The Confidentiality of Your Vote 102010
The Prospect was astonished to discover that there are people in Sierra County who are afraid to vote their conscience because they believe people might discover how they voted and bring some kind of retribution.
Nothing is more important than your vote. Emma Goldman is quoted as saying “if voting could change anything it would be illegal” and in the age of for-your-own-good democracy, it’s easy to be discouraged (Meg, or Jerry?) but voting is one of the three most patriotic things we can do for our country, along with serving on a jury and taking part in political discussions. Politics matter; your vote matters. Have the courage to vote your conscience.
Your vote is protected by law, by procedure, and by the trustworthiness and integrity of the Sierra County Elections staff, who are people we know and should trust.
The law on voter fraud, and on the protection of your rights to a confidential vote are very clear.
18540. Use of threats to influence voting
(a) Every person who makes use of or threatens to make use of any force, violence, or tactic of coercion or intimidation, to induce or compel any other person to vote or refrain from voting at any election or to vote or refrain from voting for any particular person or measure at any election, or because any person voted or refrained from voting at any election or voted or refrained from voting for any particular person or measure at any election is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months or two or three years.
(b) Every person who hires or arranges for any other person to make use of or threaten to make use of any force, violence, or tactic of coercion or intimidation, to induce or compel any other person to vote or refrain from voting at any election or to vote or refrain from voting for any particular person or measure at any election, or because any person voted or refrained from voting at any election or voted or refrained from voting for any particular person or measure at any election is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months or two or three years.*
Under the law, using threats to cause someone to vote a certain way can land a person in prison. Even hiring others to threaten, intimidate or coerce anyone to vote a certain way.
Nor can people hang out to see how you’ve voted. In Sierra County, voting is done by mail, but there are Postal Service regulations which prevent certain election activities.
18541. Prohibited activities within 100 feet of polling place; Punishment for violation
(a) No person shall, with the intent of dissuading another person from voting, within 100 feet of a polling place, do any of the following:
(1) Solicit a vote or speak to a voter on the subject of marking his or her ballot.
(2) Place a sign relating to voters' qualifications or speak to a voter on the subject of his or her qualifications except as provided in Section 14240.
(3) Photograph, video record, or otherwise record a voter entering or exiting a polling place.
(b) Any violation of this section is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than 12 months, or in the state prison. Any person who conspires to violate this section is guilty of a felony.
(c) For purposes of this section, 100 feet means a distance of 100 feet from the room or rooms in which voters are signing the roster and casting ballots.
Damaging your ballot to see how you voted is a violation of Postal laws, and election laws:
There are federal laws which likewise protect your vote:
1973i. Prohibited acts
(a) Failure or refusal to permit casting or tabulation of vote. No person acting under color of law shall fail or refuse to permit any person to vote who is entitled to vote under any provision of this Act or is otherwise qualified to vote, or willfully fail or refuse to tabulate, count, and report such person's vote.
(b) Intimidation, threats, or coercion. No person, whether acting under color of law or otherwise, shall intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for voting or attempting to vote, or intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for urging or aiding any persons to vote or attempt to vote, or intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for exercising any powers or duties under section 3(a), 6, 8, 9, 10, or 12(e) [42 USCS 1973a(a), 1973d, 1973f, 1973g, 1973h, or 1973j(e)].
Further, procedures protect the confidentiality of your ballot.
You can watch the ballots being handled at the County Clerks Office (not St. Charles’ Place, as some rumors maintain). The ballots are received, they are individually noted, and then the ballot (the part with your vote) is separated from the envelope for all time; there is no way anyone, not even the Elections staff, know what your vote was. Even if yours was the last vote to go into the box, you’re safe because staff mix the contents before counting the votes.
There is simply no way your ballot is connected with your name. No one can ever find out how you voted.
Well, there is one way. Some one from the Elections Office could break the law, right in front of other staff and the public. Probably not going to happen though, for the obvious reason (they’ll go to prison), and there’s a second, far more important reason: our Elections staff, under the direction of Heather Foster, are honest, trustworthy people who understand the law and the importance of the confidential vote. There is no reason, except the malicious joy of unfairly slandering public employees, to doubt the integrity of anyone in the Elections or County Clerk’s office.
It is against the law for people to try to force your vote, and it is unreasonable to think anyone can discover how you voted.
Vote, and vote your conscience! It’s the most patriotic thing you can do.
*Legal citations courtesy C. Ervin.
The Ballot Voting Procedure, Courtesy Heather Foster
PROCEDURES FOR PROCESSING VOTE-BY-MAIL VOTER BALLOTS
1. Three members of the Elections Staff shall begin slicing the vote-by-mail ballot identification envelopes open, one precinct at a time. Voted ballot cards shall not be removed from the identification envelope.
2. Once all identification envelopes have been opened, one staff member shall open the ballot box and display the empty ballot box to the public.
3. The Elections Staff shall take one precinct and begin processing the vote-by-mail ballots by doing the following:
a. One envelope at a time, one staff member shall state the voter’s name on the envelope.
b. One staff member shall find and mark the voter’s name on the list of vote-by-mail voters as having voted.
c. One staff member shall pull the voted ballot card from the identification envelope and quickly place the voted ballot into the ballot box while stating “has voted”.
d. Once all vote-by-mail ballots have been removed from the identification envelope for that precinct, one staff member shall shake the ballot box to mix up the voted ballot cards.
e. One staff member shall then open the ballot box containing the voted ballot cards and disperse them amongst all staff members.
f. Staff shall inspect the voted ballot cards for any possible problems with the voted ballot cards.
g. *Damaged ballots will be duplicated and prepared to be machine read on election night.
h. Once staff has inspected all voted ballot cards the voted ballots shall be placed into the voted ballot container box and sealed with a temporary storage seal. (Two staff members must sign this seal.)
i. Once the voted ballot cards have been sealed, the container shall be taken to the central counting place to be counted and/or placed in the Clerk-Recorder’s safe to be counted at a later time.
Note: Processed vote-by-mail ballots may be run through the automatic tabulating equipment seven days prior to the Election; however, under no circumstances may a vote count be accessed or released until 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
* EC 15210 – In preparing the voted ballots for processing, any ballot that is torn, bent, or other wise defective shall be corrected so that every vote cast by the voter shall be counted by the automatic tabulating equipment. If necessary, a true duplicate copy of the defective ballot shall be made and substituted therefore, following the intention of the voter insofar as it can be ascertained from the defective ballot. All duplicate ballots shall be clearly labeled “duplicate,” and shall bear a serial number that shall be recorded on the damaged or defective ballot.