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Election Reform or Something Else Entirely? No Easy Answers Here

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Message Michael Shelby

There's a new front on the battle for election integrity. Proposition 205, the so-called "Your Right to Vote by Mail Act" presents me with a distinct and confounding problem. While I don't a priori oppose voting by mail, having done so in the past, I cannot support this proposition in its current form. I cannot support this proposition in its current form because our elections processes are all too fragile to impose another dose of problems on them. My biggest concern is that Prop. 205 is really just another smoke screen under which a particular class of voters will be disenfranchised, their votes tossed out, or being barred from voting altogether.

Prop. 205 affords more problems than it provides conveniences. I am no fan of Prop. 200 either or the draconian, redundant, and discriminatory identification requirements it imposes on everyone; but will most likely disenfranchise elderly widows more than the poor and brown people it was targeted for. Prop. 205 practically nullifies Prop. 200 by allowing someone, once registered, to mail in their ballot with nothing but a signature comparison for ID verification. The tedious work of signature verification will need to be elevated to some level of high-tech scanning device or a whole bunch more eyeballs will need to be hired to look at all those signatures. And how will they handle those changes in signature characteristics from aging, injury, or disease? Will a ballot signed by someone with a broken hand be discarded? How about a voter with Parkinson's disease, will their vote not be counted? But those are just managerial problems.

Send me your ballot, I'll send you $10!

The real problem is found when we consider that stealing American elections is not illegal in Mexico or Canada. Arizona's own Nathan Sproul, campaign manager for Arizona gubernatorial candidate Len Munsil and former State RNC Chair, was caught red-handed in Oregon and Nevada working for the RNC in 2004 registering only Republican voters and actively destroying the registration forms of Democrats. You haven't heard about this because, just as in the LD 20 primary debacle, the United States Justice Department took over the investigation and it too went down the memory hole. And Sproul is up to his dirty tricks again but I'll leave that for another time. With 'burglars' and 'paid assassins' like Sproul getting away with electoral fraud, and Karl Rove still out there, how hard is it to surmise that some other enterprising thieves could conspire to buy ballots safely out of reach of US law by setting up operations across the borders. Sadly, in the divisive political climate we find ourselves in today, an election can be determined by a difference of as little as one or two votes per precinct!

Prop 205 is being sold on its conveniences that, on the surface, sound reasonable and obvious. Propaganda for Prop. 205 is full of blue sky examples of easy voting, reduced anxiety, increased participation, no life style restraints, no long lines, and, then, it slips in its true raison de'tre . . . it saves taxpayer dollars! But, a simple one time reading of the initiative itself presents a whole other picture. In the text of the initiative some things kinda stick out. Like the part about the County Board of Supervisors taking over the elections duties and dictating to the Election Board. The initiative reads more like a "You can only vote by mail" than a right to vote by mail and assigns an "absolute minimum" of polling places without defining absolute minimum. In my experience, someone else's minimum usually turns into my maximum when I'm being dictated to. So I guess that would be . . . 1. The language of the initiative specifically prohibits the use of school buildings as polling places while not specifying a replacement site(s). That leaves the other usual polling place, churches, as a likely single point of polling. Oh, did I mention that Nathan Sproul is the former head of the Christian Coalition in Arizona? Wow, that name keeps popping up whenever election fraud is mentioned . . . hmmm. But I digress. At a recent presentation by Mr. Fred Taylor, State Director for the initiative, I was very disturbed by one of his arguments in particular. As if to reach into Karl Roves' talking points, Mr. Taylor advocated for eliminating schools as polling places because a pedophile could use the excuse of voting to snatch a child or a terrorist could take out an entire school. Why with logic like that there isn't a shopping mall, movie theater, playground, or church on the planet safe for our children! And you can bet I'll be on the look out for swarthy men with bulging overcoats or women in hajibs on Election Day this time around! As people catch on to Prop. 205's thinly veiled partisan attempt to further disenfranchise voters and cut taxes, I'm sure its supporters will find a way to conflate 9/11 with voting by mail. Mr. Taylor's trump card is that the State of Oregon is all vote by mail all the time of which he sings its praises, nearly waxing poetic, and makes claims of no election fraud ever! A simple Google « search entering Oregon Vote by Mail Fraud dispels that bit of misinformation in a heartbeat. In fact, over 20,000 cases of vote fraud in Oregon were reported in the 2004 election (remember; only one or two votes per precinct can change an election and I don't think there are 20,000 precincts in the country).

Prop. 205 provides absolutely no security for ballots or a secure chain of custody. Mr. Taylor offered, as example, multiple polling places could be established that would include unguarded boxes outside fire departments. So what's to stop a well placed road flare from being dropped in an unguarded ballot box in a particular precinct known to vote mostly for one party? Again, what's to stop anyone from selling their vote to a vendor in Tijuana or Vancouver? And, at the end of the day, the ballots are still going to be counted on the same tabulating machines with all their problems in being calibrated, machine maintenance, and the suspicions that we have no way of knowing if our votes are accurately and honestly counted because the software that runs the machines is still a secret!

Finally, I'm surprised by the number of people who tell me that they actually like to go to the polling place on Election Day. They feel a sense of connection to the democratic process by physically casting their vote, that they are performing their patriotic duty and, for them, the act of voting is devalued by casually dropping an envelope in a box. Still, I think that all could be accommodated in some future, truly non-partisan, thought-through, mechanism for voting by mail that would provide necessary and sufficient polling places where citizens can demonstrably participate in the democratic process and the necessary security safeguards to assure accurate and honest elections provided.

Prop. 205 just isn't the right vehicle for an all vote by mail system in Arizona at this time! Please, Vote NO on Prop. 205.

Michael Shelby - "Straight from the Shoulder"
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Michael Shelby is a voting activist in Arizona and a member of Arizona Citizens for Election Reform.
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