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Florida: Party Affiliation on Return Absentee Ballot Envelope Invites Fraud

By       Message Ellen Brodsky     Permalink
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For Immediate Release
Contact: Ellen Harriet Brodsky, No Party Affiliation
Candidate for Supervisor of Elections, Broward County, FL

Broward County Candidate Ellen Harriet Brodsky for Supervisor of Elections Calls for a Secret Ballot by removing Party Affiliation on Return Absentee Ballot Envelopes.

Today I received my Nov. 4 General Election Ballot as well as my family and our neighbors. Along with everyone else, I was shocked and dismayed to see our party affiliation clearly printed on the return ballot envelope.

Voting must be cast in secret and publicly counted. No one wants election officials or postal workers to know our party affiliation. After the 2004 fiasco we want this election to be fair and square. The secret ballot is fundamental for our free and fair exercise of our Constitutional right to vote.

Broward County is the home of 58,000 to 76,000 missing absentee ballots from the November 2004 election. No one to this day has been held accountable for losing our ballots. The same Election Officials who were in charge of the missing Absentee Ballots from 2004 are still in charge today. As a result of Broward Voters never receiving their absentee ballots, thousands of Broward Voters were disenfranchised in the November 2004 election. It was a finger-pointing game between Supervisor Snipes and the Post Office. Nothing was resolved and the voters were the losers. One would expect better absentee ballot practices today to preserve our privacy. As a result, no one can be sure.

Broward voters and candidates of all parties should be outraged and appalled to see on their return envelopes their party affiliation clearly displayed. There will be many postal workers who will be handling our ballots and election officials who will be able to see the political affiliation of the voter before it reaches if it does the Supervisor of Elections Office. Once received, there are no 24/7 video surveillance cameras or other assurances that each ballot is handled anonymously as it should be in a Democracy. We are told by the current Supervisor that the security in place is motion sensor devices.

I saw such a device on the wall in the Voting Machine Warehouse. The truth is, as told to me by an election official, it is not activated during business hours, but at night after election staff have left the building. This surely can give no one cause for confidence as many election irregularities can be caused by insiders.

We are told once again to "trust our election officials without verification," especially since the Supervisor has declared no one is allowed inside the areas where our ballots are stored without a special appointment. This surely does not provide the necessary public oversight or assurance that our absentee ballots are being handled properly. Certainly, in such a heated election, printing the party affiliation of all voters on the return envelope is an invitation to fraud.

As of October 7, 2008, 90,000 voters have requested absentee ballots, and the current Supervisor of Elections stated that between 60 and 70,000 were to be sent to voters on Oct. 8.

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Given that more people are voting with absentee ballots, as Supervisor of Elections, I would be careful to a fault to protect absentee voters' privacy. No ballot should have party affiliation on the return absentee ballot if election fraud is to be minimized.

"While it may not be strictly prohibited under state law, the overall intent of state law is to give the absentee voter the same degree of privacy an in-person voter would have," said Elliot Mincberg, vice president and legal director of People for the American Way, in 2004. "Other counties have found a way to deal with that. I think to better comply with the spirit of the law, as many counties do, that it's best to not have that information on the outside of the envelope."

Florida Division of Elections lets each of the 67 county Supervisors of Elections decide how to best sort their absentee ballots.

We call for Brenda Snipes, the current Supervisor, to immediately stop printing party affiliation on the return absentee ballots. Otherwise, there can be no rational basis for confidence that our absentee ballots are handled fair and square.

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Ellen H. Brodsky is the Founder of the Broward Election Reform Coalition, a member of the Palm Beach Coalition for Election Reform and the Florida Voters Coalition. Ellen is a longtime Voting Integrity leader in South Florida, best known for (more...)

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