Vote by Mail for Coronavirus Can Increase Problems Unless Process Is Protected

While election officials need to make sure that no voters are disenfranchised during the COVID-19 crisis, they also need to make sure that the integrity of the election is still protected.  The expected and understandable increase in mail voting will present unique challenges, as mail voting is uniquely susceptible to disenfranchising voters through fraud and mistake.  After describing some specific examples of fraud through ballot harvesting, former RNLA Ed Meese Award Winner Hans von Spakovsky and Christian Adams wrote today:

Vote-harvesting fraud isn’t the end of the problems with vote-by-mail. States relying on this method inevitably send piles of ballots to obsolete addresses or to registrants who have died.

That’s because voter rolls are filled with errors. California voter rolls remain tainted with thousands of deceased registrants, as well as voters who say they live at commercial addresses. In Swissvale, Pennsylvania, one man had seven simultaneous active voter registrations at the same address. Vote-by-mail would send seven ballots to this house.

Advocates of vote-by-mail don’t understand the extent of the snafus on American voter rolls. They don’t understand the hundreds of thousands duplicate registrations that exist. They don’t understand the problem of placeholder registrations — where many registrations don’t even have full addresses. And those who do understand have chosen to turn a blind eye to these and other glaring problems.

Now, add to all these problems the simple fact that vote-by-mail is entirely dependent on the postal service — the same outfit that routinely delivers you your neighbor’s mail.

Mr. von Spakovsky and Mr. Adams outlined recommendations to protect the integrity of mail voting in an op-ed with former RNLA President Cleta Mitchell:

All states and localities contemplating voting-by-mail should require voters to respond with a request for an absentee ballot in a written form – with a signature. That accomplishes two objectives: active voters are notified of the change in the process, and the signature will allow election officials (and interested citizens) to compare and authenticate voter identity.

For further protection, officials should require a photocopy of an ID or, for example, if they have a state driver’s license or ID card, the serial number of that identification on the absentee-ballot request form. . . . States should require voters to register prior to Election Day with sufficient time for election officials to validate and verify the information provided by voters of their identity, their residence, their citizenship status, and any other information relevant to their eligibility to vote. Same day or Election Day registration doesn’t allow for such verification.

States should only accept absentee ballots that are officially postmarked by the U.S. Postal Service on or before Election Day. This assures that ballots are not cast after Election Day and after preliminary election results are known, which would otherwise risk giving voters (or vote “harvesters”) the ability to manipulate close races after the polls have closed. . . .

When processing the returned absentee ballots from voters, states must have strong authentication standards. This includes allowing election officials and observers to compare signatures on the ballot envelopes to voter registration signatures.

All of these procedures are important to ensuring the integrity of voting by mail.  And if more Americans than usual choose to vote by mail this November, voter confidence in the outcome of the election will depend in large part on whether the process was open, fair, and honest.  For more recommendations and a video on the potential problems with vote by mail, check out Lawyers Democracy Fund's Absentee and Mail Ballots issue spotlight.