Could Mail-In Ballots Speed Up Silicon Valley Vote Counts?

With outdated equipment slowing down vote tallies, Santa Clara County is talking about switching to all-mail elections to quicken the process.

Three-quarters of county voters already vote by mail, one of the highest rates in California. Board of Supervisors President Mike Wasserman told the Mercury News that the county should drop traditional polling stations instead of dropping up to $20 million on new machines.

All-mail elections improve voter turnout and save money, by reducing personnel costs. According to the Merc, Oregon, Colorado and Washington conduct all-mail elections. Those states have reported higher turnouts after making the switch.

Santa Clara County didn't finish counting precinct ballots from this most recent election until 4:30am on Nov. 5—the second-slowest in the state next to rural Mono County.

In a post-election interview with San Jose Inside, Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey said replacing outdated equipment would cost $19 million and could take through 2017. The problem with the existing system, she explained, is that it requires ballots to be counted at one centralized location instead of at the polling stations. There is apparently a dearth of new equipment on the market.

While mail-in ballots cost less to process, they could still hold up results because so many voters wait until the 11th hour to turn them in. About 50 percent weren't dropped off until the day of this past election.

There's also a concern that all-mail elections would favor one party over another.

6 Comments

  1. > There’s also a concern that all-mail elections would favor one party over another.

    A curious (and implicitly partisan) way of framing the problem.

    An issue with “all-mail elections” is that it makes elections much less “transparent”. There is almost nothing for election monitors to monitor. Just bags of mail being removed from a delivery track and carried into an office.

    The fact that the postal service has postal inspectors and there are statutory crimes known as “mail fraud” should alert people to the fact that there are issues of “integrity” with the mails.

    And an alarming reality of the current era is that there are new crimes such as identity theft that are epidemic in the “information age”. People with bad intentions know how easy it is to fool the authorities into believing they are someone they are not.

    In an election environment like 21st century California which is dominated by one political party at both the state and local level, a non-transparent election process is an open invitation to suppress the voting rights of political minorities.

    Democracy can only be real if voting is real.

    People need to recognize voting as more than mailing in a piece of paper, AND they need to see the REALITY of other people voting as well.

    Maybe we didn’t appreciate it enough prior to the information age, but we need to recognize that an important part of the voting process is to “SEE and BE SEEN” on election day.

    • 3/4 of voters now vote via mail, so if you believe everything you wrote, why aren’t you trying to do something about that?

      Wasserman is for all mail voting. You’d think his party would have the most to lose.

      • > so if you believe everything you wrote, why aren’t you trying to do something about that?

        Because the bastards are wrecking the society faster than I can save it.

        I’m only one superhuman.

  2. $19 million and could take through 2017.

    God that pisses me off so much.

    For half of $1m you could hire an iPad developer, and a backend systems engineer. They will write a nice IOS app, and backend for vote tallying. With the other $500k, you can buy more than enough iPads to satiate every polling place, and then some.

    I’m waiting to hear the same old rhetoric of why this can’t be done. I want to know who is getting a kickback for spending $19m on voting machines. Diebold has been proven time and time again to be completely hackable, horrible machines.

    It’s idiotic stuff like this that compels me to run.

  3. Counting the mail in votes was the most often-cited reason for the delay in calling the winner in SJ Mayor race this year. And now the head of the SCC ROV wants to go all mail-in. I’m confused.

    • I was left with that same conclusion. ROV, just what is it….manual counting or outdated equipment? And why not reduce the number of polling stations by a third or even half.