February 5, 2012

Relaunch the Satellites?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , — Bill @ 9:38 am

OpenCdA’s August 22, 2011, post titled Pulling the Plug on Satellites explained that Kootenai County Clerk Cliff Hayes had decided to close all but one absent electors’ voting place in Kootenai County.

According to an Associated Press article on November 10, 2011, other county clerks in Idaho had made the same decision — limit absent electors’ polling places to one, and have it located in the county’s elections administration office.  That same article observed that Idaho’s Secretary of State Ben Ysursa  would likely support some changes to the election consolidation law which had taken effect only eleven months earlier.  Whereas the county clerks were concerned about election integrity and ballot security, Ysursa was apparently primarily concerned about voter convenience.

Still, there may be a way county clerks could relaunch satellite voting locations in municipalities without sacrificing election integrity and ballot security.

If the municipalities want satellite voting locations in Kootenai County, let those municipalities pay all the costs associated with establishing and maintaining each additional location.  The presumption is that those municipalities also want election integrity and ballot security in addition to whatever convenience is added.  With that presumption in mind, here is the idea:

(1) Treat the satellite voting locations exactly as what they are:  Polling places.

(2) Staff each satellite voting location with a fully trained and qualified poll judge and at least two fully trained and qualified poll clerks.  These people can and probably should be people who will be working at polling places on election day.  Pick people who have not regularly worked together as an “election team” at polling places before.   Do not pick people who live in the city where the satellite voting location will be.

(3) Require that at all times at least two of the staff be at the table where the elections materials and ballot box are.  The objective is to never have only one person (or worse, not even one person) alone with the materials while still allowing for reasonable breaks.

(4) All polling place materials including unused ballots, absent elector affidavit envelopes, inner security envelope, spoiled ballots, authentication stamp, poll books, authentication stamp, and ballot box must be returned to the county elections office immediately after the satellite voting location closes each day. At least two of the staff must be in the vehicle carrying the materials back to the elections office.

Immediately upon arriving at the county elections office, the county clerk’s election office staff must then open the ballot box and process the unopened absent elector affidavit envelope as prescribed by law.  The elections office staff must also reconcile all ballots and envelopes returned against what was issued at the beginning of the day.

The objective of this procedure is to ensure no election materials leave the custody of the county elections staff and to ensure that unauthorized ballots are not created and inserted into the ballot boxes at satellite voting locations.

(5) The next day the satellite voting location is to be opened, the process in (4) would be reversed.  At least two of the satellite voting location staff would securely transport the election materials back to the satellite voting location where all staff would be present to operate the facility.

(6) Require the municipality hosting each satellite voting location pay all costs and expenses associated with each satellite voting location in its municipality.  This would include the wage compensation for the county workers, including overtime for travel to and from the satellite voting location and the county elections office.  It would also include a mileage difference allowance for any personally owned vehicle mileage above the mileage from their residence to the county elections office.  Finally, it could include a basic subsistence allowance for meals incurred while working outside the city in which the county elections office is located.

Since the municipality’s governing body would have made the decision to have a satellite voting location based on convenience rather than necessity,  that municipality’s citizens should bear the additional cost of convenience.  So if Coeur d’Alene wants a satellite voting location just about six minutes from the Kootenai County Elections Office because the loss of that satellite was so egregiously inconvenient to so many of Coeur d’Alene’s citizens, Coeur d’Alene’s citizens should bear the cost.

In the November 2009 Coeur d’Alene city election, there were approximately 568 absent elector ballots cast in-person at the Kootenai County Elections Office and approximately 342 absent elector ballots cast in-person at the satellite voting location at Coeur d’Alene City Hall.

What do you think?  Would this procedure work?  How could it be made better?


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