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Thread: Voter fraud? or over the top accusations?

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    Default Voter fraud? or over the top accusations?

    Wayland Voters Network (here) and, subsequently, the Town Crier (here) have written about allegations of voter fraud at Town Meeting. The suggestion these articles make is that in some cases couples were attending Town Meeting, getting two handsets, and when one of the spouses left, the remaining spouse might have voted on two handsets. This would be against voting rules, as each person is only allowed one vote, and there is no proxy voting.

    Wayland Voters Network wrote:
    What was new this time was widely observed fraud made possible by Wayland’s three-year-old -- and widely praised -- system of electronic voting. This is what a significant number of voters reported seeing and concluding:

    Families would arrive together, each registered voter receiving a handset upon checking in. Some of the spouses then left, perhaps with their children. When a vote was called for, the remaining spouse would vote on more than one handset.

    One voter was photographed with three handsets by his side, and was then seen turning in three handsets as he left the building. Others were observed with two handsets partly shielded from view. So far there is no irrefutable evidence, such as cell phone video, showing anyone actually operating more than one handset during a vote.
    This is interesting phrasing because not only was there no "irrefutable" evidence, there is no evidence at all.

    No one reported actually seeing anyone voting two handsets. The Town Crier article reports this, when they write: "No one reported actually seeing a voter click on multiple handsets during a vote."

    That voters might have two handsets "partly shielded from view" is typical WVN phrasing. Shielded from what? Shielded from another voter who isn't sitting immediately nearby? That implies to me it was more likely that there was an obstructed view of the spying on neighbors that was going on, than that the voter was attempting to obstruct the view.

    That a voter might have multiple handsets by their side is meaningless. My own seat might often have had two or possibly even three handsets on it - if I got up, my neighbors on either side, I bet without even thinking about it, would often take advantage of the empty seat in a crowded area by depositing their handset onto the empty chair. If I left my own, which I would if it was for a short trip up, there would be three handsets on my seat. Was this photographed? What would it prove? I think it serves only to prove that some people don't like to hold their handset.

    The Crier reports this:
    At the last session of Town Meeting, a Wayland police officer came to the moderator’s podium to report a case of possible proxy voting – one person using more than one electronic handset to cast multiple votes – after a vote had been taken on a controversial article.
    By the time the police officer spoke to Berry, many proponents of the previous article had left the building and debate on a subsequent article was in progress.
    Some residents have questioned the validity of the vote at the Town Meeting session where the possible proxy voting occurred.
    “I was one of the people who saw it,” said resident John Flaherty on Wednesday night.
    Flaherty reported that after the vote on Article 26, a large number of residents, and all of the children in attendance, left the room.
    Note that it was after Article 27, not Article 26, that a large number of people left. Moderator Berry commented on it at the time, and asked people to leave quietly. Video that shows attendees in the Field House is consistent with this (see waycam.tv for video of night 4 of Town Meeting at 1:59.30)

    The WVN article attributed their allegations to exactly no one, using their usual techniques such as attributing comments to "a significant number of voters", or using the passive voice ("one voter was photographed").

    The Crier article quoted only one person who asserted they had seen anything, and that was John Flaherty.

    Since I found these articles lacking in balance, I turned to the Police Chief and asked him what he understood about what had happened. I wrote:

    I understand that it was you who informed the Moderator of a complaint regarding a voter having multiple handsets during Town Meeting - I wonder if you could tell me anything about the extent of the complaints. Were the complaints about one individual, or a small number of individuals, or were they more widespread? Did you actually witness fraud yourself?


    I'd appreciate any information you can provide. I'm not interested on information on any specific individuals - just generally what you were aware of.
    He responded:
    Actually, it was Officer Hanlon that went up to the Town Clerk and Moderator after it was reported to him by one of the workers at the front desk that there was a rumor that some people in the bleachers had multiple handsets. He told them of the complaint. He observed one gentlemen leaving with two handsets. He questioned the man, who stated that his wife went out to their car and he was dropping off both handsets.

    I spoke to two individuals, one stated that she had heard rumors of people with multiple handsets and the other said that he had seen people with more than one handset and that he had a “blurry” photo of someone with more than one handset. My impression from this gentlemen was that he had seen more than one instance of this, but not a large number. No one reported that they had witnessed the same person voting more than once on an article, using different handsets.

    I never witnessed anyone with more than one handset myself. I reported these allegations to those people responsible for electronic voting and later to members of the Board of Selectmen and the Town Clerk.
    So again, nobody has said they saw, or has any evidence that anyone voted multiple handsets. The vote counts, which went down some after Article 26 and more after Article 27 are perfectly consistent with what you see when you view images of the attendees on the video of the evening.


    Do I think that there might have been some people, young people or old, newcomers to Town Meeting or veterans, who voted on two handsets? I've always thought this might be possible. I have never observed it. It is a flaw with how we have implemented electronic voting. Implementers, I think, were concerned that people would disapprove of electronic voting if they had a time consuming checkout procedure, and they made the (in retrospect) mistake of opting for convenience over security.

    I certainly think it's possible that people could be unaware of the rules regarding proxy voting, and support reminders to attendees that they only vote their own handsets. I also think the ELVIS committee should revisit their policy regarding non-checkout of handsets when people leave. Perhaps they could have people either sign out if lines are long (and then have tellers deactivate their handsets) and/or turn in their handsets if they leave before the meeting adjourns. Certainly, no need to have people wait in a lengthy check-out line after adjournment.

    But do I think there was widespread fraud? No, I don't. Do I think the brand of journalism employed to make it sound like there was widespread fraud is irresponsible? You bet I do.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 04-17-2015 at 12:19 PM. Reason: added time stamp on video

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    I think this falls into the category of "If we say it convincingly and repeatedly, maybe someone will believe it". There's a distinct smell of "sore loser" in this as well - I think the side that's promulgating this is concerned that we'll spend some money, discover that there's no reason we can't use the land, and then have an even more successful Town Center. This would (re)prove that they were wrong about it in the first place (as we all know they were). I just can't understand why this loud minority insists on trying to pull Wayland down at every opportunity. C'mon! The Town Center is clearly a positive addition to the town, and having a community center would only make it that much better.

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    Moderator Dennis Berry weighed in on the issue in this letter to the Wayland Patch, saying:

    Quote Originally Posted by Moderator Dennis Berry
    Much has been said and written about what some may feel were voting improprieties at the Town Meeting last Monday, April 13. Nevertheless, from everything I have seen and heard the situation was at its most heinous the appearance of a potential for impropriety. Not one scintilla more than that.

    What this controversy does demonstrate is that the people of Wayland believe strongly in fair play and the integrity of the voting process. For someone to depress two handsets would be to cast two votes and violate that integrity and every precept of democratic fairness. But despite the rhetoric no one that I have heard from can say that actually happened.

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    We should separate the topics of proxy voting and voter fraud. Proxy voting may not be legal (I don't know one way or the other), but it's certainly not immoral if it allows one person to have one vote.

    Voter fraud means stealing this right from me, whereas proxy voting helps me exercise that right.

    A person at town meeting who finds himself or herself temporarily ill might head to the restroom such that he or she will miss a vote. Would it be wrong (not illegal, but wrong) to ask a spouse or other trusted person to cast his or her vote? Not in my opinion.

    This same person might decide to head home for the rest of the evening. Would it be wrong to have someone else cast his/her vote the rest of the way? In my opinion, no.

    If the technology were sufficiently secure, would it be wrong for this person to cast votes from home? We already let people do this in a fashion via absentee voting. In my opinion, this too would not be wrong.

    In a practical sense, Town Meeting as it is constituted today arguably strips voters of their right to vote. The young parent who can't get away from his or her children is one such example. The person with mobility limitations who can't make it to the meeting is another. These losses of votes strike me as being much bigger problems than proxy voting.

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    Agreed and well stated Jeff. Good luck convincing the dark side to see it this way - imagine if all the "shunned" voters actually voted. None of the shenanigans the loud minority tries to promote would matter any longer, as the true majority of opinion would be fairly represented.

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    I think there are a few separate (but related) topics here:

    1. are the accusations of voter fraud that were published in Wayland Voters Network and recounted at the Moderator's Forum (which was covered by The Town Crier) over the top, a huge overreaction to something that there is no evidence occurred?

      To this, I say, "absolutely, yes!" and I was very pleased to see that the Moderator agreed: "from everything I have seen and heard the situation was at its most heinous the appearance of a potential for impropriety. Not one scintilla more than that."

    2. what, if anything, should change going forward to ensure either that proxy voting does not occur again, or that it cannot be perceived to have occurred?

      It will be interesting to see what comes out of the ELVIS meeting on Wednesday. I hope they decide to tighten procedures to eliminate the appearance of impropriety, as I think these accusations cast a shadow over our Town and our Town Meeting. We shouldn't provide the opportunity for witch hunts.
    3. should proxy voting be allowed?

      I'm going to contend that whether it should or not, state law prohibits it, so that pretty much ends the discussion; and the desire for it would be largely eliminated by addressing #4, below. I think the example Jeff gave seems reasonable for why we might want to support proxy voting, but I don't see the necessary changes to allow it happening. And I do think it would be a slippery slope. I'd rather address remote voting instead. Or even re-consider the Australian Ballot as another approach to increase participation.
    4. should we make other changes in our voting system that might enable more participation?

      Remote participation might be against current state laws, but that is something more possible to change, as I think changes are adapting to increasing technological capabilities are possible. The argument I've seen before that remote voting might lead to voting fraud becomes weaker in larger context that recognizes we have been allowing for the possibility of disallowed voting in our current system all along. Another approach would be Australian Ballot. The Town rejected that several years back, but I think that's the sort of change that should be preceded by a study committee and public forums, and in retrospect, it's completely appropriate that it was defeated.

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    Possessing more than one handset is a violation of the Moderator's Rules, as is voting with a handset other than the one you were issued.

    From the Moderator's Rules (IV.D.1.b) :

    Each person receiving a handset must retain and use only that handset until turned in at the Help Desk, given to a Teller or turned in at the end of the session. No person may lend or give that handset to another person, nor may any person vote with a handset originally given to another. Voters with handsets may retain them if they wish to leave the room for any reason, but they must hand their handset to an exit attendant if they plan to leave the building.
    (emphasis added)

    The above paragraph can be found at the bottom of page 125 of the most recent Town Meeting Warrant.

    At the beginning of the first session of the 2015 Annual Town Meeting, the Moderator reminded Town Meeting that proxy voting is prohibited (at time 14:58 in the WayCam video).
    Last edited by DHBernstein; 04-24-2015 at 04:21 AM.

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    Let's be crystal clear: Putting your handset down (to go to the bathroom, to blow your nose, to get a drink of water, to attend to your child who might be attending with you) is not voter fraud. The moderator's rules are rules of process, not rules of law. The first rule of how to address the meeting says that you can't speak until you have been recognized by the moderator. But people do this all the time. It is against the rules, but it is not fraud.

    Clearly, the intention of the rule regarding handsets is to ensure that no one votes on multiple handsets, not to require people to carry handsets into toilet stalls. (And I sincerely hope that whatever results from looking at this is not that people do carry their handsets into toilet stalls.) What is against the rules, and the law, is proxy voting.

    The Moderator should remind voters about proxy voting at the start of each session. As he noted during the debate of Article 25, there are different voters there each night, and he wouldn't assume that those in attendance one night heard what was said on another night.

    I was unable to attend the Electronic Voting Committee meeting on Wednesday. Can you fill us in, Dave, on what the committee decided to do to ensure the integrity of the voting process?

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    Does anyone know what sanitation process the handset provider goes through between sessions of TM? I hope we're not creating a major disease vector with this infernal devices! [grin]

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    I've long documented the biased "reporting" of Wayland Voters Network. I don't know if it's a new low, or if they are simply revisiting past lows, but we should all be disgusted when they write something like this (#593) with absolutely zero evidence.

    Quote Originally Posted by WVN
    The suspected voter fraud appeared to be among young parents who packed Town Meeting to vote for a new community center at the Town Center, and then left soon after a successful vote to fund a study to build the project.
    • Who were these parents?
    • How old are these parents?
    • How many of these parents were there?
    • How does WVN know that they are even parents at all?
    • Who saw one or more of these "parents" voting on multiple handsets, and with what frequency?



    Worse, WVN continues its cowardly ways by not even acknowledging who wrote those vile words. All we get is the patently untransparent "WVN Staff." If they list their staff anywhere, they certainly don't make it easy to find. The only name that I can find is Michael Short. Helpfully (this will no doubt be shortly corrected), he includes his email address (mmshort1@comcast.net). I'll certainly be voicing my displeasure with him directly--I hope that others do the same.

    More broadly, WVN pretends to be "journalism," but try getting them to print a letter to the editor. Try commenting online on one of their attacks. Try getting much of a response out of them at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    The moderator's rules are rules of process, not rules of law. The first rule of how to address the meeting says that you can't speak until you have been recognized by the moderator. But people do this all the time.
    During Town Meeting, the Moderator decides how the Moderator's rules are enforced. The fact that some rules are not stringently enforced does not mean that the Moderator's rules are unenforceable recommendations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    I was unable to attend the Electronic Voting Committee meeting on Wednesday. Can you fill us in, Dave, on what the committee decided to do to ensure the integrity of the voting process?
    The Electronic Voting Implementation Subcommittee last met on April 6; it will next meet on Thursday April 30th at 7:30 pm in the Town Building to address this agenda. Waylanders are welcome to attend this meeting and participate in the discussion.

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    I wasn't suggesting that the Moderator's Rules weren't the rules for the meeting. I was suggesting that they don't comprise "the law". They do not determine what is legal and they don't define what is fraud. They merely guide the process of the evening. The moderator himself is not even bound by them. I believe, though I am not 100% certain, that the Moderator can change his rules at any time and on the fly set new rules. They are not part of our by-laws, they are not laws. They require no approval from any other boards or committees. [Note: some of the rules really are determined by law or by-laws, such as the quantum of vote required, and the number of attendees needed for a quorum, but most are just process.] They help provide order for the meeting.

    If someone gave someone else a handset and said, "please watch this for me while I go to the toilet", they would technically be in violation of the rules. They would not, however, have committed fraud. If someone set down their handset next to their spouse and got up without saying anything, they would not be guilty of giving someone their handset, but they would be guilty of not retaining their handset until they turned it in. This is also technically in violation of the rules, and also not fraud. I'm not sure what remedy exists or should exist for these sorts of violations. I think the only important part of the rule is the part that says not to vote on more than one handset.

    Let's have some fun with a few hypotheticals here:
    • A mother in the bleachers is nursing her baby, and asks her husband to press "1" for Yes on her handset for a vote. She has expressed her specific vote, but he presses the buttons on his own and her handset. Is that allowed?
    • A father is holding his son, who has fallen asleep in his arms. He asks his wife to press "2" for No on his handset for a vote. He has expressed his specific vote, but she presses the buttons on his own and her handset. Is that allowed?
    • A resident has just sneezed and is searching through their pockets for a handkerchief. They ask the person beside them to please cast a vote for them. They say, "I know we agree on this one, just vote however you're voting on your handset." The resident understands has expressed his intent, but not specifically what the vote should be, and his friend casts votes on two handsets. Is that allowed?

    Having thought about it a bit, I don't think it's necessary for residents to formally checkout when they leave. But, my suggestion is to require anyone who leaves the meeting to return their handset. If they are leaving the building only momentarily, they could leave it with a teller in the front who has responsibility for such handsets. But no one who has been issued a handset should be able to leave the building without turning over a handset. With this simple change, we have dramatically reduced the possibility of proxy voting.

    If we want to be extra careful, we could handle the case of non-voters as well (to eliminate the possibility of someone leaving without a handset saying they never got one when they actually did): Anyone who is not a registered voter (i.e., people who might be at Town Meeting and not have a handset) could be issued a non-voter card which they would return upon leaving. That way, everyone who enters gets something (a handset or a card), and everyone who leaves returns something. There would need to be more flow control at the entrance/exit for this to work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post

    Let's have some fun with a few hypotheticals here:
    • A mother in the bleachers is nursing her baby, and asks her husband to press "1" for Yes on her handset for a vote. She has expressed her specific vote, but he presses the buttons on his own and her handset. Is that allowed?
    • A father is holding his son, who has fallen asleep in his arms. He asks his wife to press "2" for No on his handset for a vote. He has expressed his specific vote, but she presses the buttons on his own and her handset. Is that allowed?
    • A resident has just sneezed and is searching through their pockets for a handkerchief. They ask the person beside them to please cast a vote for them. They say, "I know we agree on this one, just vote however you're voting on your handset." The resident understands has expressed his intent, but not specifically what the vote should be, and his friend casts votes on two handsets. Is that allowed?
    According to the Moderator's rules, the answer to each of your hypothetical questions is "no".

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    Having thought about it a bit, I don't think it's necessary for residents to formally checkout when they leave. But, my suggestion is to require anyone who leaves the meeting to return their handset. If they are leaving the building only momentarily, they could leave it with a teller in the front who has responsibility for such handsets. But no one who has been issued a handset should be able to leave the building without turning over a handset. With this simple change, we have dramatically reduced the possibility of proxy voting.
    The Moderator's rules already state that

    Voters with handsets may retain them if they wish to leave the room for any reason, but they must hand their handset to an exit attendant if they plan to leave the building.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    If we want to be extra careful, we could handle the case of non-voters as well (to eliminate the possibility of someone leaving without a handset saying they never got one when they actually did): Anyone who is not a registered voter (i.e., people who might be at Town Meeting and not have a handset) could be issued a non-voter card which they would return upon leaving. That way, everyone who enters gets something (a handset or a card), and everyone who leaves returns something. There would need to be more flow control at the entrance/exit for this to work.
    In general, ELVIS members are stationed at each exit lane to recover handsets from Voters who leave during the meeting. However, this is challenging when large numbers of voters exit simultaneously.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    According to the Moderator's rules, the answer to each of your hypothetical questions is "no".
    Are any of them, in your opinion, fraud?

    The definition of fraud that I would use is what you get from a google search: fraud is a "deliberate deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain". If you prefer a different definition of fraud, let me know what you would use.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    Are any of them, in your opinion, fraud?
    What's relevant during Town Meeting is whether they would be violations of the Moderator's Rules. If there are other statutes that govern behavior during votes at Town Meeting, cite them, and I'll say whether I think they would be violated by your hypothetical situations.

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