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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Madison School Early-Vote Stacking Fine by Secretary of State

Vote now in the latest Madville Times poll:
How will you vote on Madison's $16.98 million new gym/high school renovation bond issue?
See right sidebar—poll closes Wed 8 a.m.!

Apparently my concerns about Madison Central School District's early-voting scheme are unfounded. Various Madville Times readers have contacted the Secretary of State's office to get the straight poop on whether our school district can...
  1. deputize advocates of the school bond issue to hand out and collect absentee ballots,
  2. conduct voting at basketball games and other school events, and
  3. arrange early voting sites in workplaces at the request of employers.
According to Secretary of State Chris Nelson, all of the above are legit. One of my correspondents gets some more straight dope from Secretary Nelson's assistant, Kea Warne, whose responses to some specific questions about Madison's early-voting plans I summarize below:
  1. Should Madison Central publish a list of early voting places and times? There is no statutory requirement for them to publish this document.
  2. Will there be a voting booth to insure voter privacy? All voters (either voting in-person absentee or at the polling place on election day) must be provided a private area to vote (either voting booth or a table top voting booth).
  3. What about folks wearing pro or con stickers/t-shirts at these school events? There cannot be any political material within 100 feet of any entrance to the location where absentee voting is being conducted.
  4. How will poll watchers be arranged? Poll watchers have to be allowed to be present. A person who is wanting to be a poll watcher must identify themselves as such to the election board (on election day) or the business manager/staff conducting the absentee voting.
I still see problems here. Without a published list of early polling places, poll watchers can't find out where to go to observe the polling for irregularities. Whoever school business manager Cindy Callies deputizes to carry absentee ballots around town will need to carry a complete voter registration list and keep it synchronized with every other election deputy's roving list to ensure no one gets more than one ballot. We will also have a lot of ballots moving back and forth to different places in different pouches. The more moving parts to any system, the more chance there is for things to go wrong.

Workplace voting still strikes me as fertile ground for improper influence. When the boss waves a fistful of absentee ballots at employees on company time and says, "Hey! Who wants to vote for the school bond election right now?" there is bound to be some sense of pressure to vote.

And seriously: does anyone think it's fair to conduct a vote on a new gym in a gym while a basketball game is going on, while voters are surrounded by cheering fans clad in school colors? Madison High School is staging early voting at exactly those venues where they can implicitly say, "Look at the wonderful educational opportunities we provide for students. Can you really deny them a new gym and renovated classrooms?"

What's next? Should we allow Mike McDowell to invite the county auditor to ring absentee ballots to work for all of the Heartland employees the next time Senator Russell Olson runs for office? Should Scott Heidepriem get to arrange an early-voting site at his law office the next time he's on the ballot?

If that's just how the game is played, then so be it. But this early voting scheme is not about enfranchisement. It's about stacking the vote in the school's favor.

If incoming Secretary of State Jason Gant is worried about voter fraud, he should come to Madison to observe the most loosely conducted vote I've seen in this state.


  1. Maybe he'll send PP over, Cory.

  2. But the process of voting should be fair and there shouldn't be a game to play. There shouldn't be a system that allows for undue influence. Voting should take place in a neutral place. Although they are obviously very motivated, are these actions ones to be proud of? Ones to teach your students this is how we played the system to get what we wanted? Win at the cost of fairness seem to be the lesson they want to share.

  3. Charlie Johnson12/21/2010 1:47 PM

    Will voters be required to show proof of identification voting at a off site polling place? What recourse does an employee have to question a polling site at their place of work when the boss is pro or con on the ballot issue? This while thing smacks of chicago politics where the motto was" vote early, vote often, and yes vote RIGHT".

  4. The one thing they do HAVE to do is provide equal access to ANYONE requesting absentee ballots at ANY function or business.

    I would be ashamed if I had to resort to these tactics to get what I wanted. It seems they believe in the old adage "the end justifies the means." Except that old adage leads to much abuse and shady dealings. But I guess this is just politics as usual. Very sad for our district.

    They can't have anything to influence the voting either pro or con within 100 feet of the voting booth; that is the law. How in the world does voting in the very place at the very activity that is the main reason for this whole renovation project NOT violate this? Unbelievable!

  5. Linda, now more than ever before would be a great time for the 9-12 Project to organize a meeting of citizens unhappy with local government corruption. You could host an early voting night the first week of January, then another right before February 1. You could get your neighbors together have them call Cindy Callies to request that she hand-deliver absentee ballots to gatherings out in your neck of the woods. If you do, please document the answer you get and send it my way.

  6. Opponents of these things have the advantage stacked in their favor by the legislature requiring a 60% super majority to pass these things. If the opponents cannot win then their position is really weak and shouldn't be criticizing legal means to make every voter heard.

  7. And another thing...the taxpayers of the Madison Central School District have not paid for a gym worthy of high school competition, unless the one in what is now Heritage High qualified back in the 1920's. And that one was paid for by the Madison School District which was comprised mostly of the City of Madison at the time. Might be time to step up to the plate and fix a number of facilities issues.

  8. Oh come on, it's not about every voter being heard. It's their attempt to make voters heard they want to have heard. I was supportive of this project, but what they've done is a turn off. They lost their compass and the trust is gone. In my experience the ends never justify the means.

  9. I don't see any issues with taking the opportunity to vote to various events, groups or companies like Gehl. After all, you can't assume everyone who enjoys sporting events or band concerts likes paying higher taxes. A larger number of polling locations simply offers more people a chance to vote with no pre-knowledge of how they'll vote. I give Cindy Callies credit for being willing to take the extra time needed to accomodate all the requests and events.

  10. I do not believe anyone would have a problem with fixing needed safety and health concerns with the present high school building. However, these issues have been co-opted to influence the construction of a new gym. There was never any consideration given to alternative, less expensive plans; the architects were simply told to do whatever, which ended up with the domino theory that nothing could be done without affecting the whole, ending up with a new gym. And no one has addressed why the difference in cost between the last gym proposal and this one by about $3 million dollars! Apparently the gym shell itself is the only part of this new gym proposal being part of the $2.9 million, not the new lockers, workout room, concession area, bathrooms, and lobby. In reality these are all part of the new gym part of this renovation/new project.

  11. "Lake County bucked the statewide trend and landed in the lowest national quintile for compensation growth...in Lake County, the average wage decreased 1.8%, from $28,993 to $28,466. Total compensation in Lake County dropped 6.6%." This is cited from Cory's post below this topic. Lake County has lost jobs, businesses, and has decreased wages. In other words, less money to spend on wants as well as needs. If you check grocery prices and gas prices, however, they are on the rise. Needs are cutting into family budgets. This is not the time to impose a 25-year financial WANT burden on local property taxpayers.

    We are still paying off the elementary school for another 12 years, even though it was supposed to have been paid off by about this time. There is still the issue of the actual cost of this whole project as compared to what it would cost when capital outlay funds could be used for most of it.

  12. Charlie Johnson12/22/2010 7:31 AM

    I believe in the very special nature of the right/responsibility to vote. Young men and women have died to preserve that right. Through suffrage and civil rights movements, women and those of colored skin have endured much to obtain the right to vote. I may be old school(I was on the county commission for 8 years and saw first hand how the auditor and SOS took extreme pains to provide fair elections)but voting is a matter of responsibility. The basis of absentee voting is that the voter makes the effort and request to obtain a ballot. It is not something done while heading off to grab a hot dog and pop or picking up a program at a concert. You the voter decide, you make the drive or phone call. Bringing a voting place to the work place is sweat shop politics. No worker should be faced with that situation. He/she is there to work/do a job not to be thrust into-"here vote, make it quick, and get back to it". Every voter should have the right to decide if they want to vote and if so in a neutral situation. It doesn't matter if early voting brings on more no or yes votes. It matters how it is done. We have gone beyond the reasonable. In fact from a public relations stand point, if you wanted to place a 'damper" on yes vote efforts, then proceed with the roving polling place. Many people, both yes and no on the bond issue are upset. That leads to mistrust and lack of confidence. Not something you want in passing an important issue.

  13. It's a perversion of something sacred.

  14. Rod, if giving more people the opportunity to vote is so important, why doesn't the school ever do this kind of early voting for school board elections?


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