The Mechanics of Mail-In Elections
We’re going to take a break from COVID today to talk a little bit about elections.
I’m very firmly of the opinion that, in almost every field, there are far more serious professionals just trying to do their job and help people than nefarious forces at work trying to sabotage things for political purposes.
And so it is with elections. This is not to say that nothing shady every happens, it is simply to note that there are a lot of people working to make sure elections work properly. Nothing complicated happens by accident and elections can be complicated things.
To this end, I’ve been asking around about the details of mail-in elections and I wanted to share what I’ve found.
Interview with Genya Coulter, Election Babe
Disney Shorts: Lend a Paw
Interview: Genya Coulter, Election Babe
I’ve known @ElectionBabe through Twitter for a number of years now and she has been a wonderful person to follow if you’re interested in the details of how an election actually works. She’s based out of Florida, but keeps up to date on the details of running elections across the country.
She agreed to an interview, so we sat down to talk about elections, mail-in ballots, and making sure your vote is secure and counted.
3:30 - We discuss mail-in ballots. Genya, reminds us that states need to make sure their voter roles are clean as they ballots through the mail. If you move, your vote is not portable. Do not trust the DMV to forward that information, you need to get in contact with your election office to ensure you are registered at the appropriate address (for this, you will need to check with your county, municipal, or city clerk).
7:00 - New states doing unrequested mail-in ballots are Nevada, New Jersey, Vermont, and California. Genya talks about how early deadlines for getting mail ballots to voters means that areas doing mail voting need to be much more prepared and ready to move quicker than would be for in-person voting.
9:00 - For voters who do use their mailed ballots, Genya recommends using ballot drop-boxes over using the USPS to mail the ballots. She also notes that there is (unsurprisingly) enormous demand for new drop-boxes and the company that makes them can only go so fast.
12:00 - What about mail-in ballots and fraud? In which I learn that it's illegal to forward election mail and Genya tells us about how to keep the chain of custody for our ballots to as few points as possible.
14:00 - Are you worried about the USPS and ballot delivery? Genya heavily recommends delivering ballots in person through either drop-boxes or early voting stations (check your local voting regulations to see what is permitted in your district).
16:30 - SIGN YOUR BALLOT! An unsigned ballot is the most common reason that an otherwise valid vote may be rejected. And if you have questions, contact Genya, she's on twitter at @ElectionBabe and she has been a wonderful resource for me when I have functional questions about the mechanics of elections.
An enormous “thank you” to Genya for her generosity of time. She’s always available to help people with their election questions and I appreciate that.
One thing Genya noted is that mail-in ballots are just more work for everyone. That’s a statement without any moral component to it at all, it’s just true. For mail-in voting, the ballot designs must hit earlier deadlines and certain specifications. This reminded me a conversation I had with someone who managed ballot printing for a county with a half-million population.
He noted that, prior to a vote, ballots must kept in a climate controlled room since the paper can curl from excess humidity and that will cause the ballots to fail on the scan. Each precinct must design their own ballot (which can mean hundreds of designs for a county) and ballots must be tested with the scanners to make sure that the proper selections result in the appropriate vote. A change to the ballot design after the test can result in a misalignment where the scanner is unable to appropriately process the ballot. In fact, this happened in a Baltimore election, where a single missing line of text caused a scanner misalignment and meant that poll workers had to copy the ballots by hand.
In addition to layout, the ballots must have appropriate depth of black and contrast in order to scan property. And, as Genya noted, all this must be done by a statutory deadline that is weeks earlier for mail-in votes than for in-person voting.
Elections don’t run themselves, they are designed, planned, organized, and executed by a big team of people. It will be interesting (exhausting) to see what happens when there is a lot of pressure to change the voting process on such short notice.
Disney Short: Lend a Paw
Pluto is out and about one winter day when he hears a kitten, abandoned on an ice floe, mewing desperately for help. He saves the kitten, but is displeased when it follows him home, especially when Mickey starts showing the kitten the attention that Pluto feels he deserves.
We then get the classic shoulder angel / devil device, where the devil encourages Pluto to frame the kitten in nefarious doings. After the devil has his due, Pluto reverts to his good side just in time to save the kitten from drowning in a well and it ends well for everyone involved.
This short is fine, my biggest complaint about it is that the beauty of Pluto as an animated character is how much must be communicated in body language and facial animation alone. Giving Pluto a voice through the dialoge of his completing moral impulses robs the character of the joy and power of performance.