections Director should receive and no accountability on the part of those handling them in transit. Voters names have to remain affixed to their vote until their signature's been verified. This is a time-consuming process, so the ballots can sit around for weeks before being counted.

This is too loosey-goosey, or too threatening, for some people.

However, declining to vote at all isn't a sensible option. That just encourages special interest operatives, intimidation tactics, and voter suppression.

So I called the County Elections Division to see what Arizona's citizens can and can't do to help guard their votes. This is what I gleaned, in ascending order of "paranoia":

1. To be more certain ballots don't go astray.

a. Don't leave your voted ballot in your mailbox.

b. Minimize handling by using the drop-off boxes. County officers take entire bags from the boxes, seal them, and deliver directly to Prescott without sorting.

c. Send your ballot via certified mail. But don't request a return receipt. The mailroom isn't set up for it. NOT RECOMMENDED AFTER OCT. 31.

d. Take your ballot to Prescott yourself. You can turn it in at the "open office" or put it in the drop box there. But again, don't request a receipt. They don't have any.

e. 4 days after any of the above, call the Prescott Election Division to be sure your ballot arrived intact and was certified (1-928-771-3250). They will be happy to check the status for you.

2. To better protect your privacy and deter ballot culling by name or address...

a. Be sure both orange and green envelopes are sealed to your satisfaction. Clear packing tape and high-tack stickers reading BALLOT TAMPERING IS A FELONY are both legal. Just don't obscure your name on the green envelope, and don't smudge your signature on the affidavit form. These are needed to process your ballot.

b. Don't put your return address on the green envelope.

c. Enclose the green envelope in a blank envelope and pay the postage yourself if mailing. This slows processing down, but the Registrar wants you to vote.

3. Remember, once your ballot reaches them, the Election Division's time-tested VBM security procedures take over.

Your ballot will be logged-in upon receipt. Without being opened, it then goes to signature verification experts with lots of practice. They log it in again and slit into the affidavit portion to check the signature.

Then, still essentially unopened and no longer attached to your name, your ballot goes to an Election Board composed of members of all interested parties in Yavapai County. They supervise opening the envelopes and the preparation of ballots for counting. Then, finally, after the election is closed, the office of the Elections Director gets to count the votes.

I hope this helps anyone reluctant to vote by mail. The votes you cast in local elections are, in fact, the most important votes you can cast.

T. Hearn


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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Article comment by: Slater slater

It seems to me is right,your vote doesn't count anyway.

Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Article comment by: T Ahearn Needs To Know Polling Place

Polling Place DEFECTS (steps that ignore the
individual's "Full Voting Rights")...here's a few:

1. Absentee and early ballots belonging to the
polling place (precinct) are not checked and
counted by citizens/voters who belong to the
precinct. (as a matter of fact the early ballot
count records results may have been leaked
out, by election official(s), here in Arizona).

2. No VERIFY hand count of every vote of
every ballot cast is performed before the
election workers go home, in order to verify
the TRUE vote count. Yes there is a 'closing'
count by hand or machine. but both are prone
to errors...this is a fact. A verify hand count
will find at least 80% or more of all errors
generated in the closing count. Doing verify
hand count before workers go home reduces
chain-of custody problems.

3. After the final count is made official, our
(state, county, local) election laws,
procedures, practices does not allow voters,
citizens to request for some recounts.

4. After election day in fed and state elections
all 15 counties perform (maybe) a less than
minimal sample audit if the two larger
minority political parties feel like like it.

5. Voters and candidates are given a 5 day
period to take an election contest to court.
Since the counting process is in fact secret
and blind to the public...we are unable to
contest any election practically.

The next two defects you expressed in your
comments of 3 NOV 13...this mind set also
seems to exist in our election system:

6. So call improvements "are all welcome
advances to me" (T A). But when done
with a lack of a List of individual voter's
"Full Voting Rights" is an insult to voters.

7. "Anything that decreases the possibility of
human error increases election validity.(T A)
The only thing that increases validity of
elections in the vote counting phase is to
have a triple counting process (Closing,
Verify, Recount)...that is open to the voters
and the public. (Even the Voters Rights
Act of 1965...requires the counting process
to be open to the voters.)

Question to T Ahearn:

But before we dwell into further details, it would
helpful if T A drew up a List of components
of every individual voter's "Full Voting Rights".

Thanks and Good Luck,
Frank Henry
"Full Voting Rights" Avocate
Tel : 928-649-0249
e-mail: fmhenry4@netzero.com

P. S.: At close of election for the two override
questions on 5 NOV 13 the unofficial
counts will be on the Yavapai County web
site. The counts will NOT be true/pure!

Posted: Sunday, November 3, 2013
Article comment by: T. Hearn

Reply to itsy bitsy Spider:
Not the name specifically. I asked if voters could cover the name block on the return envelope without causing processing problems. The Election Division said no, they need to scan the barcode, and the mail room has a procedure it doesn't vouchsafe to the Election Division. I didn't push it because it's not a good idea to tell voters they can alter official voting materials, especially if they'd have to be very careful. A marker could bleed through and make the signature unverifiable. A tape strip could cause the scanner to malfunction. And I suspect, given cheap printing and old equipment, the scanners can't always read the barcodes. If they have to input by hand, typing a name is easier and more accurate than typing a 10-digit registration number.

Rule of thumb: don't make problems for clerical personnel working against a deadline. That shunts
your ballot into a "needs special attention" pile, which doesn't improve privacy or security. The time to correct official election materials and/or procedures is before or after an election is in progress.

Reply to Mary Hartman:
Sorry, I didn't think about that one. Both my glue strips were functioning.

Reply to Frank Henry:
Could you be more specific regarding defects in voting at the polls?

I'm aware of problems created by glitches in registration records and difficulties finding one's precinct. I also question the re-introduction of voting machines, whose problems are infamous. But optical scanners, ballots printed on demand, ballot boxes that give a preliminary tally of ballots voted, and a computerized voter roister are all welcome advances to me. Anything that decreases the possibility of human error increases election validity.

And as far as confidentiality is concerned, nothing beats taking your ballot into a voting booth, voting with poll officers guarding your privacy, and then personally dropping your ballot into a locked box filled with other anonymous ballots. This--as the Greeks knew 2,500 years ago--is irreversible. A voter's identity is never attached to his vote.

Reply to Slater Slater:
I don't know about Arizona, but in California hanging-chads were the least of voters' problems. We were too busy trying to get through ballots full of 100% duds and nutty special-interest initiatives.

Seriously, I agree automated-only counts place too much faith in computers and paperless votes are a debacle looking for a place to make headlines. But the one thing good about a mail-only election is that it's still all on paper and by the time ballots get to the robot they've been, essentially, hand-counted three times. The last time by human beings who can't avoid noticing which way the major (or only) votes are trending. (Oh do I love optical scanners. In L.A. in the 90's, voter confidence was so low that we had to eyeball punch-cards for preliminary counts on all the majors so we could call them in to the networks before the ballots left the precincts.)

So I maintain that the ballots that make it to the County offices in Prescott before 7 pm on November 5 have a 99.9% chance of being counted and counted accurately. (The .1% being the voters who both failed to sign their affidavits and fail to respond to the Election Division's frantic calls to come help verify they're the one who voted.)

Posted: Saturday, November 2, 2013
Article comment by: Slater slater

Trust the vote counters,thats a good one.Trust
a robot counting the entries.Our particular
favorite was Chad.

Posted: Saturday, November 2, 2013
Article comment by: itsy bitsy Spider

Spider silk works better than glue, Ms. Heartman. But if you don't have access to that, double-sided Scotch tape works as well. If you put a strip on each glue strip, you shouldn't need packing tape.

Mr. Hearn, did the Elections Division tell you specifically they need the voter's printed name to process the ballot? I read somewhere that the bar code and voter registration number was sufficient, but now I can't locate the article.

Posted: Friday, November 1, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Heartman

@ T. Hearn
I hope glue is also legal. The design of the affidavit envelope is very clever, but the glue strips on mine didn't stick. You have to really soak the top strip or it just pops open, and that makes the paper buckle if you don't weight it with a book until it dries.

Posted: Friday, November 1, 2013
Article comment by: Vote-by-mail and Polling Place voting are DEFECTIVE.

If you review both methods of voting...under
present election laws/procedures...you will find
that all 20 components of the individual voter's
"Full Voting Rights" is/are NOT honored.

All of us need to encourage our elected officials
(fed, state, county, local) to enact "Full Voting
Rights" of each and every voter into our laws and constitutions.


Frank Henry
"Full Voting Rights" Advocate
Tel: 928-649-0249
e-mail: fmhenry4@netzero.com

Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Article comment by: T. Hearn

Note to the editor:
Boy, that was fast. Thanks for getting it in while readers still have a choice to mail instead of drop.

Reply to Frank Henry:
Thanks for proving my point. It's not whether irregularities have ever happened in Yavapai County. It's that mail-only opens possibilities that should have remained closed.

Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Article comment by: Voters Rights Not In Place.

T. Hearn's letter to the editor gives a good
overview of the 100% vote-by-mail scheme
now in existence in many Yavapai cities and

The very "unsecured" (or to use a word derived
from our State Constitution..."impure") aspects
indicated by T Hearn are the reasons why we
voters need to have all 20 components of every
individual voter's "Full Voting Rights" written by
our elected officials (state, county, local) into the
AZ constitution...and then update our election
laws/procedures to reflect these rights.

T Hearn indicates "...local votes are the most
important votes you can cast..." This is a fact,
but, local votes are NOT protected by our
"Full Voting Rights"

Thanks and Good Luck,

Frank Henry
Tel: 928-649-0249
e-mail: fmhenry4@netzero.com

Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Article comment by: It seems to me:

This is more trouble than voting at the polls.

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