Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Election Day, Zero Ballots

(revised, new data at the bottom, 4:30 p.m. on 9/16/2015)

Gardner's mail-ballot election closed yesterday at noon with remarkable efficiency.

That efficiency isn't from us, but rather the United States Postal Service.

Okay, as regular readers can guess by now, that previous sentence was in sarcasm font.

You see, Monday's mail brought us 169 ballots.

Today's mail brought us 79, too late to be counted.

Yesterday's mail brought us 0.

By the way, 17 people dropped off their ballots yesterday.  But somehow, with remarkable success, every voter who wanted their ballot here by mail did so--included in Monday's mail.

If you are scoring at home, Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, that's 169-0-79.


We called the post office yesterday morning at 11.  On the previous two Tuesdays, we received only 1 ballot each time (about 2,600 voted and 10,000 ballots were issued).

Nope, no ballots.


We had someone else call.



As election administrators, what more can we do?  Demand a right to storm the post office and search for yellow envelopes?

For sake of argument, what if nothing was there and instead they were held too long at the Kansas City post office and were in a truck headed to Olathe?

We call the post office, but should we consider anything in the pipeline at the post office?  Even if it's a postal facility in a different state?

At the very least, with postal service levels changing, jurisdictions will need to consider the use of mail-ballot elections.  Or, maybe Kansas laws should be changed to base returns based on postmarks--that would require significant change, though, because Kansas mail-ballot elections pay the postage for the voter--business reply mail.

As a starting point, I can raise the problem.

You, dear reader, in a life-imitating-life moment (there is no art to a voter not able to cast a ballot, so no art-imitating-life moment here), you are part of said awareness effort.

That's all--fairly short for a blog post, but a powerful issue to begin considering.

Unless, of course, it seems perfectly reasonable for a three-day mail pattern to be 169, 0, 79.  Maybe ending Tuesday delivery was suggested by the postal service because there isn't any actual mail on Tuesday. 

Somehow, I doubt it.

79 others in Gardner may wonder, too.

One of our snappy staffers pulled the numbers from our August recall election--it was at the polls, so the numbers weren't as compelling, but the pattern remains:


Monday 3 August – 22 ballots
Tuesday 4 August – 4 ballots
Wednesday 5 August – 41 ballots

Monday 10 August – 75 ballots
Tuesday 11 August – 0 ballots
Wednesday 12 August – 43 ballots

Monday 17 August – 51 ballots
Tuesday 18 August – 1 ballot (election day)
Wednesday 19 August –27 ballots (too late)


Anonymous said...

What about other elections? Even with BRM, do any of the ballots have postmarks on them? That may tell you how long it takes ballots to travel in the mail.

Let's assume it takes two days for ballots to arrive after being picked up by the USPS. Ballots mailed on Friday would arrive on Sunday, ballots mailed on Saturday arrive on Monday, ballots mailed on Sunday arrive on Tuesday, ballots mailed on Monday arrive on Wednesday...

Friday and Saturday's ballots would arrive together, since there is no delivery on Sunday. This could potentially double the number of ballots arriving on Mondays compared to other days.

Sunday, there is no pickup, so a two-day delivery would mean a relative dearth of ballots arriving on Tuesday.

Using this timing assumption, do the given patterns match? Yes, except for the first week of August. When did ballots first go out/voting begin?

I'm not defending the USPS or the election laws of Kansas (we use postmarks in Iowa, but even those are problematic), just offering another perspective from the outside looking in.

Election Diary said...

You, my little anonymous commenter in Iowa, are very smart! Thanks for commenting.

Yes, we've been digging into this with some similar theories, and I'm finding myself almost defending (?!?) the postal service in a little geeky personal debate I'm having.

If anything, I think what may be happening--not sure--is that Monday delivery is "too good of a job," if you think of it that way, capturing some of what may have been Tuesday's because of the weekend.

Mostly, I'm just excited you cared to dig into this, too. Thank you! I'll be posting more about this as I get some more data.

Debbie said...

I feel your pain. Ford County had their first mail ballot election and the post office was the biggest problem. Mailed out 13,000 ballots Friday June 5, end date June 25th. Expected undeliverable ballots that following Monday, no ballots, called post office, was told if wanted ballots that day we have to come get them they had 900 undeliverable). Post Office is a block away.So everyday we had to retrieve them, did not mater day of the week. Long story short. Two months out from election, still receiving ballots back, voted and undeliverable. The voted ballots were dated and signed two months out, who's to say they did not just receive them. We have about 5,000 ballots still floating around out there somewhere.
Sometimes it takes a month to get a card from Dodge City,KS to Manhattan,KS by mail. I use to think mail ballot elections would be the way to go for the small elections, now not so much.