by Joe B. Lyman
I have had an uneasy feeling about the mail in ballots. It seems rather evident that there is a much greater possibility of fraud with mail in ballots than there are with traditional polling.
Ballot security is virtually nonexistent with thousands of ballots floating around. I am sure there are measures taken to avoid potential problems but there are so many potential problems that I am convinced it is a bad idea.
Let me be clear that I am unaware of any problems with fraud and the mail in ballots in San Juan County, but there have been other problems.
There are two reasons touted as why voting by mail is a great idea. First, it increases voter participation. Second, voters are more likely to be informed.
I went online looking for any other arguments in favor and found none. What I found were a LOT of arguments against and evidence that both the arguments in favor are not valid either.
States that have used mail in or absentee ballots, particularly those that are exclusively absentee voting have shown an initial increase in voting that has then trailed off over time. Within a couple of election cycles the voter turnout is actually depressed.
This trend may be less likely in remote rural areas like San Juan County. There is also a lot of confusion about how voter turnout is measured as well.
As for a voter being more informed. I believe that when someone has a ballot kicking around the house for a few days they may be more inclined to become better informed, particularly about ballot initiatives.
Previously they may have only became aware of some initiatives when they walked into the voting booth. However, it is also true that if someone votes early new information may become available which would have changed the way they voted, in which case a supposed well informed voter was actually uninformed when they cast their vote.
Now as for the multitude of arguments against the mail in ballot; I think they can be separated into two categories, Potential for Fraud and Systematic Problems or problems created by the mail in process that are not existent with traditional polling.
Fraud with mail in voting is so much easier to accomplish through identity theft, undue influence, ‘lost’ ballots, rejected ballots and other possible problems. Other systematic problems are the delivery and return, or not, of the ballots, signature validation, accuracy of the mailing list, lost ballots etc...
Ballots can easily be mailed in by someone other than the person to whom they were addressed. Signatures can be duplicated by digital scan and print technology if not by simple forgery. For that matter my signature is never much the same from one day to the next, especially when you consider the times my wife signs for me.
It is likely my vote was rejected. Signatures change over time anyway with age, disability, style changes or simply being in a hurry one day and more relaxed the next. So do we have a handwriting expert at each location doing analysis?
Voters are more likely to be unduly influenced by a family member or others more than when their vote is cast in a private voting booth. There are examples ‘helpers’ canvassing neighborhoods to ‘assist’ people in voting.
The elderly are particularly susceptible and the problem is extensive enough that the practice has been called granny farming for votes.
Votes could be rejected by election workers (no implied accusation here) because they know who’s vote they have just received. Not only would it be a lot easier for election workers to take a peek and see how someone voted but the ballot could be rejected as a mismatched signature when in reality is was rejected for political or personal reasons.
Prejudice against certain voters could easily be used when cleaning up the mailing list of voters. That implies fraud but most problems are likely are just human mistakes.
We have had the wrong ballots sent to areas of the County. Non-residents getting ballots for City Council seats for example.
How are we to know the mailing lists are current and accurate? There are companies that spend millions to keep mailing lists accurate and still have a significant rejection rate. Across the country approximately 10% of mailed ballots are not returned as votes or returned mail. What of those voters?
With mail in voting there is no way to know whether your vote was actually counted. Did your ballot get delivered? Was it rejected for the signature? Was it rejected by the counting machine?
You would have no recourse for your ballot being rejected because you would be unaware that it had been rejected in the first place. For that matter a friend or family member may think differently than you and ‘lose’ your ballot on the way to the post office.
None of these are problems with traditional polling stations.
So I hope we go back to traditional voting at polling stations and I would add the requirement of proof of identity when voting. We don’t have a problem showing ID for almost anything else we do. It should be no problem to do so when we vote.
This year I almost forgot it was election day. I missed the feeling of community and patriotism I used to get when going to the polls.