Monday, September 11, 2006

Absentee is not the answer

In response to the Baltimore Jewish Times Q & A article published about BRAVE NEW BALLOT, a reader wrote in:

    A transparently countable paper ballot may be secured and used by voting an absentee ballot. While requesting and submitting an absentee ballot requires a little forethought, the benefit of knowing one's vote will indeed be counted as intended is worth the effort. While it is now too late for the Primary election, there is still plenty of time to request and vote absentee for the General election.

I disagree with this, although I can appreciate the sentiment. Here are the reasons why I disagree with the idea of using the absentee ballot mechanism because of the security problems with electronic voting:

  • I beieve that In Maryland, you are required to sign an affidavit that you are unable to be at the polls on election day. I don't think people should be encouraged to lie in an affidavit.
  • Absentee voting by mail opens up the opportunity for vote selling, and voter coersion. It should not be used as a replacement for precinct voting.
  • Even if you vote by absentee, you are only guaranteeing that your vote will be recorded correctly. The general problem of the vulnerability of the machines to rigging, tampering, and unintentional faults still exists, and the election outcomes will still be in question.
  • Absentee voting is a band-aid solution to the problem of people who cannot come to the polls. Increased absentee voting would transfer the trust in the system to the postal service, and I don't think that is appropriate, nor secure.

So, while I think that the lack of a paper record of votes in Maryland is an absolute disaster, I do not believe that encouraging absentee voting is a good response.