To the editor:
Multiple states for this general election cycle have adopted a broad expansion of mail-in absentee voting beyond the widely established practice of a voter requesting an absentee ballot.
While there has been much noise about this development from both sides, the facts involved have been blurred or ignored. Now comes the charge that the United States Postal Service is spreading disinformation by a mailer regarding mail-in balloting.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold is leading the attack with a suit against the Postal Service, seeking an injunction to halt any further delivery of this mailer. The irony is that the mailer (I have already received mine) seeks to educate recipients to better assure that their ballot is received and counted. It encourages time frames for giving adequate time for receiving and submitting a mail-in absentee ballot, while encouraging the voting recipient to use links provided to get state specific information about absentee voting process. This mailer is similar to the Postal Service notices in the holiday season stating the last date for mailing that will assure delivery by Christmas.
Concerns about the Postal Service ability to timely handle absentee ballot volume, so long as they are mailed in accordance with certain reasonable time frames, is unwarranted. Added mail volume in the Christmas season exceeds any that will occur by the projected expansion of mail-in absentee balloting. Rather legitimate anxieties are generated by the manner of distribution of absentee ballots and their processing by election boards when returned.
Those two aspects represent the most serious opportunity for election confusion and fraud, in that the broad expansion of mail-in voting does not assure a secure “chain of custody” for those ballots.
The integrity of a secure chain of custody is best accomplished with in-person voting on election day, or in early in-person balloting at designated locations: the voter appears, presents adequate documentation to verify registered voter identity, signs the voter registration roll (which is matched against the signature on record), then given a ballot to complete and submit in the presence of the election workers. This process assures in the best possible manner the objective of one-person-one-vote cast by a duly eligible voter.
This election cycle there are many states that are planning to send out mail-in absentee ballots not only to those voters who have requested such ballot, but also to “every voter on the voter registration rolls”. A variation of that plan is to send an absentee ballot request form to every registered voter.
Both approaches pose a major breach of the concept of a secure chain of custody right from the start. Voter registration rolls are notoriously inaccurate, having many people who no longer live at the address on record, or even in the state, as well as having people listed who have died. At the beginning of this flawed approach, then, there is no credible assurance that the ballot, or absentee ballot request form, mailed out reaches a legitimate voter.
Add to that problem the number of these ballots or requests that are received by a registered voter who will not vote at all (sadly, half the registered voters do not actually vote), or decides to vote in-person. Thus there will be a vast number of ballots and ballot request forms in circulation that have no even minimally authenticated receipt by a legitimate registered voter. Who will end up with those requests and ballots?
Such a breach of balloting security alone is justification for profound anxiety about confusion, fraud, and disenfranchisement. But wait, there is more. These same election officials that have embraced this irresponsible manner of distributing absentee ballots have also proposed eliminating processes that have historically been part of validating the legitimacy of absentee ballots received, namely return delivery by mail (not collected and delivered by some third party), and the comparison of the signature on the ballot with the signature of he registered voter on file.
Abandoning these minimal attempts at chain of custody security and verifying voter identity combines with the previously described opportunities for illegitimate balloting to make a wide-open field for electoral confusion and fraud.
Whatever you may otherwise think of Donald Trump, the very vocal concerns expressed by him regarding the broad expansions of mail-in voting are real and rooted in fact and truth, already experienced this year on lesser local and regional levels in the primary season.
Over half a million absentee mail-in ballots were disqualified in primary elections with such expanded vote by mail this year. Those numbers are evidence of a disturbing prospect for the general election.
I am thankful that the Commonwealth of Kentucky has not embraced such a flawed manner of expanding absentee mail-in voting, as voters must request such a ballot, and submit for processing by election officials in the same manner as has been historically done.