By Brad Friedman on 10/18/2013, 8:35am PT  

You know how The BRAD BLOG is always going on about how Vote-by-Mail is a very bad idea for democracy (other than in cases where a voter really must vote absentee or is otherwise forced to vote on a 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems at the precinct on Election Day)?...

Yes, those dangling envelopes are absentee ballots being sent to voters. Maybe they'll actually reach them. Who knows?

The photos were taken by San Francisco surgeon and Election Integrity advocate Dr. John Maa last week and highlight just one of the many reasons why Vote-by-Mail is such a bad idea unless it's absolutely necessary. They were sent to us after being taken in the mail room of a San Francisco apartment building in advance of the upcoming November 5 municipal elections there.

"It was 10pm at night when I took those photos, so there were probably a lot more of them out there earlier in the day," Maa told us...

Where we live in Los Angeles, we often see completed Vote-by-Mail ballot envelopes on their way back to the county, set on top of the building's mailboxes, waiting for pickup by the postal worker. You'll be happy to know we haven't stolen a one of them, even though it would be very simple. Can't say the same for everybody else in this county of 4.8+ million registered voters, however --- especially with more than 1.3 million of them now registered as "Permanent Vote by Mail" voters, according to the general numbers LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan offered The BRAD BLOG via email this week.

According to a 2011 Caltech/MIT study [PDF] by R. Michael Alvarez, Charles Stewart III and Dustin Beckett, across the state of California, "the percentage of ballots cast by mail has risen from 18% in 1990 to 48% in 2010."

Those numbers are confirmed in statistics posted at the CA Sec. of State website, detailing how, as of 2012, for the first time, Vote-by-Mail ballots accounted for the majority of votes cast in this state's Presidential election. The trend is similar in many other states.

When Republicans pretend that polling place Photo ID restrictions are needed to prevent "voter fraud", they are lying. They are doing nothing more than attempting to disenfranchise some of the more than 21 million citizens (11 percent of the population) in this country who happen to be disproportionately Democratic-leaning and who do not have the type of ID that is required to vote under such laws.

Polling place voter impersonation happens about as close to never as one can get in a country with hundreds of millions of voters.

Absentee ballot fraud, on the other hand --- which is deterred in no way by polling place Photo ID restrictions dishonestly promoted by its Republican or otherwise information-deficient proponents --- is another story entirely. That's where most of the actual "voter fraud" (fraud by voters, in some fashion, rather than insider election fraud via voting system manipulation, etc.) actually happens in this country. It's also where ballots are most easily bought, sold or lost in the mail and where the secret ballot is most easily exposed.

If you have the option, and if your precinct allows you to vote on hand-marked paper ballots, do that rather than Vote-by-Mail. In California, if you are sent a VBM ballot, you can mark it at home and deliver it in person to your polling place on Election Day. Or, you can just wait at home and hope your ballot decides to hang out and wait for you before you get it out of the mail --- then hope it doesn't disappear on its way back to the county.

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