more election fun

Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election.

A few days ago I watched this documentary; it made me angry all over again. (It's showing on Sundance.) It went into a lot more detail about the egregious abuses than I remember having heard at the time. From the news coverage I remembered, it sounded like the main issue was poorly-designed voting machine interfaces (which, you would assume, would affect both parties equally.) But the most amazing things was how they deleted "former felons" from the voting roles: the database company they hired to do this was instructed that when matching names, they should:

  • match the last name;
  • only match the first five letters of the first name;
  • not match middle initials, "jr.", etc.;
  • match date-of-birth "approximately".

When they balked about how many false positives that would cause, the gov't told them "we want to cast as wide a net as possible." Apparently the few hand-checks that were done showed that the purges were around 5% accurate!

The claim goes that because they were matching last names only, they excluded a disproportionate number of black voters (who generally vote something like 90% democratic in Florida.)

Election Boards Use Intimidation and Outright Lying to Stop Students from Voting

Federal and state courts have clearly established that students have the right to vote where they go to school, even if they live in a dorm. But interviews with college students, civil-rights attorneys, political strategists and legal experts reveal that election officials all over the country are erecting illegal barriers to keep young voters from casting ballots.

Bush defends dropping absentee-ballot witnesses
(just make up anything for the registration, they don't confirm email)

On Tuesday, Gov. Jeb Bush signed into a law a measure that will forever drop the witness requirement from absentee ballots. Starting this July, absentee ballots will only need the signature of the voter in order to be considered valid. With the witness requirement dropped, Florida will essentially be offering voting by mail.

And there are signs of another Florida election scandal brewing involving absentee ballots: The Florida Department of Law Enforcement this week has opened an investigation into a March city election in Orlando. FDLE agents have seized absentee ballots in the case and are looking at whether or not election fraud was committed.

When asked about the investigation, Gov. Bush on Wednesday continued to defend the new law, noting that election supervisors have told him they didn't verify the names of witnesses anyway, only the names of the voters.

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36 Responses:

  1. But the most amazing things was how they deleted "former felons" from the voting roles: the database company they hired to do this was instructed that when matching names, they should:

    * match the last name;
    * only match the first five letters of the first name;
    * not match middle initials, "jr.", etc.;
    * match date-of-birth "approximately".

    It apparently happened in Oklahoma, too--close to home.

  2. supersat says:

    "Students who are denied the right to register at college can always opt to vote by absentee ballot -- but it's well known that this reduces participation. 'It is likely to depress turnout, because it is a harder burden than just walking up to a poll,' says Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate."

    Errr.... Wait. How is voting by mail less convenient? I get my ballot several weeks in advance, and I can fill it out at my leisure and drop it in the mail. I don't want to have to go out of my way to vote.

    • jkonrath says:

      The ballot gets sent to mom and dad in Possum Pouch, Arkansas when you're away at Big State U, and your parents are too dimwitted to forward it via postal mail, and you only go home once or twice a semester, so you never get a ballot. That's my guess, anyway...

      • everdred says:

        Mine was sent right to my campus P.O. Box.

        Of course, I live in Florida, so it really doesn't matter if the ballot reaches me.

      • supersat says:

        It's still more convenient that travelling back to Possum Pouch, Arkansas to vote. It's not really an issue of absentee ballots being inconvenient; it's that many people are registered to vote outside of where they live.

    • omnifarious says:

      I really have no idea how it works myself. I suspect most people are like me. It might be convenient for you, but only because you already know how the process works.

      • jwz says:

        Even if everything went as smoothly as possible, absentee voting would have to entail:

        • asking for a ballot;
        • receiving the ballot;
        • finding a stamp;
        • sending it in on time.

        Whereas normal voting is

        • show up on the right day.

        I can totally imagine that making all the difference in the world to some people.

        • omnifarious says:

          Actually, it does for me. Very much so. I just didn't want to get into a "But, it's the future of your country! A little thing like that shouldn't stop you!" argument because that's actually not relevant to the point. :-)

    • belgand says:

      I vote via absentee ballot and find it incredibly inconvenient. I have to remember to request the ballot, get it forwarded from my parents, fill it out and return it on time, etc. Simply finding the local polling place, walking in and voting is much easier. I've voted in primaries for state elections before that I likely would have forgotten about if I had been voting on them by absentee ballot.

      Now considering that I'm one of the people that really cares about voting (I can't help but think of the scene in The Breakfast Club where he says he has a fake ID in order to vote) yeah, this can be a significant hassle especially considering the information really isn't made easily available. It's a complete pain in the ass to get things together.

      Now that I have an apartment I may actually want to change my registration, then again, I probably don't.

  3. aprilized says:

    I live in Canada...when I hear this kind of information, it makes me feel like I'm watching a film of a faraway place. I try and figure out how this can happen, with so many citizens fully aware of it...The only thing that I can come up with is that the US is so huge and somewhat, segregated. People still move around within their own group. We have less of that here...both socio/economic and cultural differences are practically invisible between friends. It's always been this way...
    Your country is enormous; I'm sure there is a large amount of the population who don't even think of a world outside of their county...

    • omnifarious says:

      I'm sure there is a large amount of the population who don't even think of a world outside of their county...

      We are encouraged by this in our media and in the history we learn in HS.

    • volkris says:

      Well for one thing sensationalism in the media means tha tyou hear a lot about the very few failures and little about the successes.

      So many citizens AREN'T fully aware of it. They elect officials so that the officials can worry about being aware of how to, for example, run an election. Mistakes are made, and when decent people are in office they are corrected. Here is an example of elections commissioners trying to adapt to new technology and new ways of doing things.

      Yes they messed up, and yes they should have talked amongst themselves to try to figure out the best ways of handling this process, but let's not make more of this than there is. Some bad choices got into office. It happens. Often.

      We should fix the design of the system so that human failings don't cause so much harm, that's all.

      • aprilized says:

        It seems for some reason that this isn't a problem with the political institution itself but the political culture...

        People have been doing things a certain way within certain constructs pertaining to the political machine for a long time now. They have methods and guidelines that are cemented in place. I doesn't seem logical to me that the same individuals within this political system (county clerks, city councilors, polling station management etc) will so eagerly change their methods if laws are implemented making it harder for them to lie to voters.

        They'll just alter their actions to meet their needs in another way. It simply seems like a carefully organized and quiet push from up top to force citizens to vote less in certain communities. A law can't change who you are...

        The successes are undeniable, but the failures are such a daily part of the system that the bureaucracies will never manifest into citizen friendly entities...they're just too established in their ways

    • paisleychick says:

      I was going to suggest this, because it really show what's going on, but you already did, thanks. I don't know how to comprehend the corruption, disinformation, outright lies and manipulation that the current administration is embroiled in/with. It makes me sick.

      FWIW, here in San Francisco, I am registered to permanently vote by absentee ballot, which gets mailed to me about 3-4 weeks before the election. I don't have to request it, it just automatically shows up, I fill it out (no witness signature required (which Florida is now just dropping amid controversy)) and mail it in. I really prefer it.

  4. gths says:

    Having read all this, compulsory voting (that we have in Australia) doesn't seem so bad...

    • brad says:

      Whoa, awesome!

      I'd never heard of that.

      • Yep, and they even have a nasty tendency to chase up people that don't vote. Personally, I think it's a pretty good idea.

        • gths says:

          Well, they just give you a $40 fine if you can't come up with a good reason not to vote. It's nuisance value enough to get people out to the polls.

          The other funky thing we have is preferential voting for the House of Reps seats, which I've heard people call "instant runoff".

  5. Official World Bastion of Democracy!

    *giggle*

    Will
    who sometimes hears the "Every Sperm is Sacred" song from Pythons "The Meaning of Life" with vote substituted for sperm...

  6. transgress says:

    much ado about nothing when you consider the electorial college.

    • jwz says:

      There have been four occasions where a president was elected because he won the electoral votes but lost the (overall, nationwide) popular vote; but I don't think it has ever happened that a state's electors voted against the popular vote in that state.

      So yeah, I'm more worried about rigging the popular vote than the electors.

      • transgress says:

        ah again, its just a point- i dont think it has happened either, but it would be perfectly legal if it did. (for instance do you think for a moment in the last election that if everyone in texas voted for gore, that the state wouldve gone bush anyways? pure speculation either way again though)

        anyways, i still just dont like the idea of it being possible. But I suppose with companies like diebold and judicial recounts, there are bigger fish to fry.

        • for instance do you think for a moment in the last election that if everyone in texas voted for gore, that the state wouldve gone bush anyways?

          Since the electors are appointed by the party whose candidate wins the popular vote, I find it unlikely.

      • belgand says:

        I recall a claim that Wallace was trying to work out a scheme to get his electors to agree to vote for Nixon in order to help swing Southern states where Wallace had an advantage. I forget exactly what Wallace was supposed to get in return for this. This is, of course, incredibly and amazingly unsubstantiated. It's something I last looked at back in '98 or so.

      • klarfax says:

        Well Florida 2000 is a situation where the slate of electors chosen was not the slate of the person who actually won the popular vote in the state.

        • jwz says:

          No, the official version of events is that Bush won 2,912,790 popular votes to Gore's 2,912,253. I think it highly likely that the popular vote count was rigged, but that still doesn't make this a case of the electors doing something different than the popular vote asks them to.

          • klarfax says:

            Ok, the electors didn't do anything that wasn't asked of them, but it still counts as the electors of a state voting contrary to the popular vote of the state in my book (due to the official count being wrong)

  7. ammonoid says:

    re: purging the rolls of felons - Its even worse than that, apparently the company they hired had some connection to the Cruella De Ville/ makeup impaired secretary of state whose name I can't remember. I also remember stories about the police setting up roadblocks on the way to polling places in rural Florida.

    • volkris says:

      I remember the stories.

      I also remember the investigations and hunts for people who could actually confirm, under oath, that it actually occurred.

      I seem to recal that these hunts were failures. You had one side claiming that massive numbers of people were prevented from polling, but few actual people actually able to say, "Yes, I was prevented from voting," even after a lot of effort to find them.

  8. jes5199 says:

    I live in Oregon now, and we *only* vote by mail here.
    I haven't seen any studies, but the story is that in a particular special election some years ago, they received more absentee ballots than actual people showing up to the polls.
    So now we're all absentees.

  9. bitwise says:

    It doesn't appear to be showing on the Sundance channel any more. The last showing was May 25.