Absentee Tracking System Already Breaking Down?

Tracking on my ballot as of September 30, eight days since the last update.  Click for larger view.

Okay, so where is my absentee ballot? The Virginia Board of Elections tracking system is falling down. This does not inspire confidence and needs to be fixed.

I had the application in well in advance. The ballot was mailed on the first day, a Friday, and our local Postal Service delivery lady worked long hours on Saturday to get them delivered. I assume the absentee ballots were the reason mail was delivered at 8 p.m. that day. Thank you, Ma’am.

I had it back in the mail Monday morning and as you can see above, the tracking service had it on its way to the Henrico Board of Elections by Tuesday, September 22. But the tracking has not been updated since that time. I’ve given it a week.

UPDATE: It turns out there are two trackers, and the other one (here) does show my ballot as received by the county Sept. 23.   That is the tracker I remember from before.  So now the mystery is, why the second one?  And why is it not updated when the other one is?  The confusion this might create could be substantial.  The person who sent me the link to the correct tracker reported a similar problem on the newer one for his own ballot.

The second process is being run by an outside vendor, Ballot Scout, and I don’t know when that started. Last June I cast a mail absentee (as a poll worker away from my home precinct I had that legitimate reason) and the tracking was prompt. It will need to be prompt this time if you want confidence in Virginia’s results. Another little wrinkle on this that should raise eyebrows — anybody can check the status of anybody else’s mail absentee on the second one, if you have their first and last name and the address. Huh? Anybody can see in real time if I’ve requested and mailed a ballot or not?


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24 responses to “Absentee Tracking System Already Breaking Down?

  1. I would encourage others to describe their experiences with absentee voting. Is Steve’s experience a one-off, or is it the sign of deeper problems?

    Personally, I intend to vote in person. I don’t anyone screwing around with my ballot.

  2. “Ballot Scout is an application that tracks domestic ballots sent through the mail using USPS Intelligent Mail barcodes. It was created by Democracy Works, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, and is used here in partnership with your local election office. Ballot Scout tracks mail-in ballots sent throughout the United States and provides transparency for voters and election officials into where mail-in ballots are in the mail stream, ensuring each vote is counted.”

    “Democracy Works is a nonprofit corporation that promotes the use of technology to increase voter participation. The group also provides information on candidates, voting precinct locations, and means of transportation for voters who need it. The main component to Democracy Works is a project called TurboVote, which was launched in 2012. [1] [2] The groups major donors are prominent left-of-center private foundations, such as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. [3]

    Democracy Works is a member of Bridge Alliance, a left-leaning social welfare coalition that supports numerous left-of-center election reform policies and is partnered with the left-of-center PAC Unite America. “

  3. Baconator with extra cheese

    “Come on, Man” – everyone knows there has never been any voter fraud with mail-in ballots ever.

  4. From WUSA9.com:

    Headline: Officials fear parts of Virginia election system labeled ‘unreliable’ in 2018 may slow or crash on Election Day

    Text: Elements of the Virginia Election and Registration Information System, or VERIS, have already slowed, shown errors, or given election officials cause for concern during the initial days of 2020 early voting in Virginia.


  5. We’ve gone from how many mail-in ballots before to now?

    As Steve knows, the actual number of full-time election workers is small and they rely on volunteers to man the precincts. How many full-time poll workers do they have to process a mountain of mail-in ballots?

    In terms of “fraud”. It happens. There is no such thing as “none”. The question is how much and I’ll admit, the term “ballot stuffing” did not suddenly get invented – it was a time-honored tradition in some places in the US.

    But where I part company is in the context of a State or Federal election where there would have to be a coordinated conspiracy if they were trying to get all ballots in all precincts to be altered for one candidate.

    From what I understand and perhaps Steve can confirm – ballots are counted in front of representative from both parties – not in “secret”.

    I won’t say it’s impossible but if folks are claiming the fraud can occur across all counties and states to deliver votes to one candidate – I call boogeyman BS.

    • Simple human error will probably swamp intentional fraud this year. Both make the results unreliable.

      • I’m curious if both tracking methods are “official”. Why would the election officials provide more than one way and one of the ways with obvious problems?

        This is not fraud. It might be incompence or human error – who knows but the narrative that there is massive fraud implying that nefarious folks can change votes for one candidate – across precincts and counties is patently false. It would be extremely difficult to have “planted” conspirators in each election office who could work without being observed by others… it’s just beyond the realm yet people keep saying it.

  6. My daughter voted absentee. I do not believe she knows if it was received. Also, the ballot stated it needed a signature from a witness. I signed it but later I read that it wasn’t needed. I voted in person but went by three times because of long lines.

  7. Everybody please note my update in the post. Turns out there are two trackers, and the second (and original) one is up to date for me. It also requires DOB and then the final four digits of the SS number before giving me the status (the Ballot Scout asks for none of that.) I feel better knowing my ballot is in, but now I’m wondering, why two systems that don’t sync?

  8. In a world where software runs everything Ralph Northam demoted Virginia’s Secretary of Technology below cabinet level. Why? Well fundamentally because he’s a dimwit. However, there’s also the fact that he and his plantation elitist friends think that the importance of a position is the number of people working in that department. Given that Northam’s personal behavior proves that he operates about 30 years behind the times I guess this “empire builder” mentality is understandable.

    How many times have we seen technology problems cause massive, real world suffering? From the distribution of COVID-19 relief checks to the tracking of ballots, technology pervades our state government. Yet Ralph Wiggums, err … I mean Ralph Northam … just can’t seem to understand the importance of technology to the state.

    Hopefully our next governor won’t be a throwback dipstick from the plantation elite.

    • The Secretary of Technology was a ceremonial, unnecessary position. The Secretary oversaw one major agency, the Virginia Information Technology Agency (the infamous VITA). The director of VITA was the primary person in charge. The reorganization kept VITA and got rid of the unnecessary cabinet position.

      The other aspect of the state’s IT that people misunderstand is that VITA is not in charge of agency internal IT processes, such as the VEC system and the one used by the Dept. of Elections. Each agency is responsible its own systems. VITA is in charge of the enterprise systems for all of state government–e-mail, internet, and the servers which agencies use to run their systems.

      • VITA was to establish and maintain State-level standards for networking, hardware and software and to keep them all updated and with up-to-date security patches.

        The Navy had the same problems – in that each agency wants it’s own unique setup which can put the entire network at risk for hacking and ransomware, etc.

        The problem is that these agencies often do not have professional IT staff whose preimary purpose is to maintain the security of their systems. That means every single piece of hardware AND software has to be kept up to date with the latest security patches and most of these smaller agencies won’t do it, they don’t even have qualified IT folks on their staff whose job is dedicated to the task of securing the equipment.

        On a network – the hacker walks through the system until he finds an unsecured computer or software, then hacks into that system and from there via the network, into other systems.

        Want to see the SBE site shut down with ransom-ware? How about LIS or the unemployment system or DMV?

        Some of the problems with VITA were like some of the problems with the NAVY NMCI and that is that agencies did not like be limited to only the standardized/approved hardware/software. They like to go get their own stuff and maintain it in house.

        This is akin to each agency having their own standards for electricity rather than having electricians and a system built to code.

  9. Software is risky business these days but we really have no choice, we must push on… but stuff will break … guaranteed – I don’t care how good you are or think you are.

    You don’t need to be a software wizard to really understand the basic processes of how the barcode stuff might work. Not the technical part but who creates the barcodes and who has access to them, etc.

    It might work like this or something similar:

    The barcodes are unique -they have to be for tracking to work.

    That likely means someone manufactured millions of ballots but each one of them has a unique barcode on it that can never be confused with any other ballot.

    Whenever one is sent out from elections, the barcode is likely scanned and it goes to a dataabase and marked with a status of sent out.

    When it is mailed back in , that barcode is scanned again first by the PO as it goes through their system then perhaps once more after elections receives it.

    So there are “apps” that people can use to query that database to check the status.

    If there are two apps and they both are querying the same database, they ought to get the same status. If they are not, it indicates that they might not be using the same databse but perhaps a copy that has gotten stale which sort of implies that one app is not really accessing the primary database.

  10. Pingback: Lost Absentees, Found Roll Call, Missing Statues | Bacon's Rebellion

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