More than you ever wanted to know about how elections work

Posted: April 7, 2011 by aliceaitch in Fun with Elections, WTF Is Wrong With Wisconsin

Sean M cynically noted a few days ago, “bring on the cheating.”

So is it happening?

For some reason one of the counties in the state is destroying ballots that ‘were not counted’ yesterday. Apparently this is a very bizarre and egregious move.

There is now a call for an injunction to preserve the ‘discarded’ ballots:

I have filed a Wisconsin Open records request with the City of Mequon demanding any ballot submitted but not cast in yesterday’s election, including any remnant of a shredded ballot. We have received reports Mequon poll workers destroyed submitted ballots before poll closing time, demanding a driver’s license number from the absentee voter. This request is unusual and the destruction of ballots is of grave concern, given the closeness of the state Supreme Court election. I will consider seeking an injuction to back up my request if Mequon officials are not copperative [sic].

Mark Belling,
April 6, 2011

(I believe this is the same Mark Belling who subs in for Rush Limbaugh at times.)

Since some of you may be unfamiliar with the provisional balloting process, I’ll explain it a bit.

Wisconsin allows the submission of provisional ballots under only two circumstances; one of those situations is when someone has a valid driver’s license (there are other rules if someone doesn’t have a driver’s license) but can not or will not provide the license number.  In this case,  the voter may vote a provisional ballot – this acts as a sort of placeholder showing that yes, the person showed up to vote at the right time and place and then is given the option to clean up the paperwork aspect of proving that they are eligible to vote at a later time.  This involves either coming back with identification information (not showing identification, just providing the drivers license number) or showing up at the municipal clerk’s office before close of business the next day.

Generally (I’m basing this off of Colorado’s election procedures, so I could be off-base on how Wisconsin does things) the process for getting a ballot is like this:

  1. You show up at the polling center with your identifying information.  It looks like in Wisconsin there’s no requirement to show identification if you’ve got a valid drivers license.
  2. At the poll book, you give your information and the election worker determines whether you’re on the voting rolls.  Sometimes the poll book is a real book, these days the poll book often a computer.
  3. If it is determined that you are on the voting rolls, you get a regular ballot.  If it cannot be determined that you are on the voting rolls, you get a provisional ballot. (Again, Wisconsin has some specific rules for this, but let’s keep it simple.)

In any situation, all ballots should be retained.  The earliest date when  materials for the Spring Election may be destroyed according to the state is July 4 (PDF link, search for ‘Spring Election may be destroyed’) – if no disputes are pending.  The clerk may decide to destroy materials on or after this date, and the only person who can legally determine that the time has come to destroy election materials is the clerk (PDF link, search for ‘destroy’).

The only situation I can come up with where (an incompetent) someone might think it is OK to destroy a ballot is if a person showed up to vote, somehow managed to make it past the poll book and get a real ballot, and then the election worker realizes their blunder and makes the voter fill out a provisional ballot instead.  But in this case we’d be talking about a ballot or two, not a substantial number.  And it’s still not OK to destroy the ballot, what this really means in this sort of case is that the election judge wasn’t properly trained that everything is saved.  Which, again, comes back to the clerk, as the clerk is responsible for training election officials.

It will be interesting to see which way this falls – if the allegations of ballot destruction are true, at best we have a case of gross incompetence.  At worst we have a situation where someone who has sworn to uphold voting rights is tossing that right out the window. Even if the worst case situation is true, I’ll be astonished if anything comes of it – when someone has so much confidence in their position that they can violate every ethical tenet of their job and not fear repercussions, they usually have the implicit, “just get the job done” backing of their highers-up.

(I would love to hat tip the Moron who posted the Pundit Press link, but I only know his real name.  If I hear back on how he wants attribution I’ll update this, but something tells me he doesn’t want me posting “Joe Schmoe from Bugtussle OK”.)

Update: Forgot to mention this little gem.  45 * 4 + 3 = …aw, fuck it.  It’s too late for math.

Update 2: H/T Unclefacts, who said when he’s drunk that he’s Sexy Unclefacts.  It seems like it should go the other way, though – when everyone else is drunk he should be Sexy Unclefacts…

  1. Sean M. says:

    To quote one of our Founding Fathers:

    “There is, at times, a thin line between cynicism and recognizing someone as a lying, cheating asshole.”

    Stuff Jefferson Said (3rd ed., revised)

  2. aliceaitch says:

    I don’t think your cynicism is wrong at all.

    The more I think about the possible ballot shredding, the more I think it’s a case of stupidity rather than malice. It’s much easier (and less traceable) to stuff the ballot boxes than to remove cast ballots.

    On the other hand, if you’re fairly certain that no one’s going to try to catch you, or that your supervisors are going to actively cover for you, then there’s no reason to try to hide anything.

  3. ConservativeintheCity says:

    Yes, this is the same Mark Belling that covers for Rush. You can find his podcast online, at his website (I get it through my phone). I grew up in Milwaukee, and even though I’m now in Chicago, he’s still my favorite talk-show host. He’s dedicated himself to fighting fire with fire after the Madison brew-ha-ha, digging up dirt on liberals, and really getting in the mud (like the left does). It’s good stuff.

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