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Evolution: Voting by mail

Evolution: Voting by mail

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Evolution: Voting by mail

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  1. Evolution: Voting by mail x UMCA Spring Conference April 16, 2010 Springdale, UT

  2. Panelists • Fay Cope – Springdale Town Clerk • Melanie Abplanalp – Washington Co. Election Clerk • David Ence – Kanarraville Town Clerk • Elaine Harris – Rockville Town Clerk • Nancy Leigh – Brian Head Town Clerk • Karri Olds – Virgin Town Clerk • Fran Rex – Leeds Town Clerk x

  3. The Law • 20A-3-302 • Precinct(s) smaller than 500 registered voters • County Commission makes the determination 60 days before the election • Ballots are mailed with a statement that there is no polling place for the election, instructions for voting, and a colored warning • County clerk verifies the signatures and contacts voters with questionable signatures • If signature can’t be verified, the ballot is disqualified x

  4. Ordinance requireD – Sample • AN ORDINANCE CHANGING THE FORM OF ELECTION FOR MUNICIPALITY TO A BY-MAIL (ABSENTEE BALLOT) PRECINCT • WHEREAS, ____________Municipality___has conducted its municipal election in the paper ballot form requiring poll workers and election judges in order to conduct a municipal election; and • WHEREAS, the __________________County Commission has authorized a by-mail (absentee ballot) precinct to be established in municipality ,Utah because there are under 500 registered voters in the precinct, as per Utah Code Annotated 20A-3-302; and • WHEREAS, the Municipality, Utah desires to have a higher voter turnout in its municipal elections and reduce the cost of such elections; and • NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED by the __________ Council of the Municipality, Utah that Section 1-7 (your citation) of the Municipality Code shall be amended as follows: • SECTION 1-7-1 (insert proper citation here) • A: Due to the fact that its precinct contains less than 500 registered voters, and having been granted authorization by the County Commission, Municipality hereby identifies itself as a vote by-mail (absentee ballot) precinct, which eliminate s the requirement for poll workers and election judges, except for countin g judges, during early voting and on all election days, including primary, special and general. An absentee ballot will be mailed to each valid registered voter pursuant to Utah Code Annotated 20A-3-302. • If any previous ordinances or resolutions are inconsistent with the expressed terms of this Ordinance, they shall be repealed. • NOW HEREBY BE IT ORDAINED BY Municipality COUNCIL that this ordinance shall become effective upon passage and posting. x

  5. Who’s handling the ballots in Municipal election years? Municipal clerk vs. County Clerk • Pros for the County: • They can verify as they go • Lots easier for the municipality but less control • Sometimes less conflict in the municipality • Pros for the Municipality: • Can watch for unsigned ballots and measure returns more quickly • More involvement in the process, more assurance, more personal interaction with voters • Sometimes less conflict in the municipality x

  6. Order supplies • Tell the printer whose name goes on the envelopes – yours or the County Clerk’s • Make sure the envelope stock will be heavy enough – and blue • Ask if the envelope will remain sealed after signature verification • Ask if you can design your own ballot enclosure or proofread the ones they design; verify they will be colored paper • If you’re doing ‘early warning’ postcards, ask them about that service • Make sure they send you the vote by mail ballot reconciliation form, not the usual one • Ask for a BIG bag or box for your ballot envelopes x

  7. Inform the public before the election! • August (Assuming there isn’t a primary) - Send an informative letter as to how the “Help America Vote Act” (HAVA) changed the way elections are handled and the positive aspects of voting by mail. (Sample in appendix,) • September – Send a postcard to your registered voters notifying them that your precinct(s) will be voting by mail this year and alerting them that this will be the only opportunity they will have to vote and their ballots will be coming soon. (Early warning postcards) • Water bill • Newsletter • Website x

  8. Early Warning Postcard Sample Dear Registered Voter, The Washington County Commissioners are allowing Rockville, and other precincts with less than 500 registered voters, to vote in the upcoming municipal election by mail on a trial basis. Besides the convenience to the voter, voting by mail is a considerable financial savings to the Town.   If you find it convenient to fill out your ballot and cast your vote from your home, you can let the County Commissioners know you would like to retain the right to vote by mail by responding with a strong voter turnout.  Within the next ten days, your ballot will arrive in the mail. DO NOT THROW IT AWAY BY MISTAKE – IT’S THE ONLY WAY YOU’LL BE ABLE TO VOTE IN THE COMING ELECTION. There will be no polling place on Election Day. By-mail voting information on blue paper will be included with your ballot. If you have any questions, call 772-0992. Elaine M. Harris, Town Clerk x

  9. Springdale Town received approval from Washington County Commission to vote by mail in 2009 in order to test how well it works and how much voters like it. They already know that it saves taxpayers a bundle. We want this election year to be very successful – and easy for voters, too. Watch your mailbox for your ballots soon. Don’t throw them away – it’s the only way you can vote! Voting by mail takes the place of early voting. Voting instructions will be included with the ballots. Mailed ballots must be postmarked no later than September 14. TIME TO VOTE! Primary Election September 15 Candidates for two (4-year) council seats: (You’ll vote for two people.)  John Callahan Colin Dockstader Brion Sabbatino Donna L. Taylor Jonathan Zambella x

  10. CHALLENGES • Challenges can be made in three different ways: First: The Election Official may review the voter register and question a voter as to their residency. This can be done by establishing a standard in which residency is identified. • Example: All voters must have a physical property address which must have a residential and/or commercial / residential structure on the property and that property has, at minimum, garbage collection fees associated with it. Since every resident within the town boundaries are required to pay for garbage services. x

  11. The Election Official notifies the County Clerk of the challenges and the County Clerk sends the voter a letter stating they must provide sufficient evidence that they are a resident of the municipality and will identify a time frame in which they must respond. • Second: The public has the right to submit a formal challenge form that can be obtained by the County Clerk. When filling out the challenge, the person must identify as to why they believe the voter cannot vote in the municipality for which they are registered. x

  12. x

  13. Third: In 20A-3-305 paragraph (3) it says “If the election officer (County in this case) determines that the absentee voter is required to show valid voter identification as indicated in the official register, the election officer shall:             (a) issue the voter a provisional ballot in accordance with section 20A-3-105.5;             (b) instruct the voter to include a copy of the voter’s valid voter identification with the returned ballot;             (c) provide the voter clear instructions on how to vote a provisional ballot; and             (d) comply with the requirements of Subsection (2) x

  14. The County’s address labels that come to you have all of the same information. They give the voter’s identification #, party affiliation, name and address. They may also include a small box with the letters ID enclosed. If this appears the voter has NOT shown a election official, (County, or State DMV worker) any identification. This voter is REQUIRED by law to show Valid Voter Identification BEFORE the ballot can be counted. If the voter does not comply, then we cannot count their ballot. We (County) issue a provisional Ballot along with the State valid Voter ID requirements and a letter from the County. x

  15. Candidate information website • Send candidate information to your county clerk, who will send it to the state website Candidate website and information can be found at The Candidates have been issued a challenge. By August 20th, 2010 the candidates (if they wish to participate) must submit to the County Clerk’s office some basic information. The State webpage will be ONLINE 8-25-2010. Also there will be a link from the Washington County’s website at These 2 sources of information can be linked with your individual web pages or blogs to get into the voters’ homes easily. • If you desire, build a blog or have someone build a blog about candidates – ask the candidates to prepare a statement or answer your list of questions. x

  16. Ready, set, go! • Mailing list/Ballot register from County • Mailing the ballots • Stuffing the envelopes • To pay the postage or not to pay the postage – don’t use a postage meter on return envelopes, use stamps if you’re going to pay postage • Insert, instruction sheet, properly folded ballot and return envelope • Number the labels - verify that the ballot is properly assigned x

  17. GETTING READY TO MAIL: ONE OCD CLERK’S PLAN • Elaine, I got my ballots but still don’t have labels –this is how I ’got ready to get ready’. • I put stamps on the return envelopes (I’ll meter the outgoing envelopes.) • I folded ballots and counted them into stacks of 25, paper clipped. • I counted both kinds of envelopes into stacks of 25 • I assembled the colored information sheet, the white information sheet and the ballot with the number showing • I tucked all that into the flap of the return envelope then tucked the whole assembly into the flap of the outgoing envelope, with the ballot on top, number showing. Since I had everything (except info sheets) counted into stacks of 25, I could verify that I had everything I needed in a packet. I kept the ballot/envelope assemblies in rubber-banded packs of 25 so that when I get the labels I can keep myself on track. • When I get the labels, everything will be ready for me to assign the ballot number, affix the labels to the envelopes and stuff the envelopes with the right ballot. It meant handling everything a few times, which wasn’t super efficient, but since I did it alone and without labels to work with, I found it easy and felt comfortable that I had double-checked myself as well as possible. • Fay x

  18. Another ballot stuffing method, using more hands Procedure for assembly if supplying return postage:  #1 Person – Supplies needed: Postage stamps, outgoing and return envelopes.   Put postage stamps on both outgoing and return envelopes and pass to #2 person with outgoing envelope on top. Put together quite a few sets (12) and then move to the #4 positions for a while.  #2 Person – Supplies needed: Address labels and ballots.   Record ballot number on last mailing label, place 1st mailing label on outgoing envelope, place second label on return envelope and pass ballot and both envelopes to #3 person.  #3 Person – Supplies needed: Ballot instructions and vote-by-mail notice. Fold ballot (fold to line below Clerk’s signature so stub is extended) and stuff into that fold the ballot instructions and the vote-by-mail notice on colored paper; stuff that group into the flap of the return envelope and place into the mailing envelope. Pass this packet to the #4 person. #4 Person  Seal the envelope. x

  19. Sample Insert ATTENTION VOTERS IN THE ROCKVILLE VOTE-BY-MAIL PRECINCT If you fail to follow the instructions that are included with this absentee ballot, you will be unable to vote in this election because there will be No Polling Place for this voting precinct on Election Day. For your ballot to be counted, your ballot must be mailed and clearly postmarked before Election Day (no later than November 2) or returned in person to the Town Clerk by Friday, October 30, 2009. Don’t wait until Election Day to return your ballot. By law, it won’t be counted. Don’t remove the numbered stub from your ballot. You are in the Rockville Precinct of Washington County. If you have any questions, contact your Town Clerk at 772-0992. x

  20. If you handle the ballots: Ballot Register – Receiving the Ballots • (1)The County Clerk’s office shall provide to each Municipality the labels for the By Mail or Absentee Ballots. Please remember that the County Clerk has two deadlines for voters to properly register to vote before the up coming election cycles. These are 30 days prior to the Election Day for any By Mail Voter Registrations and DMV Voter Registrations. Then the County Clerk’s office may accept voter registrations in person until 14 days prior to the Election Day. If the County Clerk’s office receives more registrations for your municipality, they will contact you and mail out any NEW label sheets. Or, if you prefer you may be able to pick them up. x

  21. (2) The County Clerk shall provide an Official Register Book to each municipality, after the deadline for voter registration has past, and all of the completed voter registration forms are input into VISTA, (Statewide Voter Information System) usually the Monday before the Election Day, thus updating the voter rolls with any newly registered voters. x

  22. After the ballots have been mailed, the County Clerk’s office (Washington County) finds that it is easy to track the information from the label sheets, all that needs to be done is for the County to receive either the original label sheets or a copy of them. Hopefully all of the municipalities document the ballot number that is issued to each voter on the label. The County Clerk’s office, can then just quickly scan and enter the ballot number into our VISTA system. Then the County Clerk can send you an Excel spreadsheet so you can quickly see the information for each voter. x

  23. The County Clerk will provide you with an Excel ballot register after you have emailed the ballot info from your labels, if you request one. This saves you from having to handwrite your ballot register. This spreadsheet will also be used to track the mailing date of the ballots, date the ballot was returned and any spoiled ballots or re-issued ballots. • Entering the date you received the ballot into the spreadsheet is called ‘receiving the ballot’. • The ballot envelopes should be date-stamped as you receive them. x

  24. Ballot register, continued • Check each ballot to make sure the envelope is signed before ‘receiving’ the ballot. If you receive on unsigned, call the voter and have them come in to sign it before you receive it. • If people vote in person and attempt to give you their ballot envelope unsealed, don’t accept it until they seal it. Let them know you respect the privacy of their vote. • Each day, sort the ballots you’ve gotten into alphabetical order. This makes it quicker to put the date received into the spreadsheet. • After you enter the first ballot, use the copy keystroke (Control C) on the date entered. Then you can use the paste keystroke (Control V) on subsequent entries. Saves typing. x

  25. After you have everything entered, put a rubber band around that day’s ballots, because the County Clerk needs them in order by date to scan them. The rubber bands make it easy to keep the ballots in order by date in whatever container you’re keeping your ballots. This container should be kept in a secure place – a safe or a locked cabinet. Never leave ballots in an unsecure situation. If you aren’t going to be there any day, make sure someone puts the ballots that come in the mail in a secure place and that they are kept separate from the ones you’ve processed. (Outside the box, but still locked away.) x

  26. Sample ballot register x

  27. Signature Verification • The County Clerk must verify the signatures on the envelopes to determine if they match the voter database. The only thing that the County Clerk’s office needs is for you to date stamp and bundle the ballots by day, which makes the verification process much quicker and more accurate. If the County Clerk’s office finds signatures that DO NOT match they can also look up the original voter registration form and see if this signature matches. If the signature DOES NOT match, then the County Clerk should call the voter (if possible) to come in and clear up any problems, or, the Municipal Clerk can spoil the ballot and re-issue another to the voter, if time permits. Then at the end of the batch, the County Clerk’s office can re-run your Excel spreadsheet if you would like them to. Most Municipal Clerks use the original list and log in the date the ballots are returned to them before they come into the office. x

  28. Counting Down • Visual aids • Nagging emails x

  29. Votes Needed! x

  30. x

  31. x

  32. x

  33. Not even half of you have voted! You’re running out of time!  If you have already cast your vote, you can righteously bug everyone around you to do the same. 3/5 of a person  Before 1866, the Constitution of the United States deemed anyone who wasn’t a ‘free person’ (read slave) to be 3/5th of a person for the purposes of determining how many legislators a state was allowed. The 14th Amendment of the Constitution, ratified in 1866, guaranteed citizenship to former slaves and changed their status to ‘whole’ persons.  It wasn’t until 1870 that the 15th Amendment was ratified, prohibiting states from ‘using a citizen’s race, color or previous status as a slave as a voting qualification.’ (Women were still essentially slaves then [as opposed to former slaves], so this amendment didn’t ensure their right to vote.)  Utah wasn’t yet a state when this amendment was ratified. If you really believe you’re a whole person, prove it. Vote today! x

  34. Counting at last Instructions for Processing and Counting Ballots for Mail-in Election Items needed to begin: County register book (voter register) Excel spreadsheet ballot register (ballot register) Ballots, used & verified and unused Mailing labels Letter opener ‘By Mail’ stamp, if used Several sharp pencils and a pencil sharpener Several pens Two tally sheets Envelopes for disposition of ballots, total votes cast, ballot stubs, ballots and official election returns Judges’ pay request Disposition of ballots report Total Votes Cast report Large paper bag or box for ballot envelopes If poll watchers are present, they must provide affidavits (see appendix) x

  35. Discuss with all present the importance of maintaining ballot secrecy and keeping any information about the vote or the results secret until after the polls close. Cell phones are allowed in the room during the count, but they must be turned off. Poll watchers must remain silent and not interfere with the process unless they contest a vote. Explain penalties for violation (see 20A-3-201(c), 20A-5-705, and 20A-5-701). Any poll watchers and judges must agree to these terms or be removed. Verify that the number of ballot envelopes matches the number of ballots received on the Excel spreadsheet ballot register. Verify that the number of mailing labels sent equals the number of names listed in the voter register book. If they don’t match, the difference can be determined at this point or it can wait until the tally is complete. x

  36. Ballot verification begins: One judge or election official reads the name on the ballot, opens the envelope and either passes it to another judge or removes the ballot only far enough to read the number out loud. The second judge marks in the voter register book that the person has voted by mail. (Stamp or write ‘By Mail’.) The third judge marks the ballot register that the ballot has been verified. (Note: it isn’t uncommon for spouses to exchange ballots. If that happens, you can choose to change the numbers on the ballot register and accept the ballots.) When the registers are marked, the 1st judge initials the stub and removes it from the ballot. The first judge can then remove the ballot and place it, unopened, in the ballot box. That person should verify that only one ballot was in the envelope and that the envelope is empty when the ballot is cast. x

  37. After all ballots are verified and in the ballot box, the tally can begin. Only poll watchers and counting judges should be present for step 5. We believe the election official should step out until the tally is complete. (20A-4-105 (7)) Remove all ballots from the ballot box and count them into stacks of 20. Verify that the total votes cast in the voter register book equals the total number of ballots. If there is a discrepancy, the ballot envelopes can be used to resolve the difference. While the other judges tally, if there is a 4th poll worker present, that person can recount the ballot envelopes and place them in a bag with the count on the outside of the bag. This can also be done by the election official outside the counting room. Otherwise, this can be done after the tally. x

  38. Two judges will mark tally sheets with pencil while the 3rd reads the votes cast. By separating the ballots into stacks of 20, the tally can be periodically checked to make sure both tally sheets agree. Marking the place in the tallies with a red dot at each pause helps determine the starting place for each reconciliation. (i.e., III.) If a cast ballot is unmarked or doesn’t have as many votes marked as indicated, it is not considered spoiled and should be counted as a cast ballot. Ballots that have more votes cast than allowed are considered spoiled and are marked ‘spoiled’ on the back. If you can’t reasonably determine the voter intent, consider it a spoiled ballot. Spoiled ballots are accounted for separately from the others, so keep them in a separate stack. If the judges can’t reconcile a tally, we think it is appropriate only at that time to invite the election official in to help reconcile. x

  39. After all the ballots are counted and the tally sheets agree, complete the ‘Total Votes Cast’ report and sign it. At this point, the election official may be invited back into the count room. Undeliverable ballots should be so indicated in the voter register book so the county has that information. Complete the Disposition of ballots using the voter register book, ballot register and ballots. This form was not created for mail-in elections. It will be necessary to write in lines for unreturned ballots, lost ballots, ballots destroyed by the post office, undeliverable ballots or other unforeseen mailed ballots issues. Provisional or spoiled ballots will be accounted for, also. Unmarked ballots are counted in ‘Number of Absent-Voter Ballots received’. Mark the top line, ‘Number of Official Ballots received’ -0- because all ballots are absent voter ballots. All lines referring to Poll Book counts are marked -0- because no poll book is used. x

  40. If not done earlier, reconcile any differences between the voter register book and the mailing labels. Hopefully there won’t be a difference, but if there is, the county needs to know. Place used and unused ballots, stubs, total votes cast report and judges pay request into the appropriate envelopes. Ballot envelopes should be counted and placed in a bag or box and kept with returns. Complete Poll Worker Pay Voucher. Deliver all sealed envelopes to town clerk/election official. x

  41. Is my mail-in vote secret? Secret ballots  Voting was not secret in the US until the mid-1800s. Before that, voters would be sworn in and announce their choices by voice. The secret ballot box was seen as a way to increase voter participation because voters couldn’t be scrutinized or intimidated by how they voted. The secret ballot box has the potential for fraud because there is no direct verification that the voter’s intent was followed. Voting electronically also has that problem. (Source: Some people are concerned that mail-in-ballots aren’t secret. It’s true that there is a very tiny opportunity for the judges to see your ballot and compare it to your name, but that possibility goes away if you refold your ballot in the same way it’s sent to you. The judges don’t ever unfold the ballots until they are separated from any identifier and all the ballots are put in a ballot box. Besides, those counting judges work fast – they don’t have time to think about who is voting for who. Anyone who would like to see the count should contact a candidate and ask to be appointed a poll watcher. x

  42. After the count, the Election Official notifies: The Spectrum: Brian Ahern – Lt. Governor: fax – 801-538-1133 or elections@ Melanie Aplanalp: Your candidates Your mayor Your email list Make posters for your three normal posting places Your webpage if applicable Other press people who have requested the information If you know the date and time of the canvass, include that information  NOTE: Your notification should include how many votes each candidate received and clearly state that the results are ‘Uncanvassed Results’. You can include, if you want, your voter turnout information, including total votes cast, any provisional ballots and your return percentages. x

  43. Cautionary tales • I want my ballot back! • I want you to count ALL the ballots! • I want to watch you count! x

  44. Odds and ends • It’s a learning process for everyone • About that old signature…. • Permanent absent ballots • The Lt. governor’s handbook: • Look it up. Nobody has it memorized. • Many people are willing to help x

  45. The Poll • Southern Utah University and Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics • Telephone poll • Results: Hot off the press x

  46. Contacts • Fay Cope 435-772-3434 • David Ence 435-867-1852 • Elaine Harris 435-772-0992 • Nancy Leigh 435-677-2029 • Karri Olds 435-635-4695 • Fran Rex 435-879-2447 • Carr Printing 801-295-2321 • Lt. Governor Greg Bell’s office 801-538-1041 x