Absentee Voting: Negatives Greatly Outweigh the Positives

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BY KENNETH R. CONKLIN, PH.D. — Hawaii voters are being herded like sheep to vote by mailed absentee ballots, and eventually to vote electronically through the internet. Holding elections that way would save a lot of money, produce immediate final results the moment the “polls” close, and be extremely convenient for voters. It might increase the dismal percentage of registered voters who actually vote.

But would abolishing election-day in-person voting be in the best interests of individual voters? Would it open the door to fraudulent vote-counting through electronic or procedural skullduggery at election headquarters or by outside hackers? Would it allow unethical politicians to “help” (i.e. intimidate) frail elderly voters or people whose English is poor, to mark their absentee ballots for them in their homes, while “walking the district”? That actually happened in 2012. How about doing that for a group of people at a nursing home? Would it allow labor unions or corporate executives to demand people fill in their absentee ballots at a group meeting under the watchful eye of a shop steward or boss?


Liberals think society should increase voter participation by making voting convenient. But perhaps it’s better to require people to go out of their way to vote. If someone is unwilling to make the effort to go to the polling place on election day, then perhaps we’re all better off if he does not vote. Low turnout is evidence that people can’t find worthy candidates. I don’t mind if turnout is low, because that magnifies the effectiveness of my own vote. Ignorant or apathetic people are welcome to abstain.

The right to vote should be exercised by people who know how precious is the blood and treasure sacrificed to make it possible. The founders of our nation signed the Declaration of Independence right below its closing words “… we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” Surely we can show our respect by sacrificing a few minutes to go to the polling place on election day.

The following points are discussed in detail and documented on a webpage at

The Hawaii Office of Elections, and our monopoly newspaper, are pushing us toward abolishing election-day in-person voting. For now we’re being urged to vote absentee by mail; but eventually they want all votes to be cast electronically over the internet.

Absentee voting is not allowed in the U.S. Senate or House. Think about why Senators and Representatives must appear on the floor in person for either a voice vote or a roll call vote. Why will they not let colleagues vote from their offices across the street or even their homes thousands of miles away? According to UPI, Rep. William Natcher was wheeled onto the House floor on a hospital gurney to cast one of his final votes before he died.

Voters can miss important information about candidates when voting by mail.
Major debates are often scheduled close to election day. The Campaign Spending Commission publishes last-minute reports on who has contributed how many dollars to which candidates, so voters can find out which candidates are beholden to, and might be controlled by, special interests.

A voter does not need an absentee ballot to get the names of all the candidates on his ballot — the Office of Elections website has a photo of each precinct’s ballot.

Voters at a polling place put their ballots into a machine which detects errors before counting the votes. It immediately kicks back a bad ballot along with a message telling what’s wrong. The voter can get a new ballot and try again. In the primary election perhaps 10% of ballots were rejected for failure to mark the box to choose a particular political party, or voting for candidates in a party different from the one selected, or voting for more than one candidate in the same contest. Mail-in absentee ballots rejected for errors get no second chance.

Absentee voting by mail, or electronic voting by internet, makes it easy for voters to sell their votes; or for candidates, union stewards, or corporate bosses to intimidate voters in large numbers. With in-person voting, someone could take money to sell his vote, but could nevertheless vote for whichever candidate he wanted, because the ballot was marked in the privacy and secrecy of the voting booth. However, if a voter takes possession of an absentee ballot to be returned by mail, then someone who buys that vote or intimidates that voter can actually watch the voter mark the ballot, enclose it inside the official envelope and sign it, thus getting absolute certainty who really got the vote.

According to a story by Chad Blair in “Civil Beat” online newspaper, Romy Cachola stole the election from Nicole Velasco by using absentee ballots. “Cachola won 51 percent to 46 percent. … But if only Election Day and early walk-in votes had been counted, Velasco would have won in a landslide, 60 percent to 36 percent. … more than 70 percent of those who voted for Cachola in the Democratic primary against Velasco did so via a mail-in ballot. That was by far the highest percentage in Hawaii. …” Blair reported interviewing a family who had done sign-waving for Velasco but were forced to vote for Cachola as he stood over them in their home.

Absentee voting by mail, or electronic voting by internet, makes it more likely that imposters can vote for dead people or for lazy neighbors, or that some people might vote twice (once absentee and again in person).

Research done in 2010 confirmed the possibility that dead people voted in Hawaii. Only one precinct was investigated, and only incompletely. But the same irregularities could have occurred in hundreds of cases statewide. In that precinct at least one dead person remained listed in the pollbook on the primary election date of September 18, 2010 and therefore anyone claiming to be that person could have received a ballot and voted. Photo ID is not required in Hawaii — it’s enough merely to recite name, address, plus month and day of birth. In the general election, there was another dead person listed in the pollbook. This name had an “AB” preprinted next to it, which meant that an absentee ballot for the general election (and probably also the primary) had been mailed to the voter and therefore could have been marked and returned by a family member or imposter. This was only one of 242 precincts, and collection of the names of recently deceased people in the precinct was done haphazardly by relying on newspaper obituaries with no help (actually stonewalling and interference) from the Office of Elections.

In the 2012 primary election there was massive chaos on Hawaii Island caused by the incompetence of an inexperienced county clerk. Some polling places opened 90 minutes late, lacking necessary materials. Who knows what might have happened in the backroom with absentee ballots! Several pollworkers who had already voted absentee noticed that there was no “AB” notation next to their names in the pollbook. Thus, if they had been dishonest, they could have voted again on election day.

Is “inky pinky” is the answer? It’s worth considering, even if only to make us think more carefully about how we vote in Hawaii. It’s used in third-world nations. Remember voters in Iraq in 2005 proudly holding up their purple fingers? A voter goes to the polling place, marks his ballot, puts it in the box; and then sticks his finger into a bowl of permanent purple ink. Gotta be alive and show up in person to vote. The purple finger stops anyone from voting again. Brave women and men in Iraq walked long distances and waited in line for hours to vote, always fearing they might be attacked by Shiite terrorists. Meanwhile in Hawaii we have crybabies who can’t be bothered to spend a few minutes going on safe streets to the nearby polling place on election day.