Vote absentee, only if you have to!

CTVotersCount readers know that we oppose expanded mail-in voting including no-excuse absentee voting. There are two major reasons: the risk of voting fraud and the risk of error or delays resulting in your vote not being counted. The risk of fraud is primarily a risk of campaigners, insiders, or others working to fraudulently vote for others or to trash votes somewhere between the voter, in the mail, or in town hall. The risk to voters is that they will make an innocent mistake or their ballot innocently lost along the way.

The Daily News articulates the risks, compounded by the dramatic increase in vote by mail:  Meet the hanging chad of 2012 <read>

the silent, creeping revolution in the timing and method of voting presents bigger opportunities for trouble. In recent years, absentee and mail-in ballots have been steadily rising as a share of total ballots cast. The majority of states now allow “no-excuse absentee” voting, meaning anyone can ask to cast a ballot by mail. You don’t need the political equivalent of a doctor’s note, as was true previously.

According to the Census Bureau, more than 18% of voters in the 2010 election voted by mail. Another 8% voted early but “in person” at a polling place or vote center (a recent innovation that enables out-of-precinct voting). As a result, more than a quarter of voters ended up voting early or absentee — roughly double the rate in the 2000 election.

In general, misfeasance — meaning, plain old mistake-making — is a bigger threat to voting than is corruption or malfeasance, and absentee ballots are no exception. Many interactions between the voter and the election authority must work without a hitch for the voter’s absentee ballot to be cast successfully:

The already registered voter must request the ballot; the administrator must receive and process the request; the administrator must in a timely manner send the ballot to the voter; the voter must receive the ballot; the voter must vote correctly, on time and provide the proper verifications (such as the voter’s own signature and/or that of a witness); the administrator must receive the ballot on time; and the administrator must count the ballot.

So, even though absentee balloting is not brain surgery, the opportunities for error are considerable. Consider that in the recount involving the 2008 Minnesota Senate race, one out of 25 absentee ballots was disqualified for one reason or another. And this in a state where, the saying goes, all of the voters (and election administrators) are above average.

We pretty much agree with everything they have said, yet disagree that fraud is less of a risk. Fraud tends to have value, with a higher incentive, in very close elections, especially local elections, where moving a few dozen votes can often change the result.


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