Picture this: Suppose you have people dumping REAL voters into the voter registration list, without their knowledge. This is possible by insiders, in states with Internet voter registration, and by outsiders, by copying names out of phone books or just finding lists of addresses. Some of these people will be duplicates and are weeded out. But after dups are removed, what will remain is a whole bunch of REAL names on the list for people who rarely vote (thus were not registered) and are unaware that they are even registered. This is the real risk for Internet registration, and for the so-called "voter registration modernization" which heads us toward dumping everyone on the rolls based on driver's licenses etc., and for the kinds of violations publicized with ACORN.
When you combine voter list stuffing with vote by mail, you open up a huge vector for fraud: Insiders casting votes in the name of real people who are registered voters but unlikely to vote.
In other words, the risk for large, wholesale vote-by-mail fraud is not with some dead guys, nor is it with the non-matching signatures. The real risks are with the signatures that DO match and the voters who are REAL, but don't vote and who may not even know they are registered. As for faking the sig match: This is a trivial little end-run but merits a separate write-up.
Now, when you start pushing people to come in personally to apply and drop off absentee ballots, you also add risks for an insider operation for counterfeit absentee voting, by eliminating post office records. You also don't have to deal with the tricky little detail of where to mail a bunch of unasked-for ballots. Absentee applications can magically appear (a bunch of people "dropped them off") and voted absentee ballots for the matching names can sprout like mushrooms (people "dropped them off", you know).
Absentee voting already has a rich and proven history of fraud, just ask any Appalachian state, and is being ramped up in Massachusetts for this election. And it's a bit troubling.
Here's one strategy that can be used to detect counterfeit absentee-dumping: Because it requires an insider, there will be considerable variation among the 351 municipalities as to whether insider absentee fraud is doable. So by comparing the percentage of absentee votes between municipalities, it should be possible to pick out locations with higher-than-normal absentee participation.
VOTING MACHINE FORENSICS
For more detailed examination of voting machine and tabulator functionality, here are some of the diagnostic reports available by request. These are all considered non-proprietary and fall under public records laws.
POLLING PLACE VOTING MACHINE AUDIT TAPES: Each polling place voting machine can print an audit tape. Typically they just print the results tape, but there are two additional options: The AccuVote machines can also print a "long tape" which shows results in more detail, including blank ballots; and they can print an "Audit Tape", which shows important information like when the machine was turned off or on, whether someone pushed an override button, and so forth.
CENTRAL TABULATOR AUDIT LOGS: Most Massachusetts locations don't use the central machine that adds up multiple polling place results, but some jurisdictions, like Boston and Cambridge, may use the GEMS central tabulator. If so, GET THE AUDIT LOG. Get it in electronic form. This will show many different events, all of them important. This central tabulator runs on Windows, so also request an electronic copy of the Windows Event Log, the Windows System Log, and the Windows Administrative log. GEMS runs over 80 different kinds of diagnostic reports; here are links to examples:
One of the most useful reports is in sample 8, which shows whether duplicate memory cards were created. The example here shows one precinct that had an extra memory card (ballot box) created, but in Putnam County Florida after the 2004 election, every precinct had 2-3 memory cards (ballot boxes). This is important information for tracking chain of custody.
For more information, such as how to request public records, or details on looking at audit logs or automating collection of preliminary results, go to our Tool Kit page: http://www.blackboxvoting.org/toolkit.html -- both the 2008 and the earlier Tool Kit contain many valuable suggestions.
The most interesting information will come out in the days and weeks following the election. Happy hunting, and you can use this link to share information: