Lesson from Mail-in ballot problems in Hawaii: Of Course Alert Voters when Signatures Don’t Match

The Hawaii Elections Commission is meeting this week to discuss problems with mail-in ballots in recent elections, and discuss an initiative to move to all by-mail elections in the state (this will require action by the legislature).

It’s hard to get details from this short news story, but one thing seems clear: the state needs to require local officials to notify voters when their ballots are invalidated due to missing or non-matching signatures. 

Those provisions are in place in Oregon (Statutory reference 254.431 Special procedure for ballots challenged due to failure to sign return envelope or nonmatching signature; public record limitation), and Washington, and Colorado. 

It may not have been endorsed yet as a “best practice” by an appropriate committee of election experts, but a follow up if the signature verification fails certainly is standard practice in the three states that conduct elections fully by mail.

The EV Tide Keeps Rising The EV Tide Keeps Rising

A couple quick posts before I head off to class.  Let’s start with the most up to date EV rates compared to 2012 rates.  These can be heavily influenced by changes in state laws, as in Massachusetts, so interpret with caution.

ev_as_ev

 

Another college voting controversy

This one in Green Bay, WI. At least it doesn’t concern Packers fans!

The local clerk cites “partisan advantage,” among other reasons, why she refused to establish a satellite early voting location at University of Wisconsin, Green Bay.  It doesn’t help her out when the person requesting the location is a local Green Bay Democrat.

I’ve written in the past about ongoing conflict over an early voting location in Boone, NC, located at the student center at Appalachian State University, where I taught for two years. The ASU location also leaned heavily Democratic relative to the surrounding county, but in the Boone case, the student center also was the hub of a county-wide bus system, had ample parking, and was within easy walking distance of downtown.  The county offices, in contrast, had little parking and were served by fewer bus lines.

The ASU location, in summary, was actually an excellent location!  

This is a hard one!  Not sure what the right call is on this location.  Anyone with more information on the ground?

The impossibility of rigging a US election: WaPo story

Great Washington Post story by Sari Horowitz on the near impossibility of rigging an election.

Florida election oddity: if you forget to sign your absentee ballot, you have a chance to fix. If the signature does not match, you do not

This lawsuit just filed in Florida.  Apparently, under Florida law (or current interpretation), if you fail to sign an absentee ballot, a postcard (? not clear in the Politico story) citizens have a chance to “cure” the error by coming in, providing proof of identity, and signing an affidavit.

But if your signature doesn’t match, either because it has changed (the focus of the lawsuit) but also presumably if the outside envelope has water damage, your pen leaks, any of a variety of problems, you have no similar chance.

What a strange law.  I don’t know the details in every state, but certainly in Oregon and Washington, if there is a problem with your signature (or your vote by mail ballot comes back undeliverable), a postcard is immediately generated and sent to you, and you have until 14 days after Election Day (in Oregon) to correct the error.

Florida already has a system in place to “cure” one set of ballots. What possible policy rationale is there for denying this to the relatively small number of ballots where signatures don’t match?

 

Election Science in the news!

Great story by Nate Cohn in the New York Times on different demographic estimates of the electorate, features extensive quotes from election science scholars Michael McDonald and Bernard Fraga. Perhaps we can even claim Yair Ghitza as a fellow traveller?  

Brief followup: get ’em while they are young

Here’s a nice followup to the article I just posted.  It describes a 10 year followup to a Democracy Fellows program at Wake Forest University.

Takeaway quote:

Our analysis of both the quantitative and qualitative data revealed that there continue to be significant differences between the Democracy Fellows and the class cohort. Although both groups dislike the degree of political polarization they encounter in their daily lives, the fellows continue to be more engaged in the political process than does the class cohort.

News story from the Greensboro Record and the followup study published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Early voting legislation under consideration in NY

Senate bill 8582, introduced 11/18/2015 in the New York legislature, would provide for early in-person voting in the Empire State.

I’ve talked to NY state legislators before, but not about this legislation.  It does contain some useful provisions that I often recommend, including:

  • A population based floor (but no ceiling) on the number of early voting locations
  • Allows for early voting “vote centers” in the City of New York (not county based)
  • An early voting period that includes two weekends and requires some Saturday and Sunday voting, and requires at least one early voting location in each county to stay open until 8 in the evening

Early voting locations are also subject to other location provisions, assuring that not just numbers, but accessibility will be taken into account:

POLLING PLACES FOR EARLY VOTING SHALL BE LOCATED TO ENSURE, TO THE
   11  EXTENT PRACTICABLE, THAT ELIGIBLE VOTERS HAVE ADEQUATE EQUITABLE ACCESS,
   12  TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION POPULATION DENSITY, TRAVEL TIME TO THE POLLING
   13  PLACE,  PROXIMITY  TO  OTHER  LOCATIONS  OR COMMONLY USED TRANSPORTATION
   14  ROUTES AND SUCH OTHER FACTORS THE BOARD OF ELECTIONS OF  THE  COUNTY  OR
   15  THE  CITY OF NEW YORK DEEMS APPROPRIATE.
Brennan Center report on voting laws and the 2016 Election

Another excellent report by Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center.  Even if you don’t agree with their position on some of these legal changes, they maintain some of the best resources for election laws and procedures.

Can the Supreme Court Handle Social Science? New ELB Podcast

An excellent new podcast as part of Rick Hasen’s Election Law Blog (ELB) series features Prof. Nathan Persily addressing the question “can the Supreme Court handle social science?”  Persily addresses the question in light of recent litigation over campaign finance and voter identification.

Persily is well-known in the election reform community; for the broader political science community, Persily received his PhD in Political Science from Berkeley, his JD from Stanford, and served as research director for the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.  Many may be familiar with him from his recent edited volume on Cambridge Solutions to Political Polarization in America.

Any political scientist who is interested in how the Court and the legal community views our scholarship, and more generally in how social science can be made more comprehensible and impactful in the policy community, would do well to listen to this short 30 minute podcast.