|"So I can vote"|
Like clockwork, every four years there's a big to-do about "mail in voting is ripe for fraud" and every four years, there are no major cases of mail in voting fraud. This time around, with so many people voting by mail for the first time, it's a louder issue at the front, but the same thing at the back: no major cases.
In many cases, most vote by mail concerns can be attributed to the fact that the voter has only just now started thinking about the ways any ballot could be stolen or falsified.
I'm here to tell you that the elections office and everybody who works there has not only already thought about those ways, they thought about a bunch more ways that you haven't thought of yet, and then they had to prove they could prevent that from happening before vote by mail was even allowed to happen.
A quick check of your state or your county for vote by mail rules will probably alleviate much of your concerns for vote by mail potential fraud. But since this is America in 2020 and very few people bother to take the time to look things up, let's go through some common vote by mail allegations and solutions.
They're adding ghost people to the rolls to vote!
Do you know how hard it is to add someone to the voting rolls? Have you ever really considered what it takes? It takes faking an entire person, a social security number, a driver's license with a photo and number and an entire paper trail for just one vote. If I'm going through all that trouble to add a fake person, it's to rent a storage unit to hold all my duffle bags of money for selling fake Baby Yodas on Ebay.
If you've ever moved, you have to prove you exist and really live there to receive a ballot. It starts with going somewhere in person- the DMV or the elections office- and proving you are living there by showing mail and turning in your old driver's license. Then they run you through a database to make sure you're not somebody else. Only then do they ask you if you want to register to vote.
When I moved out of state, I realized I hadn't registered to vote the day before the election, so I went to the county office and stood in line. I think I didn't have any of the other proof besides my driver's license so I had to go back home and get all the other stuff- mail and the like- and only then did they give me a provisional ballot. But it still took me going there in person, not doing it any other way. And that's how you still have to register to vote everywhere. At some point, you have to actually be in front of a person who will certify that you are also a person.
Have you ever tried to fake a social security number? You might be able to fake one to illegally get a credit card or a rental car or maybe a souvenir towel at a baseball game (seems like an oddly specific example, doesn't it? Well, sometimes people need a towel but don't want to sign up for a credit card). But to use a fake social security number in order to register to vote? That.... doesn't make any sense. Neither does going through all the trouble to fake a driver's license to vote. Unless you're in The Breakfast Club.
The only argument people bring to this one is examples from the Chicago mob days or LBJ in Texas. Even those are pretty much anecdotal (most of the "proof" for LBJ comes from one article in the 70's after all the major players in the election had died). There's no evidence of it happening now, or enough to swing any election since then.
My uncle's/cousin's/in-law's/friend's ballot was stolen! They never got it!
First of all, if this did happen, that is a terrible thing and whoever did that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. So, question number one: what did they do about it? (Usually, the claim fades away into nothingness after this question).
If a ballot does not show up, the voter absolutely has to contact their county elections office. The office will either issue a second, provisional ballot or tell the voter to go in person on election day and vote at the poll. Behind the scenes, the elections office will then try to find that missing ballot! If the vote was counted, it can be tracked and de-counted (I just made up a word). Then it can be tracked: where did it come from and how did it get counted? But it is highly unlikely that ballot was even counted. If it did, they can continue the tracking back to where it came from and arrest the person perpetrating the fraud.
And there we come to another section: The signature. Every mail in ballot requires a signature. That signature is checked against the one the elections office has on file for every voter. It's as simple as scanning that signature and having the computer do the checking. If there is a big enough discrepancy, the computer kicks the signature and the vote out, and it is hand-checked later.
So when you hear accusations of employees in rest homes taking all the residents ballots, filling them out and returning them.... well, first of all you need to stop hanging out with people who tell you those stories but can't tell you where that happened and which rest home.
First of all, rest homes are under enough scrutiny for killing thousands of residents due to absolute negligence during the Covid-19 pandemic that they sure don't want to be federally prosecuted for voter fraud on top of it. But sure, these stories were around long before the pandemic. Why, I remember hearing them as reasons for not having vote by mail be a thing back when I was a kid.
Let's go through the issues: Some resident in that home is going to know they didn't get a ballot, or their kid or granddaughter is going to ask them if they voted, and when they say no, the granddaughter is going to start investigating why. They may very likely call the elections office to check to see if a ballot was even issued. Point is, somebody or some relative is going to start questioning.
Second, the signature. Forging a signature is hard. Forging a signature to fool a computer that is comparing it to other signatures is damn near impossible.
Third: if it even gets that far, some worker in that rest home is going to blow the whistle on the scam.
Four: the elections office is going to be very careful with 400 ballots showing up from the same building on the same day. Hey, I think it's weird when I get two pieces of personal mail on the same day. How is an elections office going to react when an entire building returns its vote by mail ballots on the same day? They're going to flag them.
And then there's everything else. A database scan is going to be very cautious allowing votes of people over a certain age- probably 90. So those ballots may be rejected out of the machine immediately and subject to verification in other ways. When you hear about "dead people voting" nowadays, it's quite often that the database still had "John Smith Senior" in the roll and "John Smith Junior" voted his proper ballot and the machine saw "John Smith" and kicked the ballot out.
Vote by mail states have so much fraud! All their elections are fakes!
Um, no. I lived in Oregon for 15 years. Oregon has been entirely vote by mail since 2000. Every conceivable way someone could forge a ballot has been thought of and precautions have been put in place. In fact, Oregon is actually better at heading off vote by mail fraud because of it.
I remembered hearing about vote by mail fraud in Oregon during the 2016 election so I looked it up. They found ten cases. One was an 18 year old in college who was dumb enough to not realize what she was voting in two states, another was a woman who moved out of state to care for her fatally ill father and was not paying attention to voting twice, and one stupid mom who we'll call "Karen" that filled out a ballot for her daughter who was out of state at college.
10! Accidental and they found them all.
Any other issues I haven't thought of? Let me know and I'll do an update!