Monday, August 5, 2019

Those "SDR", "Signature Does Not Match", "Undeliverable", "Unsigned", Ballot Challenged Blues...

I am publishing some statistics and thoughts I have shared with Benton county and other Democrats recently about Ballot Challenge statuses in this first "Same Day Registration"  election in WA state. The discussion below the break is long and technical and contains hypothetical statements. Here is the "bottom line" for you as a WA voter:
Do not delay any of this. The Election period is over Tuesday.


There are a number of sites that are offering information on "Same Day Registration" which is really a phenomena in process for at least 21 states. In reality, WA State is pioneering this process in the 2019 Primary. Here are some important links to the process and more information about WA  and nationwide "SDR" rollout:

Ballot Status " Undeliverables" reported only by 10 WA counties
# as of 08.05.2019  matchback
stateBR[ChallengeReason == "Undeliverable",.N,by="County"][order(-N)]
          County    N
 1:       Benton 1145
 2:      Spokane  437
 3:  Walla Walla  284
 4:     Franklin  270
 5:     Okanogan  171
 6: Pend Oreille   85
 7:        Adams   37
 8:        Clark   28
 9:    Klickitat    7
10:        Ferry    4

Other than "Undeliverable" for the State
# as of 08.05.2019  matchback
stateBR[ChallengeReason != "Undeliverable",.N,by=.(ChallengeReason)][order(-N)]

               ChallengeReason      N
 1:                           734086 # not Challenged
 2:  Signature Does Not Match   3790
 3:                  Unsigned   2937
 4:                      HOLD    953
 5:          Other than Voter    518
 6:       Ballot Style Change    343
 7:                    Review    324
 8:                  Deceased    179
 9:      No Signature on File     99
10:              Marked Moved     67
11:          Canvassing Board     63
12:               ID Required     40
13:                   Invalid     26
14:            Empty Envelope     19
15:                      Hold     14
16: Witness Signature Missing      8
17:         Power of Attorney      8
18:         Voter Name Change      6
19:    Signed by Someone Else      5

The state is now publishing "Ballot Return Statistics" for the Primary. These numbers are different and represent fuller reporting for turnout than the matchback data, but they do not contain "BallotStatus" or "ChallengeReason" data. After Tuesday, these  "Ballot Return Statistics"  will probably be frozen and the user will be redirected to "Election Results".  As I mentioned before, it appears to me that some counties (like Benton) are reporting "Undeliverable" totals as a "ChallengeReason" . Most counties are not or not yet reporting "Undeliverable" totals as much as Benton. As a reminder, the "Undeliverable" status is (theoretically) a result of a USPS returned ballot that cannot find the intended recipient.

Far below are summed lists of "ChallengeReason"  for Benton and all "Rejected" ballots for the entire state as of 08.02.2018 from the matchback data.  As a note, some of these challenges appear to have been introduced by the 'VoteWa' upgrade (e.g. "HOLD", "Hold","Review","Marked as Moved", "Ballot Style Change") . Those particular challenges have probably been introduced as part of "Same Day Registration" or the process that now accommodates voter registration right up until election day. That process was an important part of 'VoteWA' upgrade project and reputedly required lots of implementation work.

"ChallengeReason" fields could theoretically be divided into two types: Those that are "curable" and those that are not "curable".  "Signature Does Not Match" ,"Unsigned" and "No Signature on File"  are 'signature challenges' and should be 'curable' in most cases before the Election period ends on Tuesday and also afterward during the "certification" period.  I do not believe "Undeliverable" is curable after the Election Period is over on Tuesday. That is a question for the Auditors and State of WA.

All this discussion begs more than a few questions about "undeliverables".  I know from analyzing Whatcom County matchbacks in previous elections that about 2K per election are returned as 'undeliverable'. We have lots of 'mobile' populations: 30K college students in Bellingham, migrant farm workers, high density rentals in both south and north Bellingham, even the 'snow bird' retirees that summer in Bellingham before returning to AZ, CO, CA for the winters. For the most part, I think very few election departments or political parties attempt to do anything about "undeliverables", although I think some coordinate with USPS for forwarding address information.  If you don't update your address when you move, a ballot can not find you. Eventually, you will be marked "inactive".

The probability is that even voters that move inside the same county don't realize they were missing a ballot until after the election.  Thousands of college students who return home each summer probably don't realize they can change their address to vote in Summer primary in their home counties and then change their address back when they arrive for school again. It might be that Benton county is one of the few counties that is correctly publishing undeliverable statistics.

Recent equipment upgrades that produce scanned,  digitized signatures are optimizing the signature checking process for election workers. I believe AI based signature checking may be certified in the future,  optimizing signature checking even more. This is great for efficiency, but signatures are a weak and undependable biometric in a nation riddled with neurological disease and strokes, for example.  Signatures can and do change for many different reasons. In addition, the 'stampless ballot' and 'hyper energized' partisan politics are both probably increasing volume returns . So these upgrades and enhanced election practices are probably increasing "Rejected" ballot volume. Additionally, "same day registration" ('SDR') is possibly opening up more volume and more procedural questions. Like how are "undeliverables" caught early in election cycle supposed to be "cured", "disposed", or handled?  I should note the state has public information the "SDR" flowchart here.

ChallengeReason' for  Benton as of 08.05.2019  matchback
 stateBR[BallotStatus == "Rejected" & County == "Benton",.N,.(ChallengeReason)][order(-N)]
             ChallengeReason    N
 1:            Undeliverable 1145
 2: Signature Does Not Match  136
 3:                 Unsigned  106
 4:                 Deceased   22
 5:                     HOLD   13
 6:         Canvassing Board    8
 7:     No Signature on File    7
 8:                     Hold    4
 9:                  Invalid    2
10:                   Review    1

'ChallengeReason' for  all matchback reporting counties for WA State as of 08.05.2019  matchback 
stateBR[BallotStatus == "Rejected",.N,.(ChallengeReason)][order(-N)]
               ChallengeReason  N
 1:  Signature Does Not Match 3787
 2:                  Unsigned 2935
 3:             Undeliverable 2289
 4:                      HOLD  905
 5:          Other than Voter  518
 6:       Ballot Style Change  343
 7:                    Review  324
 8:                  Deceased  179
 9:      No Signature on File   99
10:              Marked Moved   67
11:          Canvassing Board   63
12:               ID Required   40
13:                   Invalid   26
14:                             21
15:            Empty Envelope   19
16:                      Hold   14
17: Witness Signature Missing    8
18:         Power of Attorney    8
19:         Voter Name Change    6
20:    Signed by Someone Else    5

No comments: