Counting absentee votes

Perhaps it would have been more accurate in my blog post “Hillary wins the popular vote – not” to characterize the inconsistencies in the handling of absentee ballots as a town-by-town situation rather than a blanket statewide scenario.  There are not, to my knowledge, any formal statutes that forbid the counting of absentee ballots until or unless the in-person state ballots have been counted first.

However, in conversations with town officials, I have learned that it is not unusual for some officials, faced with late-night eleventh-hour time horizons and an overwhelmingly one-sided vote tally up and down the ballot, to adopt a somewhat laissez-faire attitude and call it a wrap when uncounted or unreceived absentee ballots are not of sufficient number to influence the outcome.  To think that every town official adheres to an unfailingly airtight approach – even when the outcome anywhere on the ballot in that district is well beyond even the slightest question  – is to have an unrealistic faith in a theoretical process that is naive to a frighteningly mind-numbing degree.
Military ballots are a particularly perplexing quandary.  They don’t require postage, being guaranteed safe delivery by virtue of them being submitted by military members.  Since there is no postage requiring the cancelation of a postmark, they are often not postmarked.  Yet absentee ballots, if postmarked on or before the election, can be received several days after the election and still be valid.

But if a military absentee ballot comes in after the deadline and has no dated postmark (which its not required to have), is it counted or not, especially if the number of such ballots doesn’t affect the outcome?  On whose say-so?  It’s impossible to determine when it was actually mailed, since there’s no dated postmark, so who gets to make that pure judgment call?  The individual town official.  When Town XYZ reports that Candidate ABC won 4,522-2,367, the outside world has no concrete way of knowing how many absentee and military votes are or are not counted.

Finally, the big picture is the implication that if Clinton won the popular vote, she’s somehow “entitled” to a certain consideration.  This kind of thinking betrays the utter ignorance of certain political “analysts” with regard to running a campaign under the Electoral College system.  The goal under the EC is to win the state, not maximize the popular vote margin in that state.  If a candidate is pretty sure he’ll (or she’ll) win that state, he turns his attention to the next state.  If the goal was to maximize the absolute vote count margin within every state, the strategy would be quite different, the ground game would be different, the TV ad buys and strategy would be different, the phone outreach would be different, etc.  Faced with the necessity of maximizing his individual vote count, the campaigns run by the respective candidate would have been quite different, with totally unpredictable results compared to the actuals under the Electoral College.

The thought that Hillary may not have won the popular vote, and that she certainly may not have had that been the candidates’ campaign goal, stands.

But they’re generally counted only if their number would potentially alter the outcome.

There is no question that not all absentee ballots are counted.