Re: New Orleans, the Gulf, and Absentee Ballots

From: Jeff Almeida <spud_at_spudzeppelin_dot_com>
Date: Fri Sep 09 2005 - 09:26:27 CDT

Quoting "Richard C. Johnson" <dick@iwwco.com>:

> While immediate needs of food, shelter, and medical care overtax the
> authorities, it might also be in order to consider the longer term status of
> the displaced Gulf Coast voter. The records of registered New Orleans
> voters, for example, should have survived the disaster. Every voter in New
> Orleans is now or shortly will be living in another jurisdiction.
> Essentially, for at least six months, New Orleans will have 100% absentee
> elections if it has any. If the diaspora of registered New Orleans voters is
> still far flung in November of 2006, well, that is somewhat unprecidented.
> If New Orleans is rebuilt, who will live there and who will be a New Orleans
> voter?

With 30 days' residence required to register, little hope of return to New
Orleans in the foreseeable future, and a major special election looming in two
months, there has been some discussion of trying to register our new "long-term
guests" here in Texas. It's a pretty narrow window though: They have to have
been residents for thirty days prior to registering, and the registration
deadline is October 11th. How many of them have something resembling a
permanent address in Texas within the month remains to be seen; I know of at
least one major business that was based in New Orleans, however, that is in the
process of permanently relocating most of its operations to Austin as a result.

>
> I don't have all the answers, but I do think that any plan for Open Voting
> needs to consider the implications of absentee balloting and massive needs to
> vote and to be identified (provisional?) outside one's home precinct in cases
> of natural disaster. You may recall that in New York, our mayor almost
> decided to stay in office because of 9/11 (he quickly thought better of that
> idea).

There are two arguments to this. Frankly, I like the EU model: they use (or at
least I've heard that is the goal) computerized registration systems to allow
someone to cast a ballot at any polling place in Europe (!) during an election.
 We're close to that here in Denton County, Texas, during early voting: you can
early vote at any early-voting polling place in the County you choose... they
have (prior to the unfortunate local adoption of the eSlate) used printers and
PDFs to do ballot-on-demand for whatever precinct is needed. I've personally
made a point of never early-voting at the same polling place twice, over the
course of the last half-dozen elections... does that make me a "political
tourist"?

The opposing view is, of course, that these systems have a number of ways of
admitting widespread registration fraud, etc. Frankly, as a mathematician I'm
not that excited about "managing" those kinds of risks: absent a return to some
form of viva voce voting (unlikely with as much concern as some people have in
this country about ballot secrecy, but it impacts little on people like me who
wear our politics on our sleeve (often literally!)), ANY system is going to
admit widespread ballot and/or registration fraud; ballot secrecy and perfect
auditability are mutually exclusive.

jeff

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Received on Sat Dec 31 23:17:02 2005

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