a note rom RC Johnson

From: Brent Turner <brent_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Wed Feb 21 2007 - 12:22:12 CST

Hi Brent!

The mail-in ballot can only be executed in a supervised setting at a post
office or other government-staffed setting IF you wish to avoid the moral
hazards of (1) vote purchase and (2) non-secret, organized, or collective
voting. Supervision and secrecy are the two procedural safeguards lacking
Oregon's lax approach to voting.

It is far too easy for political, social, or religious groups to collect
persons with absentee ballots and influence them in ways not otherwise
permitted by law as they cast ballots. Note the protections against group
voting in the laws regulating the polling place: no political advertising
within so many feet, must enter the booth alone, must not make copies of the
ballot and carry away from the polling place, and so forth. All these
regulations are void when it comes to unsupervised mail-in balloting.

Oregon only works because (1) it is free of corruption, (2) politicians have
not thought of it yet, or (3) nobody notices or cares. I think (3) is the
most likely.

In the military, voting by absentee ballot is the norm. I have talked to
service people who have had their unshielded ballots collected by
non-commissioned officers, put in envelopes and mailed. Who would not be
well advised to vote for the commander in chief?

Similarly, when one's religious leader assembles the congregation and
suggests that all bring their ballots and show a devotion to the Higher
Being by voting right, well, one would risk excommunication through dissent
if you make up your own mind. Only a secret ballot allows voters to retain
their integrity against social and economic pressure.

In a company town, what is to keep the employer from usurping supervision of
balloting, volunteering to collect and mail all the marked ballots from the
town voters to spare them the trouble. Isn't that great? People can vote
without leaving their own homes. And...if you vote wrong you get to lose
your job.

That, folks, is why we have a secret ballot. That is why it is harder to
buy elections today (literally) than before we had secret ballots,
advertising notwithstanding. Mail-ins without supervision are only secret
if people feel like it--there is no procedural safe guard.

I firmly believe that balloting should be both secret and supervised,
watched by public poll-watchers to make sure it is done in secret by
individuals bound by their own beliefs, and not by some public process where
all are shamed into voting alike. Unsupervised mail-in voting, like voting
from home on the internet, is a huge step backwards for our democracy.
IMHO.

-- Dick

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Received on Wed Feb 28 23:17:22 2007

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