Absentee in Person

I did my civic duty this morning, and dropped off my absentee ballot at a polling station (and Kimi’s ballot as well).

We’re permanent absentee voters. One advantage of an absentee ballot is that there’s no chance of electronic voter fraud. (Voting is one case where, as I said before, I like the low-tech approach.)

But one thing really confuses me. I like to think I’m a smart guy, but I really can’t comprehend the included voting instructions (or the similar instructions at the Santa Clara County registrar of voters site). They say that the ballot has to be received by 8pm today but nowhere do they say when it has to be mailed by.

If I mailed it today, with a postmark of election day, would it have been counted? What about tomorrow? What if I’d mailed it in January but it was delayed in the mail and didn’t arrive until next week?

The instructions seem to indicate that it has to be received today, which implies mailing it last week. But nowhere do they say when you should mail it to have a reasonable assurance of it arriving on time.

Kimi says that’s because they don’t want to take any responsibility for mail delay and don’t want to go on record with any recommendation. But I think it’s crazy to omit such an important detail. To me you simply must put big bold letters saying, “IF YOU MAIL THIS, DO SO BY FEBRUARY 1 AT THE LATEST.”

So, to be safe, I dropped off the absentee ballot in person, which saves $0.58 per ballot in postage, but felt a little weird because I wasn’t exactly absent from the polling place.

5 Responses to “Absentee in Person”

  1. Kevin Fox Says:

    My guess is that they want to play it safe. If they recommend a mailing date they may have an implied obligation to count a vote that’s ‘mailed on time’ but received late. By saying it has to be received by a certain date/time they’re putting the responsibility on you.

    There’s always a long tail in USPS delivery times, and there will always be people whose ballots didn’t make it in on time even if they were mailed in a reasonable timeframe. I think the state just doesn’t want to take responsibility for voters that will inevitably be disenfranchised.

  2. Stephen Says:

    So shouldn’t they come out and say that?

    When I asked at the polling station, three different employees told me that it would be counted if it was postmarked today.

    “Oh sure, you can mail it today, and it’ll be counted whenever it arrives as long as it’s postmarked today.” (Gee, really? What if it arrives next year?)

    Absence of information fosters confusion, I think.

  3. Kevin Fox Says:

    Hmm. I think the rule here is to take anything a poll worker says with a grain of salt. They’re not highly trained. The web site says that it has to be received by the Registrar’s Office by 8pm. If I read that, I wouldn’t count on a postmark to save me. :-)

  4. Stephen Says:

    I agree that poll workers are not exactly trustworthy, and it’s pretty clear they’re wrong.

    But shouldn’t the instructions on the absentee ballot and on the SCC site SAY something along the lines of, “Dummy, don’t mail it today, you should have mailed it a week ago”?

  5. pdhenry Says:

    Take anything a polling place worker says with a large grain of salt – witness the “invisible ink pens” some SuperTuesday voters were given.

    I don’t think it could be clearer than saying the ballot much be RECEIVED by a certain day. It’s very clear what the Board of Elections should do with a ballot received after the deadline.

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