Secretary Bennett wants to overhaul how we count the vote – much more is needed

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Secretary of State Ken "Birther" Bennett has been a busy boy. First he proposed reforming Arizona's lax campaign finance disclosure laws, and now, after his miserable failure at election management in which Arizona has replaced Florida as the laughingstock of the nation, Bennett is proposing an overhaul of how Arizona counts the vote. Yeah, right message, wrong messenger. I prefer to fire managers who fail as miserably as Bennett has. Ballot-count system in AZ needs a complete overhaul, Bennett says:

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett is proposing a wholesale
overhaul of the state's vote-counting system in the wake of embarrassing
delays counting more than 630,000 ballots statewide from the Nov. 6
general election.

The delays kept voters from knowing the outcome
of two of the state's three major congressional races until at least a
week after the polls closed, and the last wasn't decided until Saturday.
Bennett said if the presidential election had been in the balance, the
state would have been the focus of nationwide derision.

Bennett
said in an interview with The Associated Press that by 2014, he hopes to
completely revamp the way early ballots dropped off at polling places
are counted; cut the number of provisional ballots issued by 90 percent;
and ensure the vast majority of votes have been counted within hours of
poll closings.

"I want 98 percent of all the ballots to have been
scanned into the system and counted by election night," Bennett said
Saturday. "And the next morning, as an election family statewide, we're
dealing with 10,000 to 15,000 ballots, and we're done in two days."

Well, this would satisfy the corporate media villagers' desire for instant results in our instant gratification modern society. But this does nothing to address concerns about vote counting security issues, such as running vote tallies that can be leaked to campaigns or political parties to tell them how they are doing and where they need to focus their efforts and their money. An actual vote count is the most accurate "poll" of all. There is a public policy reason why we delay the counting of ballots.

While cautioning that he had not yet approached Gov. Jan Brewer,
legislative leaders or county leaders who run and fund elections with
the proposal, Bennett said he hopes to secure millions in state and
county funding to add to more than $10 million in available federal cash
to pay for the overhaul. He'll need counties on board to get anything
done because they run local elections.

Once again, Secretary Bennett does not describe exactly what he has in mind. This sounds like he just wants new computer hardware and software, and perhaps some other hardware such as ballot scanners. I agree that new equipment is badly needed.

But this is just putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. Real election reform requires bold and innovative measures, and someone who has the crediblity to sell it — which Secretary Bennett does not after this miserably managed election.

I can tell you that Pima County is looking at moving to "voting centers" rather than precinct voting. These voting centers would use "ballot on demand" printers to provide voters with the correct ballot, much as now occurs at early voting sites. This feature would virtually eliminate provisional ballots for voters who show up at the wrong precinct.

But there are security issues with this method. First, there have been reported problems with the "ballot on demand" printers. Second, this would require a computer connection to the County Recorder's Office or Secretary of State's Office for election workers to access and verify voter registration records. Currently, computers are not allowed in precinct voting sites because of the concern that the vote tabulating scanners could be manipulated via a computer connection to the Internet. This security issue needs to be addressed to the satisifaction of election integrity advocates.

Several states allow for same day voter registration, so these states must have in some manner addressed this security issue. I would encourage Arizona to go to same day voter registration for another reason: we should have the technological capability of enacting a version of "universal voter registration" that is automatic, permanent, transportable, and correctable on election day for a fail-safe system. This would eliminate provisional ballots for voters who have failed to update their voter registration address since the last election, or for government data errors (as occured in Arizona this election). See resources at Voter Registration Modernization – Brennan Center for Justice.

I do not know the final numbers yet, but it looks as if somewhere between 70% to 80% of votes cast in Arizona were by early mail-in ballot (many were dropped off at polling locations on election day). At this rate of early voting participation in Arizona, it only makes sense from a cost-benefit analysis for Arizona to take the next step to enacting the all vote-by-mail (postal voting) system used by the states of Oregon and Washington. Oregon citizens approved vote by mail in a statewide initiative in 1998. Washington went from a voluntary system to a mandatory all vote-by-mail system in 2011.

Both Oregon and Washington provide for "voting centers" on election day for traditional voters (as discussed above). This vitually eliminates provisional ballots. And this is where the new vote counting equipment Secretary Bennett wants to purchase to speed up vote counting would be most beneficial. Secretary Bennett should invite his counterparts from the states of Oregon and Washington to address the Arizona legislature on their state legislation for operating an all vote-by-mail system.

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