Ballot snafu worse than Bradbury suggests - CORRECTION

Dan Petegorsky

Major Correction

Folks - this is, of course, highly embarrassing to admit, but: in rushing this post out this morning before I left the house, I was responding to seeing the "Nonpartisan Ballot" in my envelope. In my haste, what I did not see was the Democratic ballot inside and on the flip side. So: accept my apologies and do NOT use my case as an example of an early changer getting only a Nonpartisan ballot. I'm leaving the original post below as a testimony to my error (and shame).
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Wrong_ballot_highlightedThis week voters who have recently registered or switched from non-affiliated to Democratic in response to the enormous interest in this historic primary received reassuring words from the Secretary of State even as he warned voters that they might receive the wrong ballot in the mail. Bradbury's letter said:

(Salem, OR) Due to the extraordinarily high number of Oregon voters who've recently changed their political party affiliation, there will likely be a number of voters who will receive two ballots for the May 20 primary.

This affects only those voters who've changed their party registration (from one party to another, or from non-affiliated to a party) in the last week to two weeks. When ballots are mailed May 2, some voters will first receive a ballot with their previous registration. These ballots should not be voted.

Instead, affected voters should wait until their new, updated ballot arrives, and then vote only that ballot.

Well, I've got news for the Secretary: Multnomah County Elections recorded my own switch from NAV to Dem on November 29 - and I just received a Nonpartisan ballot in the mail:

That's not two weeks ago, it's five months ago. This mess looks to be much worse than Bradbury is admitting. Maybe is IS time to panic?


Comments

  • tys (unverified)
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    Wasn't too long ago that some of us were remarking publicly and privately that Bill Bradbury needed to spend a lot more time focusing on his job instead of spending his tenure egotistically seeking the media spotlight by running around the country pushing our inane VBM system. I'm now wondering how long it will be before people here starting blaming the county workers who are just doing a job, rather than Bradbury and elected County supervisors who pull down a paycheck because they supposedly exercise that elusive quality of leadership that motivates people to do their job diligently?

  • sadie (unverified)
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    I'm really angry about this! I have re-registered people to vote in this primary, and as a House District Leader, it is going to be really hard to defend our Democratic Secretary of State for this mix up.

    What is worse is that we are getting a lot of conflicting information about how to inform our neighbors about what to do. First they were told their ballot will not count if they turn in the wrong one then we were told that even if they turn in the wrong one first we can trust that their correct ballot will still be counted and the old one thrown out. Why should we trust in that information?

    More amazing is that people who turn to the front of their voter's pamphlet to look for the number to call for help are going to be dialing an obscene number. And we were saying Florida could borrow our people for a fair election - what a freakin joke!

  • sadie (unverified)
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    Does anybody know if people can take their junk ballot to their local elections office and trade it for a valid (not provisionary) correct registration ballot?

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    There are indeed many dimensions to this mess. A couple to think about:

    1) I think this is a great argument for why we need same day registration alongside vote by mail. It reveals structural flaws in the VBM system and how it breaks down just when you want a system to work smoothly: when people are really excited about an election!

    2) This also underscores how unreliable it can be to rely on SOS data for voter mobilization. If the implication is that I and many thousands like me have still been tagged at NAV in the SOS database, then any campaigns using the state data for party-based mobilization will have neglected these large numbers of new Democratic voters.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    I'm a bit suspicious about this. Bradbury, though undeclared, is in the tank for the Clintons in my view. He co-chaired Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign. Is he contriving a snafu to suppress the Independent vote that would otherwise be going for Obama? That question should be asked.

  • William Neuhauser (unverified)
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    I find the faulting of Bradbury for the problem off base. Registrations are handled by the county clerks and ballots are prepared and issued by the county clerks, not the Secretary of States office. Unless you can show that the county clerk updated the state database and there was some flaw at the state level that didn't get the data in correctly, all Bradbury is guilty of is expecting the county clerks to be doing their jobs correctly and efficiently. Remember, the clerks don't work for the SOS, they are elected or appointed locally, so it isn't like he's their boss.

    For the record, I too have reregistered people in this election and am not a Clinton partisan.

  • tys (unverified)
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    Dan Peterogosky, there is no way a legitimate same-day registration system can work with VBM. Same-day registration primarily means allowing people who have never registered or who have allowed their registration to lapse to register and vote. As long as we have our VBM system which by intent disproportionately disenfranchises those who tend to have more address instability for the convenience of a lazy class of Oregonians who view their world through a self-centered consumer perspective, all you're talking about is allowing NAVs who didn't care to have the integrity to join and change an organized party to continue to be lazy. Make no mistake, I'm strongly for a same-day registration system, but one which actually empowers voters by returning us to polling place elections so the excitement of election day will be translated into people taking advantage of same-day registration to actually get out there to same-day register and vote.

    Bill R., as much as I would like to blame this on a conspiracy by an obviously morally bankrupt Clinton campaign, we all know in Oregon, and particularly amongst a certain segment of self-concerned, venal Democrats who have drug the party down like Kulongoski, Merkley, Bradbury and Keisling before him, there is little advantage in attributing to conspiracy what one can easily trace to incompetence, arrogance, suprisingly marginal intelligence, and lack of responsible concern.

    I am reeling at the incredible irony of all of this: We have a bunch of incompetent Democratic leaders who time and again I find aren't the kind of quality people I even want to be associated with as a Democrat, but who too many BO commenters actually spend time defending against legitimate criticism holding them accountable solely on the callow principle they are Democrats (largely the same class of BO commenters who also defend the VBM system primarily because it was a political stunt by a Democrat who accomplished nothing as SOS and who now also wants to abolish Party primaries as the only way to egotistically keep himself in the game), and who clearly lean towards Obama in a state that the polls suggest should be a big plus in the Obama column on the strength of the NAV vote, potentially screwing up the election while the whole world is watching BECAUSE it is a VBM election run by these very incompetents most of you defend primarily because you are just too childish to deal with legitimate criticism.

    I'm still hoping Obama can eke it out in the face of this, but if he doesn't at least we'll know exactly who to blame. And it won't be Ralph Nader or the Greens, or the Libertarians, or the crossover Republicans, or the NAVs.

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    Dan... The DPO's voter file has you listed as a Democrat. I also confirmed that there's only one "Dan Petegorsky" registered to vote.

    I'd check with Multnomah County.

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    tys, you're confusing "can't work" with "won't work the way I want." Not the same thing. Although given the small number of county clerks' offices it is not hard to imagine huge last minute lines and people getting cut off or not being able to wait.

    Whether it's conspiracy or incompetence, there is now something smelly about the way Bradbury handled the Nader campaign in 2004, about the closeness of the failure of ballot initiatives he (and I) didn't like to qualify, and the handling of registration changes. We need a non-partisan electoral commission, that also should handle decennial apportionment and districting issues.

    Bradbury may not be to blame for the mechanical issues.

    But he certainly is responsible for his "crisis, what crisis?" "nothing to see here, folks, move along, move along" attitude to ensuring that those who have been motivated to engage with the system more actively are not disfranchised.

    And I have to say I am uneasy about this "wait 'til the second ballot comes" position. I think there needs to be a provision that if the proper ballot hasn't arrived by a week before the ballots are due, registration changers can vote in person. If the clerks are two weeks behind and the voting period is three weeks, that's cutting it awfully fine.

    And of course, if Dan P.'s experience is not idiosyncratic, the problems could be worse than that.

    We need to figure out ways to inform recent re-registrants about waiting for the right ballot, and also to press the clerks offices to clear up the backlog ASAP.

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    May I suggest all the county party websites post an announcement similar to the one on the front page of www.washcodems.org or http://www.washcodems.org/node/1162

  • Anon (unverified)
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    Good to know that Petagorsky just registered as a Dem. Explains a lot about his criticisms, and his lack of strategy in helping elect folks where it matters over the past ten years in favor of his identity politics stuff.

  • Bill Holmer (unverified)
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    It's stupid to allow people to change party affiliation up to April 29 if you're planning to mail primary ballots on May 2.

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    No, Bill: what's 'stupid' is to have a system with such an early cutoff date for registration. It's true that same day registration presents unique challenges in a state that's done away with poll voting entirely - but there are other possible fixes as well, including forms of automatic registration, such as Sec. of State Mark Ritchie is now working on in Minnesota.

  • Rulial (unverified)
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    Kari's comment gives me an idea. Perhaps there should be a way for a voters to verify their registrations online. I don't think it would be a good idea to make all the registration data available online. However, the state (or maybe a private organization which routinely obtains voter registration info) could set up a web site where a voter could enter their name, address, and party affiliation, and the web site would confirm that this is how the voter is registered.

  • tys (unverified)
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    tys, you're confusing "can't work" with "won't work the way I want." Not the same thing. Although given the small number of county clerks' offices it is not hard to imagine huge last minute lines and people getting cut off or not being able to wait.

    No Chris, I'm not confusing anything despite your irrelevant, academic quibbles. I described the commonly understood scenario of same-day registration, and the facts about the disenfranchising flaws of VBM. Whether you meant it or not, you really need to look hard at the first graf of your comment that in toto clearly displays dismissive, elitist approval of effectively discouraging same-day registration by people who work, and so may not have time to travel to and stand around waiting in the single clerks' office in their county because we don't have a responsible election process with neighborhood polling places.

    And by the way, just to illustrate how shoddy our system is, my SO got a ballot in the mail today and I didn't. What a screwed up system that only certain kinds of people could love.

  • tys (unverified)
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    And by the way, just to illustrate how shoddy our system is, my SO got a ballot in the mail today and I didn't. What a screwed up system that only certain kinds of people could love.

    I forgot to mention, I have NEVER changed my affiliation from D, and I have voted in every election. If it doesn't show up by Tuesday, this will not be the first time I will have to call the clerks' office to tell them they screwed up and in the end I will have had to go through much more trouble than if I had been able to go to my local polling place and cast my vote.

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    tys,

    Actually fwiw I was against VBM when it came in for some of the reasons you cite about the cultural and community value of local voting places & wouldn't object to going back.

    However, the old version without same-day registration didn't have the characteristics you posit that same-day local precinct voting would have. I agree with you that system would be preferable to either the old system or to VBM, and the least vote-suppressing & most encouraging of participation. But I'm less sure that VBM is more disfranchising than the old system without same-day registration. How was that system less disfranchising of the less residentially stable working class people than the current system? Did actual registration processes get changed or constricted in any way? If they did, were such changes inherent in VBM or choices among possible ways of implementing?

    On the accusation of intent to disfranchise, I'd like more evidence or argument at the official/proposer/promoter level and wonder if you think that intent was held by the voters who voted it in?

    My recollection is that the Republicans, who generally have a somewhat greater interest in vote suppression, screamed a lot about mythical fraud issues over VBM & didn't like it because they thought it would bring more people to vote, and that voting prevalence did rise initially though has been dropping off if I'm not mistaken.

    The rise in participation probably reflects other flaws in how we used to handle local polling place voting besides lack of same-day registration. There are people who have trouble getting to the polls on a single working day, since we don't do as many other countries do and make election day a holiday or hold it on a weekend. So VBM allows some working people more leeway in having time to fill out their ballots, and get them to a mailbox or library etc.

    Your motive ascriptions to consumer culture may apply to some people, but I don't really think can explain all the people who voted for VBM. I am curious as well as to whether your views of "laziness" of VBM preference would lead you to reject a reform that permitted VBM or free absentee balloting for those who preferred, or would you disfranchise those you consider "lazy consumerists" with thre wronge attitude toward citizenship? Because of course that form of argument is similar in form to the line by Rs and some Ds that if people are too "lazy" or disorganized to register by the deadline, it may be better that they don't vote. I disagree about that, of course.

    But at first blush I would prefer a combined system that encouraged participation in multiple ways, combining VBM or broad absentee voting with local precinct election-day voting with same-day registration with election day made a holiday. But I could be missing something & would happily listen to ideas about why including a version of VBM or broad absentee balloting wouldn't be the best way to go.

    I don't really understand the argument about how VBM particularly benefits allegedly "lazy, self-centered consumerist NAVs" in particular. It seems to me that in fact the same classes of people for whom time constraints of complex difficult lives make same-day registration desirable might also be people who might not have time to be active in the kind of politics it would take to try to change a party from the inside, and that some of those people might prefer to be NAV.

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    the last person we need to be blaming is Bill Bradbury. what the hell do people want? him in each election office the day before ballots drop to make sure everything is perfect? jeez.

    this year is unpredented across America, and that includes Oregon. Election offices, just like most govt offices in Oregon, are understaffed. a huge influx of new voters and party changes is going to push them to the limit, and mistakes are going to happen. before anyone goes into bitch-and-blame mode over your ballot, how about calling the elections office and asking them for help? given what i've seen when i've gone down to vote at the very last minute, not to mention when i've called them for information on some strange esoteric historic matters, they have been patient and super-helpful. the same was true in Benton County.

    meanwhile, of course, Bill Bradbury is causing all these problems to help Hillary ... wtf? that's the dumbest thing i've heard.

    but Dan is right about this: we need same-day registration. i think we're far enough past the problems caused caused by the Ragneeshees to have a more democratic registration law. hopefully we can convince the Leg to make this important change in January.

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