29 October 2008

Unease Surrounds Early & Mail-In Ballots

I'm not black and I don't live in Florida, but this article in the New York Times gets at the heart of why my completed, mail-in ballot is sitting here in my house, and not in a ballot box with the Denver Elections Commission.

[I]n conversations with about a dozen Jacksonville residents in cafes, outside churches and at their homes over three days, Mr. Jones and many of his black neighbors worry anyway, unable to put aside the nagging feeling that somehow their votes will not be counted.

. . . “They’re going to throw out votes,” said Larone Wesley, a 53-year-old black Vietnam veteran. “I can’t say exactly how, but they are going to accomplish that quite naturally.”
Yeah. I think I know that feeling, albeit minus the spectacular history that must accompany it in a state like Florida and a county like Duval, where the article points out some 26,000 ballots were tossed in 2000. The article goes on to note that as many as 40% of Democratic votes from precincts surrounding Jacksonville were disqualified during that election.

Meanwhile, if Colorado elections officials are concerned about the paucity of ballots that have come back thus far, it could have something to do with the mixed messages Coloradans received from their county clerks offices. In separate conversations with Denver Elections employees, I've heard two different things about what happens to my ballot after I drop it off.

In a conversation at the end of poll worker training, my training facilitator informed me that my ballot would be secured in the Denver Election Commission offices and stored until election day, when it would be counted. In a phone call to the city's 311 line, which routed me to Denver Elections, I was told my ballot would be opened immediately and counted by the machines, and that data (my vote) would be stored until election day. A follow up phone call reinforced that latter conversation. Nothing in the three responses made me exactly confident along the way, however.

I'm not saying I think it's a bad idea to turn votes in early. I know the Democratic campaigns are practically begging us to get our votes in. But I'm not entirely comfortable, either, and Secretary of State Mike Coffman has done very little in recent weeks to ease my sense of concern for the process. So my ballot sits, and I hold out as long as I can before relinquishing control of my vote.