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Of all the voting methods, vote by mail is the riskiest

SHARE Of all the voting methods, vote by mail is the riskiest

A worker processes mail-in ballots at the Bucks County Board of Elections office prior to the primary election in Doylestown, Pa., on May 27, 2020.

Matt Slocum, Associated Press

I have served as an elections judge and poll watcher at the polling places in both Utah and Washington state. I have seen a progression from a paper ballot, to a card that is fed through a computer, to voting online, to vote by mail. While every one of these voting methods can have problems, vote by mail has the greatest potential for a fraudulent vote. I am not saying this as a Trump supporter — I am saying this as a former election judge.

The first problem is the registered address of the voter. This could be solved if the post office would refuse to deliver a ballot to an address that is not the current address for the name on the ballot, but I still get mail for people who used to live at the address where my current home is located — and we moved here seven years ago. If a ballot is delivered to this address, and we pick it up from our mailbox, there is absolutely nothing that can stop the current resident from opening up that ballot, filling it out, signing the ballot and sending it in. This is a fraudulent ballot.

I don’t see any way this can be prevented. It has been a potential problem in past elections in Utah, but it is not solved, as long as mail can be delivered to the wrong address. I know there is an effort to purge registration lists, and this will be helpful, but it only partially solves the problem if there is no one checking all the addresses against the registration list.

The other potential problem is ballot gathering. If someone is aware that a ballot might be delivered to someone that no longer lives at that address, and the mail is easily available, ballots could be gathered, filled out and mailed in. The other potential problem is for ballot harvesting — gathering ballots from places like nursing homes, and turning the group of ballots in at the post office. This is another way that illegal ballots can be added to the group. In the past, either party would sometimes go to a nursing home, register the voter, and then later collect their ballot. This is an effective way to get older people, or new citizens, to vote in the way the organization promotes, and then gather the ballot. Who is monitoring the way a particular party is harvesting ballots? This is another way for voter fraud.

When you are serving as an election judge, at a particular polling place (and candidates can have poll watchers present), a neighbor can notice that someone is listed on the rolls that hasn’t lived at that address for several years, or the person has died. We used to call in these names to help clean up the registration list. My mother-in-law moved to Washington state, but her name kept appearing on the voter rolls, even though we reported that she had moved. Each year we would have to provide the information to the elections judge or to the state.  

Also, who is watching over every place where ballots can be put into the mail? These are ballot boxes that can be used by people who are worried about gathering at a polling place, because of COVID-19. But, in the past, the ballot boxes were carefully watched and carried to a carefully watched place for gathering ballot boxes. We used to lock each box before delivering it. Unless you have someone watching this process, there is another possibility of ballot box stuffing. There are people who are very capable of figuring how to impact this process. (We had such a situation occur in Washington state, which did impact the election.)

So, while it is probably necessary to do voting by mail at this upcoming election, there are many parts of the process that could be impacted — creating ballot fraud.

I hope this list of potential problems will be read by those in authority to correct the potential for fraud. A free and accurate vote is at the very base of our voting process in the United States — to assure the the successful candidates are truly chosen by the people.

Susan Roylance, a former candidate for Congress in the 4th Congressional District of Washington state, served many times as an elections judge and poll watcher, both in Washington and Utah. She is the director of International Policy and Social Development for United Families International.