Question about US voting


#1

So I’ve been following US politics more than I probably should. Some aspects of the voting system are hard to wrap your head around if you’re not used to them – such as the fact that people have to register to vote, rather than, you know, just getting your voting card sent to you because you are eligible to vote – but recent news items about Florida have left me rather flabbergasted. Apparently, votes are being rejected because of mismatched signatures. Is it really the case that in US elections, people have to sign their ballots? Meaning that it’s not a secret whom you voted for, but other people – election officials, at the very least – can actually check this? Or am I misunderstanding the news?


#2

You are right. It is not worth the effort.


#3

[Removed after fos1 removed the content of his post.]


(Hanon Ondricek) #4

I believe with mail-in ballots, the voter has to sign the outside of the envelope - as you’d sign any legal document saying “this is all true, I’m not trying to commit fraud here” etc. Then when the ballot is accepted, the contents of the envelope with the votes, which are anonymous, are added to the pile and are no longer associated with the signature. If an election official really wanted to read your name and know what senator you voted for they probably could, but by the sheer volume of stuff they are hand-processing, that’s not really feasible.

The electoral process in the US is certainly a mess, and I’m hoping that it gets fixed soon. One of the Democrats’ goals to start is automatic voter registration.


(Andrew Plotkin) #5

Right. This also applies to early voting (which I did this year because of travel plans).

US elections are a mess, and the messiest part is that the rules are entirely local. Different states or even different towns are free to set their own voting policies. So reforms have to be fought for drop by drop.


(bg) #6

Where I live (in the US, but not in Florida), when you arrive at the polling place, you have go to a check-in table, and sign your name in a book. Then you wait in line for a voting booth to open up, and when it’s your turn, you go in the booth and vote. You don’t sign the ballot itself.

But yeah, I think the process can vary depending on where you live and if you are doing a mail-in ballot.


(Hanon Ondricek) #7

The part that stupified me when I learned it is that some areas do not bother counting the mail-in ballots unless they are needed. It makes sense, but it’s a little demoralizing.

For example, if in a local election they receive 100 mail-in ballots, and Candidate A beats Candidate B by 1000 votes, they don’t even need to open the mail-in ballots because even if all 100 mail-in votes are for Candidate B it doesn’t matter. If the vote totals are 5050/5000, they count the mail-in votes.

Where I think it gets sketch is when partisan poll officials are like “CNN CALLED IT ELECTION OVER - SHRED EVERYTHING” at 11:30 on election night when their candidate is ahead. Elections have been getting flipped all week in California, where they will count their ballots and certify when they are good and ready - which is probably how it should be everywhere.


(matt w) #8

As everyone else said, there’s nowhere where voters have to sign the ballots themselves. So at least in theory the vote itself will always be secret.

And as folks have pointed out, the rules vary from place to place. When I go in to vote (which I usually do on election day itself, as the polling place is my children’s school so I’m there anyway), I just tell the poll worker who I am, they look me up and check me off, and I vote. No signature required. My state is also overwhelmingly white. States with larger minority populations are more likely to pass laws to make voting harder and less convenient, and the impacts of those fall disproportionately on minorities.

The issue with ballots being rejected for mismatched signatures is very controversial, as the people who are throwing ballots out for signature mismatches don’t know what they’re doing. The law about signature match in Florida has been partially but not completely overturned.


#9

Yes, this is the way it is in my state as well. Sometimes I’ve told them my name for them to look up in the book but most of the time I just show them my voter registration card with my name on it because some people get confused trying to say or spell my last name.


#10

It’s the same in my state except you have to show a photo ID to prove it’s really you. If you don’t have a passport, driver’s license, or college ID, you can get a voter ID at the DMV for free. The burden of taking time off of work to stand in line at the DMV or figuring out transportation to get there discriminates against the poor. The photo ID law was enacted within the last 10 years with the intention of voter supression, yet the courts let the law stand. :cry:

This year I did in-person absentee at the local library because I was visiting my mom in Florida on election day. I accompanied her to the polling place. Process was much the same as in my home state. Did not witness any shenanigans.

Poll workers generally tend to be mostly senior age and mostly women where I’m from. I call them the little old ladies of democracy and they patriotically defend our country and our freedom by overseeing the elections. I get teary-eyed just thinking about them.


#11

Thanks for the clarification!

(In the Netherlands, you always need to bring a passport, identity card or a driver’s license when you vote; so I guess that counts as a voter ID law? But the context is probably very different. You’re never more than a 2-hour drive away from a foreign country, so even people who don’t have a driver’s license almost always have either a passport or an identity card. And we don’t have the kind of two party system where a party in power can benefit from engaging in voter suppression.

On the positive side, you don’t have to register as a voter: your municipality just sends you the necessary voting card if you’re eligible to vote.)


#12

Most states allow registration at the polling place on the day of election if you are not already in the big book of voters. You have to bring proof of residency which can be as simple as a renter’s agreement or a utility bill plus the aforementioned photo ID. No big deal-- just stand in two lines instead of one.

The odd thing about it is that you don’t have to prove citizenship or eligibility. For example, you don’t have to provide a birth certificate or naturalization papers. I supposed they’re running your ID through various databases but mostly they are relying on the fact that no one risks committing a felony to vote.


(matt w) #13

Same day registration is available in some states, but not “most” really–here’s a map of where it’s available. (Though it’s probably available to more people than that map makes it seem, since something like one-eighth of all Americans live in California). I also think North Dakota has no voter registration at all. Some states like New York have really restrictive voter registration deadlines.


#14

Thanks for clarifying that. It’s strange that elections for national offices all have different rules across the states.

Even stranger is the electoral college for presidential elections. Why does one vote in North Dakota count more than one vote in a more populus state? It’s a bad system.


(Andrew Plotkin) #15

There is a long story behind this, going back to the 1700s, which has been thoroughly discussed elsewhere. I think rehashing it here would be more off-topic than the forum really deserves. :confused:


(Marshal Tenner Winter) #16

Here we go again.

So now a completely valid inquiry about the Electoral College would be “more off-topic” in a thread called “Question About US Voting”?

I don’t know what you have against free-flowing discussion of political matters, zarf, but man, it’s irksome when you constantly try to shut threads down when people are discussing things.

Is it because you feel none of us plebians can adequately discuss this without your guidance and you just don’t have the time to inform our helpless, ignorant rabble?

If people are calmly discussing things ON TOPIC in a thread, why do you insist they cease?


(matt w) #17

Moderator comment:

This whole thread is off-topic from the topic of interactive fiction, which would perhaps be a reasonable sense of “more off-topic” to use. But this is the “General and Off-Topic Talk” subforum, so I don’t think it should be a problem to continue the discussion this way, as long as the discussion remains, as you say, calm. Which, ahem.

So as a moderator I don’t think anyone should feel like they shouldn’t be able to answer bikibird’s question, keeping in mind that political discussions can sometimes get heated and we all want to remain respectful, not that that has been an issue so far.

In my non-mod capacity (but non-historian), this and this seem like good reads on the subject of the Electoral College and its disproportion.

[EDIT: fixed the link formatting and changed something that didn’t make sense]


#18

Just to clarify, I wasn’t intending to pick on North Dakotans. I’ve known and worked with several of them-- fine people.

I just meant it as an example of some of the weirdness of the U.S. electoral process.


#19

Well the non proportionality of the presidental electoral college derives from the non proportionality of the senate, which in turn depends on the notion of states rights, and the nature of the USA which is a federation. As in many countries, you have one house which treats people as equals, and one which treats states as equals.

The real oddity in my non-US mind is that states can punish “faithless” electors (or perhaps that you don’t elect more unpledged electors). Either switch to direct democracy, or let your representatives do their jobs!


#20

Disproportionate representation in the senate doesn’t bother me. Different regions of the country have different issues because of geography, climate, demographic, and history. The minority voices need to be heard. The senate is a check on the tyranny of the majority, or should be.

However, I would be much happier if the president who leads us all was selected by a popular vote.

Regarding Danii’s comments on state’s rights–

(Feel free to mod this if I’ve strayed too far off topic in the off topic forum.)

So there are three sets of rights to be concern about: individual, state, and federal. There are many examples in history about state’s rights in the U.S. that come down to states taking civil rights from individuals vs. the feds protecting those rights on behalf of the individual.

So, while decentralizing power is generally a good tyranny reduction strategy, one has to careful. In looking at state’s rights issues, is the intent to centralize rights that should reside at the individual level (tyranny increase) or are they attempting to decentralize regulation that’s at the federal level (tyranny decrease)?

I’ve deliberately stayed away from specific issues because I want to keep this to an abstract discussion of systems, not a heated debate about U.S. politics. (I’m so worn out by our politics right now.)