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Old 04.11.2016, 12:09
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US Election: postal votes question

Anyone who what percentage of votes cast in US elections are postal votes?

Not just overseas but in general?
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Old 04.11.2016, 12:20
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

An interesting article from Pew Research, including a graph showing the trend in 'non-traditional' voting from 1996-2012.
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank...-already-here/

This CNN article (from 4 Nov.) says that this year 30 million early ballots have been cast.
http://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/03/po...l_topeditorial
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Old 04.11.2016, 14:55
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

Much higher than I thought then. A colleague was pointing out that a lot of postal votes were posted before the latest flare up of the Hillary emails thing, and that since then a common google search in the US has been "how to change my postal vote".

I thought the impact of postal votes would be negligible (being a Brit and stupidly assuming the USA would be on similar lines), but it is in fact huge.
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Old 04.11.2016, 14:58
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

Don't know, but my forms for the next Swiss vote arrived today.

Go Nukes!

Tom
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Old 04.11.2016, 15:05
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

Go nukes or nukes go? But that's another topic....
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Old 04.11.2016, 15:32
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

We were shocked to hear an American aquaintance tell us last Wednesday that "they" throw all the postal votes in the "trash can". Cannot really believe this is true. He's originally from Boston, now living part-time here and part-time in Florida. He says all the GIs in Germany who take the trouble to postal vote have their nominations trashed. Wonder where he obtains this information, although being American, he must have based it on some facts surely?
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Old 04.11.2016, 15:51
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

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We were shocked to hear an American aquaintance tell us last Wednesday that "they" throw all the postal votes in the "trash can". Cannot really believe this is true. He's originally from Boston, now living part-time here and part-time in Florida. He says all the GIs in Germany who take the trouble to postal vote have their nominations trashed. Wonder where he obtains this information, although being American, he must have based it on some facts surely?
This is generally correct, but a little misleading. Postal votes are only opened and counted if they can change the course of the election. This might happen if you live in a swing state, but it doesn't happen when you live in state where a candidate wins by a large margin.

Scenario 1: A landslide for one candidate

Let's look at the 2012 election in Maryland, a state that votes overwhelmingly towards Democrats:

Votes for Obama: 1,677,844
Votes for Romney: 971,869

Now let's assume that Maryland had received 25,000 postal votes. They don't need to bother opening them because no matter what the vote, it wouldn't change the outcome.

Scenario 2: A close race

On the other hand, imagine you are looking at the Florida race in 2000. There, the voting was incredibly tight:

Votes for Bush: 2,912,790
Votes for Gore: 2,912,253

With fewer than 600 votes separating the two candidates, every postal vote would be opened and counted, as they have the potential to change the result.

No one's vote is 'ignored' -- it's just that the formal counting only happens if it will change the outcome.
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Old 04.11.2016, 15:54
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

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This is generally correct, but a little misleading. Postal votes are only opened and counted if they can change the course of the election. This might happen if you live in a swing state, but it doesn't happen when you live in state where a candidate wins by a large margin.
My understanding as well, as they must be hand counted which is very labor intensive.

Tom
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Old 04.11.2016, 15:55
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

Thanks for the explanation - now it's clear, although methinks it is rather a peculiar kind of democracy?
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Old 04.11.2016, 16:00
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

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Thanks for the explanation - now it's clear, although methinks it is rather a peculiar kind of democracy?
No, as nearly all US states are FPP for selecting electors, only Maine and Nebraska are proportional (so they would have to look at the postal votes in all cases).

Tom
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Old 04.11.2016, 16:04
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

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My understanding as well, as they must be hand counted which is very labor intensive.
Actually, the process is smoother now. In my state, I receive a PDF ballot that I can fill in electronically. This generates a scannable document that also has a QR code with my vote recorded, so it can either be run through a scanner or read with a barcode reader.

My state still requires the ballot to be printed and returned. And it's still an envelope within an envelope to open.

Other states are more progressive -- there is online voting, which is presumably much easier to count.
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Old 04.11.2016, 16:14
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

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Thanks for the explanation - now it's clear, although methinks it is rather a peculiar kind of democracy?
It isn't really all that peculiar. When the numbers show that the outcome couldn't possibly be affected by the postal votes then you could only achieve two things by counting them nonetheless:

1) Spend more Money.
2) Satisfy your curiosity if the split is identical for postal and personal votes.
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Old 04.11.2016, 16:59
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

My state/county/district counts the absentee ballots on an incremental basis and adds them in at the end if needed
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Old 05.11.2016, 00:12
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

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We were shocked to hear an American aquaintance tell us last Wednesday that "they" throw all the postal votes in the "trash can".
Completely false, but it makes a great conversation-starter. It also helps suppress the vote when people think their votes won't count anyway.

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This is generally correct, but a little misleading. Postal votes are only opened and counted if they can change the course of the election...
Not true in the least. Absentee/postal ballots are every bit as valid as those cast at the polling place. Sometimes postal ballots are not counted for different reasons, such as missing signature, non-matching signature, lack of witness, not postmarked or received in time, or if the voter died before election day. But the very fact someone votes via the post does not make his or her ballot magically not count "unless an election is close".

Provisional ballots are sometimes not counted. A provisional ballot is used when the eligibility of the voter is in question, such as when they lack the proper proof of residence, use an expired ID, etc. In those cases the voter has to follow up with the missing information within a certain amount of time or the ballot is not counted.

If anyone is throwing ballots in the trash or not counting them and someone else knows, this needs to be reported to the state election authority. Some states have election commissions or boards but most use the Secretary of State office.

Source: I was an election official in the U.S. for a long time. I trained other officials on the procedures for both absentee and in-person voting. Nowhere in any law I've seen does it say that a poll worker, clerk or any other election official can just throw away ballots before they are ever opened. Every ballot has to be marked as received and then whether it was counted or rejected. If rejected, there has to be a reason why (see the partial list above). All states have laws that address how ballots are issued, stored, counted, and destroyed. They might vary a bit, but none allow officials to just chuck votes into the bin.

See also FVAP, the U.S. Army (with fvap info), MOAA, a county in NJ (many states/counties have similar language on their websites)

Now, about the idea of correcting or changing your ballot. Only a handful of states allow voters (absentee or early) to spoil their ballots and cast new ones before or on Election Day. This is largely because it's a complicated process and they need to ensure people don't vote more than once. In most states, voters that submit absentee ballots are marked in the pre-printed poll books as having already voted. Same for those that vote early. With the exception of those few states, election judges/poll workers are not allowed to let someone vote at the polling place if they're already marked as having cast a ballot.
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Old 05.11.2016, 10:17
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

Are the early votes counted early?

It sounds like a silly question, I don't think it is.

Do the election officials at each ballot station have to wait for the station to close before they start counting any of the votes?

I take it that the officials cannot release provisional, or early numbers, but do the regulations forbid them from counting the numbers ahead of time?
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Old 05.11.2016, 10:22
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

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Are the early votes counted early?

It sounds like a silly question, I don't think it is.

Do the election officials at each ballot station have to wait for the station to close before they start counting any of the votes?

I take it that the officials cannot release provisional, or early numbers, but do the regulations forbid them from counting the numbers ahead of time?
What I do know is that the west coast knows who won on the east coast before closing.
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Old 05.11.2016, 11:08
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

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What I do know is that the west coast knows who won on the east coast before closing.
That was kind of the direction that my question was going in.
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Old 05.11.2016, 15:59
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Re: US Election: postal votes question

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Are the early votes counted early?

It sounds like a silly question, I don't think it is.

Do the election officials at each ballot station have to wait for the station to close before they start counting any of the votes?

I take it that the officials cannot release provisional, or early numbers, but do the regulations forbid them from counting the numbers ahead of time?
It's not a silly question.

Each state has its own regulations, which is why giving one straight answer to cover the whole country is very difficult.

AFAIK no state allows totals by candidate to be released until after the polls are closed. Media outlets and political parties conduct exit surveys of voters as they leave the voting location and make projections before the official vote totals are released. This was one of the major issues in Florida 2000, where TV stations said the polls were closed across the state and made early projections...when in fact the polls in the panhandle were still open!

One could argue the electronic machines are "counting" as they go along. But you can't get vote totals from the machines in the middle of the process. You can look at the machine counter and see if it matches the number of people in the poll book marked as voting. The totals for each candidate are not known until after the polls close and you run the tape.

In some states, officials know the party affiliation (if any) of each voter. They release to the public how many Ds, Rs, and Is have voted. That's the graphic you saw in the other thread regarding early voting in FL.

A lot of projections are also based on geography. For example, dense urban centers tend to lean more toward the Democrats. High voter turnout in urban areas would encourage candidates on the D side.
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