Sen. Frank Morse wants to ban 3rd party ballot delivery

Paul Gronke

A story in today's Corvallis Gazette Times describes a proposal by State Sen. Frank Morse to ban 3rd party ballot delivery.

The comment section pretty much accuses Morse of trying to suppress votes, so readers may be surprised to hear that I would support Morse's proposal, if it were combined with free postage for ballots (as is provided in a number of other states).

When I go around the country describing Oregon's vote by mail system, there are two things that strike observers as most odd. The "ballot remarking" (voter intent) system simply needs to be explained. But 3rd party ballot delivery is incomprehensible. Most states with extensive no-excuse absentee ballot systems disallow 3rd party delivery except for immediate family members.

Oregon election officials who I have spoken to are uniformly opposed to 3rd party ballot pickup as well as "unofficial" ballot drop boxes. I have been told that the clerks' association voted to ask the Legislature to change the law to make third party collection and delivery illegal (can someone confirm this?) but legislators are averse to do so because they consider ballot delivery a "service" that they provide to their constituents.

If this bill gains some purchase, I'd suggest the legislature look to examples of other states. The issue of disabled voters is easily handled by allowing for delivery with notarized documentation (see the Florida and New Mexico laws). And the partisan divide over voter turnout can be handled by having the state cover the cost of postage.

  • (Show?)

    Is the concern only the one of fraud? It is common in my circle of friends to help out if we are late voting and run each other's votes to the County. But the fraud noted in the article referenced is potentially frightening.

    Is there any research on the issue, or is this so unique that best practice is the only guidance?

  • (Show?)

    At the risk of accidentally repeating Paul Manson's point... (I'm a little murky if my point fits with his):

    Is there evidence that that ballots are being picked up by 3rd party groups and not turned in? Is there a legit issue here or are we simply looking at a solution in search of a problem?

    • (Show?)

      In McMinnville, we had an issue where some people calling themselves the Yamhill County Voters Association going around offering to turn in ballots for people. After hearing about this, I personally canvassed some of the neighborhoods where these people went. It appeared that they were targeting Democratic households but stopped after the County Clerk issued a press advisory about it, which was picked up in our local newspaper. To my knowledge, no one actually gave up their ballots.

  • (Show?)

    With all due respect to both Paul and Frank I think this is a concern about a problem that does not exist in Oregon. As someone who picked up a ballot on the last day from an elderly voter who might not otherwise have voted I was glad that I could do it. My concern is that Senator Morse is raising this for partisan reasons (Dems pick up more ballots than Republicans). My experience is that most voters decline to let a stranger take their ballot, but those that do give it to an identified partisan that they support, are thankful for the service.

  • (Show?)

    Paul, WHY are you opposed? What problem are we solving by eliminating this service? I know tons of people waiting in stuck traffic near Multno elections, who will be bummed if this happens.

  • (Show?)

    Paul, while echoing others, I'll also ask what your rationale is. Do you endorse Morse's, or agree with him for other reasons?

    I have no opinion off-hand--though I'm amenable to arguments about fraud. What's the law with regard to organizing third-party transportation to get voters to the polls? Isn't that the same thing?

  • (Show?)

    I find myself in a similar place Jeff, I'd be open to hearing more about the arguments concerning potential fraud...but that still might not be enough to get me to be in favor of an outright ban.

    Perhaps more regulation and training of 'third parties' is needed just not sure about completely banning.

  • (Show?)

    This smells suspiciously like the nontroversy around giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants in the runup to the 2006 election that would lead to fraudulent voting. There was no evidence for fraud in that case and so far there's no credible evidence in this case either.

    If you gave your ballot to a false-flag campaign "volunteer" and your ballot was not recorded as received by the county, wouldn't you have a decent case for vote suppression?

    In the absence of any actual cases of this, I don't think it's a good idea to put any obstacles in the way of returning one's ballot. I collect a stack of ballots every cycle from coworkers then run right down to the elections office and into the box they go. It seems needlessly restrictive to prevent private citizens from helping others get their votes counted.

  • (Show?)

    Just to be clear, the article appeared last Saturday in the Democrat Herald, authored by the editor, Hasso Hering, a noted partisan RWNJ hack.

    If diverted ballots are an actual problem, somebody needs to bring it to light. Until then, it's a red herring.

  • (Show?)

    I seem to recall that HB 3090, from the 2005 session, was a bipartisan measure that would have added a large measure of accountability to the 3rd party dropbox situation. (Basically, it required registration of 3rd party drop boxes so that counties would be able to track these and ensure that ballots were in fact being delivered. Unregistered sites were subject to removal. I forget if this applied to collections.)

  • (Show?)

    So, would there be some kind of checking at drop boxes? I mean, would you only be allowed to drop your own ballot into an official box? How would that work? Do the elections clerks really want to take that on? Or is the vision that only a letter carrier could be entrusted with a ballot, and drop boxes, official or not, would go away? Presumably I could give it to a neighbor and ask her to drop it at the post office, but not in a ballot drop? Sheesh.

    I was able to verify receipt of my ballot the day after I dropped it off, and of my kid's ballots after they mailed them in. If I gave it to my neighbor to drop off, I'd be able to verify that it arrived.

  • (Show?)

    Agree with what many above have said. Unless there is fraud taking place of which we are unaware, this is a solution in search of a problem.

    Our system works well now. As for postage-paid returns, we can't afford it and even if we could, I don't believe it would improve voter turnout. There are many ways to vote...drop it off, mail it, give it to 3rd party or go vote in person. We have a good system and shouldn't muck it up with rules that inhibit voting.

  • (Show?)

    Whatever the system, we should continually evaluate it for fairness and effectiveness. Kind of like a QC/QA program. If it is working, don't mess with it. If it is broken, fix it.

    I have not heard of any problems with our current system, but I don't know what kind of checks/audits are in place. Are there any?

  • (Show?)

    We want an election system that is convenient and secure. No, I have no evidence of ballot diversion, but do we need to wait for a problem to occur before we prepare for it?

    I am always concerned when a ballot leaves the hands of government officials. Whether Oregonians want to admit it or not, what voter fraud occurs (minuscule though it is) occurs with absentee / by mail ballots.

    There is no positive reason FOR the law. Election officials throughout the state oppose the current law.

    Jeff, very very different from transportation. In that case you are not giving your legal ballot to another individual.

    Paul, I am not sure of the WA law. I do not know of another state that allows this. Many states are moving to paid postage. 45 cents to assure complete confidence in the election system seems to me a bargain.

    • (Show?)

      Paul, you can't just say "There could be a problem, so let's fix it." and ignore the fact that the proposed solution will inconvenience some people and may function to keep some folks from having their ballots counted at all.

      I had to drive down to Marion County elections to get a ballot because mine never arrived. When I did, I took my wife's ballot and my roommate's ballot and dropped them off. Does anyone really believe that dropping off my roommate's ballot should be illegal? Really?

      Far more importantly though, a lot of people will wait will till the last minute to vote. That's just reality. In MultCo, some of those people will drive to the elections office and be confronted with huge lines of traffic. If it's illegal to hand you ballot out your car window to someone who promises to drop it off for you, a lot of those people will go home. That's just reality, Paul.

      I have no idea how many of those people there are, but I'd wager that there's way more of them than there are of people who unknowingly turned their ballot over to some miscreant who intentionally withheld it.

      If the trade-off for preventing one case of fraud is that 10 (or 100 or 1000) people don't bother to vote because it's too difficult, is that actually a trade we want to make?

      Because I think that's what you're advocating.

  • (Show?)

    I don't see how that changes things. Couldn't somebody gather up a bunch of postage paid ballots and put them in a mailbox? Doesn't it just shift drop boxes to mailboxes? I think this is a diversion.

  • (Show?)

    Paul, I think this is a problem in search of a solution. And while fraud-by-ballot-diversion is an interesting theoretical problem, in the absence of proof that it happens, I'm inclined to err on the side of grassroots GOTV efforts - whether organized (canvassing) or unorganized (one co-worker or housemate driving a stack to the dropbox.)

    That said, I could imagine that we might have a system in place that creates some accountability.

    For example, ballots might come with a small slip of paper that folks would be encouraged (or required?) to use as a receipt. It would require the printing of a name and address, as well as a signature - along with, perhaps, a note that suggests checking ID to match.

    That way, if someone discovers that their ballot was stolen, they'd have a record of who picked it up from them.

    As for postage-paid, I'm all for it. Just find the money.

  • (Show?)

    Have you ever been near the Multnomah County Elections office on the first Tuesday in November? What a nightmare.

    I've been out on corners near SE 12th and Morrison with other folks who are holding unofficial drop boxes on Election Day. Cars are lined up three deep, for blocks, coming from all directions. People drive up and wave their ballots out the window, and as the boxes fill up, we take the ballots inside to elections officials.

    There's NO WAY all of those people are going to find a parking space and walk several blocks to turn in their ballots. Some will, but most will give up and drive home with their uncounted votes.

    But maybe that's the point of making it harder to vote in urban areas -- since our votes chap the hides of Republicans who lose once MultCo is counted.

    • (Show?)

      Are the election offices only open on election day?

      • (Show?)

        No, but a ton of people are going to show up at the last minute. They just are, and we know it.

        The question is how to accommodate that, because asking them all to park their cars and walk won't work.

  • (Show?)

    If voting ON election day is ruled out or made inaccessible, wouldn't that effectively move election day to the last day to mail with guaranteed delivery?

    This is 1. As has been said already, a half-baked scheme in search of a reason to be, and 2. A diversion. While nationwide there have been serious questions about the integrity of ballot recording and counting (election fraud) in black box systems, the Rs have focused on phantom "voter fraud."

    Unless a change can be shown to provide a better measurement of the will of the electorate, then why bother?

  • (Show?)

    What a fantastic way to disenfranchise younger voters!

    I don't know about you, but among the young people I know voting parties are common. One engaged person encourages their less engaged friends to vote with the promise of intelligent discussion, information and booze. The more engaged people often offer to get the ballots in. You want to discourage this?

    I have personally picked up more than a few ballots from younger voters while canvassing - in one case the guy was only half a block from his drop box and still admitted he wouldn't have gotten it in.

    Leave "ballot fraud" as a boogieman for the conservatives, I want more turnout, not less.

    • (Show?)

      On the other side of that coin are the elderly voters who simply cannot get out to a drop-off site. Picking up these ballots provides a needed service that Morse could eliminate.

      If anything, it should be "ballot diversion" that needs to be treated harshly while leaving those who are merely delivering ballots for others alone.

      I came across a quote several weeks ago that puts another POV on this. "If you want to know what the Rs are doing, listen to what they're accusing the Ds of doing."

  • (Show?)

    Unless we'd be willing to make it so that ballots that are postmarked on election day can still be counted I would be opposed to having the postage paid.

    paying for postage for all these ballots is meaningless if a) they never get put in the mail or b) when they are put in the mail they aren't counted because they didn't arrive on election day.

    Each county already writes two checks to the postal service one for ballot delivery and another undeliverable ballots. I'm not sure cutting a third check gets anymore in turn out on election day than we already get.

    • (Show?)

      Postage paid only costs money to the account number in the indicia as the mailed pieces are processed at the post office. I can have a million postage-paid direct-mail pieces printed up, and the postage cost is exactly zero until one of them actually goes through the post office (and cost is only for each bulk rate piece that goes through). If they sat in a warehouse (or in this case voters homes) and never actually mailed, it costs me nothing in postage.

connect with blueoregon