Vote-By-Mail in Santa Clara

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I was down at the Santa Clara Registrar of Voters today they seem to be pretty interested in having you vote by mail, what with all the signs offering you to sign up for permanent vote by mail status. There was a chart on the wall, which I forgot to take a picture of that indicated their target of 400,000 v-b-m voters by the general election (there were ~600,000 votes in Santa Clara in the 2004 election). The clerk who I talked to tells me that it used to be really hard to sign up for v-b-m (you had to demonstrate serious hardship for in-person voting) but that now it was really easy. In any case, if we get to the point where a really large fraction of voters vote by mail rather than in person, then we may need to seriously adjust the threat model to match.

In particular, one of the issues that often gets a lot of airtime in discussions of new voting systems is how to prevent vote-buying (or coercion) attacks, including those where the voter cooperates with the attacker. But in vote-by-mail scenarios, it's pretty easy for the attacker to have you give them a copy of the ballot and then fill it in and mail it themselves (especially if voters aren't allowed to change their vote after the ballot is submitted, but I doubt that even if you can revise your ballot most people will bother to in order to cheat.)

Oh, i should mention: if you plan to work the polls, they recommend you vote early or by mail because you probably will be assigned somewhere else than your own precinct and so won't have time to vote yourself on election day.

2 Comments

I agree--the amount of whining done about the security of voting machines, voter identification, voter registration and so on seems ludicrous given the deafening silence surrounding the spread of flagrantly insecure mail-in balloting.

There has been a significant increase in electoral fraud in the UK since postal voting became generally encouraged. It's supposed to increase participation but it doesn't seem effective enough to compensate for the downsides.

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