Clerks: No-Excuse Absentee Voting Creates Problems

Courant article by Joseph V. Camposeo,  town clerk of Manchester and president of the Connecticut Town Clerks Association.  <read>

The opinion piece hits all of the bases, articulating the costs, the increased opportunity for fraud, increased disenfranchisement, and that it will not increase turnout:

Research from other states has shown that when offered no-excuse absentee ballot voting, the volume of people using this method has doubled or tripled. But it is important to note that in these states overall voter turnout has not increased.

Further, our current system for processing absentee ballots could not handle the increase in volume under a no-excuse system. The no-excuse option would quickly strain an outdated, inefficient and manual process for mailing, accounting for and counting of absentee ballots. A no-excuse option for voting will have a significant effect on our municipal budgets as an unfunded mandate.

A significant concern among town clerks and the state Elections Enforcement Commission is the potential for voter fraud in this highly manual process. The current system does not provide for the security and storage of a large number of ballots within the town clerks’ vaults. Also, with higher volumes, there is greater opportunity for counting errors.

Under a no-excuse system there is no way to guarantee the applicant is voting the ballot. The absentee voting system already has been the focus of forgery, coercion, bribery and multiple-voting complaints. In contrast, at an early voting polling site, which opens prior to Election Day, individuals would need to produce identification before getting a ballot.

Furthermore, clerks are concerned that an increased number of voters would be disenfranchised under a no-excuse absentee ballot system. Already many absentee votes are disqualified and not counted because voters fail to sign the envelopes, mail them back too late or mismark their ballots. During the 2008 election in Missouri, 8,000 absentee ballots were not counted for these reasons. Those ballots could have changed the outcome of the election. At an early voting polling site, these voters would have been given another chance to vote their ballots correctly and not be disenfranchised…

No-excuse voting would also change the election season for candidates if residents were allowed to vote up to 30-days prior to Election Day, causing campaigns to start much earlier. Voters could be casting votes before they have all the information necessary to make an informed decision.

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