Nobody’s Perfect!

Breaking Voting News

Read the email below the fold from – it appears that the California HAVA (Help Americans Vote Act) registration system – as implemented by California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson – is killing over 40% of the attempts to register that were made in Los Angeles County this quarter.

As I’ve said over, and over, and over again, we need voting systems that a) are transparent so that people trust them; b) are auditable so that they can be checked; and c) work.

The vote-input and vote-counting machines are only a small part of that system. It starts with letting people register when they ought to be able to.
—–Original Message—–
From: Conny McCormack
Sent: Monday, March 20, 2006 5:15 PM
To: ‘XXXXXX@ss.ca.gov'; ‘XXXXXX@ss.ca.gov'; ‘XXXXXX@ss.ca.gov';
‘XXXXXX@ss.ca.gov’
Cc: Michael XXXXXXX; Ray XXXXXX; Kristin XXXXXX;
‘XXXXXX@solanocounty.com’

Subject: Calvoter Stats since Jan 1, 2006 for L.A. County

SUBJECT: Follow-up to 3/16/06 meeting at SOS office re Statewide Database process (i.e. post HAVA Calvoter system) -per your request at the meeting for stats to date for L.A. County

There were 34,064 voter registration forms received and data entered by L.A. County, and then sent to CalVoter, between Jan 1 and Mar 15, 2006 (this has been a very slow time for L.A. County. As we mentioned at the meeting, during heavy election periods we routinely receive upward of 20,000 voter registration forms each day). These stats (below) reveal that 14,629 or 42.9% of these individuals’ voter registration records have been returned to us by your office as invalid. Due to SOS regulations, these individuals are now fatally pended on the CalVoter system. Such status means they are not eligible to receive a sample ballot (which also informs them of their assigned neighborhood voting location) nor to receive an absentee ballot by mail if they were to apply for one. Prior to Jan 1, 2006, ALL of these individuals, would have been placed on the voter file at the time of data entry. Additionally, assuming they met the VR deadline, they would have received sample ballots for upcoming elections in their area and would have been allowed to vote either via absentee ballot or at their assigned polling place via a regular (i.e. not a provisional) ballot. (Caveat: beginning in 2004, first time voters in federal elections who did not provide a copy of I.D. when registering to vote by mail would have been asked to show I.D. at the polls prior to casting a regular ballot. Additionally, according to SOS directive at that time, absentee voters would have been verified, and their ballots counted, if the signature on his/her voter registration record compared favorably with the signature on his/her absentee ballot envelope, regardless of whether or not s/he enclosed a copy of I.D. with their absentee ballot or absentee ballot application).

The individuals caught in the first group below (i.e. NO MATCH) actually DID provide their Calif. Driver’s License # (CDL) or CA State I.D. (CID) on the voter registration form they submitted between Jan 1-Mar 15, 2006. However, because of some difference in how their name (or possibly birthdate) appeared in the DMV records compared to the information they provided on their registered voter affidavit, they are being prohibited from being listed on the voter rolls at this time. We (counties) are told to contact them to get “the information needed.” However, they already have provided the info required to be eligible to register to vote. They also provided their CDL or CID # and yet they are still “without Registered Voter (RV) status.” You reiterated at Thurs’ meeting that your CalVoter system, and your own regulations (drawn up in conjunction with the USDOJ), prohibit these individuals from being listed on the voter file in any fashion, i.e. they are “fatal” pends. We suggested a “soft pend” so that they could be included on the RV file, perhaps with a notation to “show I.D.” to verify identify at the polls (or, for absentee voters, provide it in absentee ballot return envelope) but we learned your system has no such capability, i.e. a person attempting to register to vote is either IN or OUT with nothing in-between.

Also, fully 1,594 (4.68%) of these records (below) were not accepted due to CalVoter “system error” such as a “time out” or other “down time” of your system. These individuals’ right to become a RV is now impacted not by eligibility criteria, but by an imperfect system (all systems are imperfect exposing a fatal flaw in having a potential voter’s status impacted – not by Constitutional eligibility criteria – but rather by technology).

Taken together, these two categories comprise 22.65% of the voter registration forms received by L.A. County since the first of the year.

Additionally, 6,438 (18.9%) of the individuals in stats below did not provide a CDL or CID # when attempting to register or re-register to vote (as we explained, 2/3 of the voter registration affidavits we receive are typically re-registrations, i.e. occur due to a voter changing his/her name, address, pol party affiliation, etc. In other words they have been a CA registered voter in the past and many have voted in past CA elections). You indicated that since these individuals have either a CDL or CID (according to DMV records) each one must personally provide it (either on another form or orally via a telephone call) in order to become a RV. In other words, even an exact match of another gov’t agency’s records is insufficient to clear their registrations, regardless of whether or not these individuals are a new registrant or a re-registrant.

The first three categories listed below total 14,153 or 41.5% of the VR affidavits our County received between Jan 1 and March 15.

Of course the FAQs sent to county registrars and posted on your website for the past several weeks also say the same thing as is described above re what the SOS is requiring the counties to do with all VR affidavits received since Jan 1, 2006. Needless to say, the numbers shown below are not small. However, as I mentioned at the Thursday meeting, as well as on several conference calls with SOS staff, even if one person is impacted inappropriately that is one too many with regard to their precious and Constitutionally guaranteed right to register to vote based on appropriate and legal eligiblity criteria.

UNSUCCESSFUL VALIDATIONS

NO_MATCH – 6121 (17.97%)
EXACT – 6438 (18.90%)
SYSTEM ERR – 1594 (4.68%)
SOUNDS – 130 (0.38%)
SMART – 9 (0.03%)
MULTIPLE – 43 (0.13%)
INVALID – 294 (0.86%)
SUB TOTAL – 14629 (42.95%)

SUCCESSFUL VALIDATIONS
EXACT – 19435 (57.05%)

GRAND TOTAL – 34064

7 thoughts on “Nobody’s Perfect!”

  1. It is unfortunate that the franchise is held so valuable that any impediment to voting must be removed, and yet so cheap that it must not be protected against fraud.
    We are seeing, with the New Orleans Katrina aid that when you demand immediate action from a bureaucracy, the vultures feed. I want to see vote or registration fraud punished by prison time and by permanent loss of the right to vote. I want to see some permanent, verifiable I.D. llike thumb print.

  2. A great way to sabotage the verification process would be to set the match criteria so tightly that a lot of false rejections would result. Then a bunch of the rejectees can get together, file a civil rights suit, and get the process thrown out. Bingo! No verification anymore, and massive fraud continues as usual.

  3. Guys, while I don’t doubt that there is a degree of fraudulent registration, there’s no evidence that it’s notably greater today than it has been over history.

    Clearly any new voting system needs to be an end-to-end system (registration to results); but focusing on this one aspect may keep the issues with the whole system from being carefully thought through.

    And if the conservatives are the only ones who care about registration issues and the liberals are the only ones who care about voting issues, nothing will get done.

    A.L.

  4. I’d suggest that whatever the rate of registration fraud is, 40%+ over LA County is pretty unlikely. And the nature of the errors being described adds fuel to that belief.

    Which means this is a system that needs to get a fix so it works with human realities, not against them (as so many computerized systems do). More to the point, voting is sufficiently important that using actual elections as beta tests is a pretty stunningly stupid idea. Yet this appears to be the M.O.

    Liberal or conservative, I think we can all agree that this is pretty poor performance.

  5. Read the email below the fold from – it appears that the California HAVA (Help Americans Vote Act) registration system – as implemented by California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson – is killing over 40% of the attempts to register that were made in Los Angeles County this quarter.

    Actually it appears that the reason why 42.95% of the applications were turned is because in 17.97% of the cases the person registering to vote used an ID that didn’t match their information on the voter registration application and in 18.90% of the cases, they didn’t provide ID like they apparently were supposed to. In other words, 37 percent of the people in this group who registered to vote got their applications tossed because either they failed to provide proper ID or didn’t check beforehand to make sure the information on their ID was accurate.

    The other 4.68 percent who got theirs tossed because of a system error though are worthy of sympathy and that’s a problem that needs to be fixed.

  6. Thorley, “not matching” can be something as simple as the computer saying you’re in “Suite 406″ at whatever address, and you describing it as “Apt. 406″. The percentage may be larger than you think, therefore.

    I do back denial of registration to people who do not provide ID, however. That 19% simply has to follow the rules, which are in place for good and valid reasons re: fraud.

  7. Thorley, if you read the email the issue isn’t that people with mismatched info weren’t registered, it’s that “these individuals are now fatally pended on the CalVoter system.” If someone working for me wrote a system that handled frequent exceptions that lamely, I’d fire them.

    A.L.

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