Demystifying the Top 10 Objections to “Home Voting” Systems


McReynolds is executive director of the National Institute for Home Voting, a non-partisan organization dedicated to the expansion of postal voting.

During this year’s state legislative sessions, we have seen some great progress, but also a number of myths, unfounded fears and outright lies about ‘home voting’ or ‘postal voting’ electoral systems. , in which all or most voters in a state or county receive the ballots in the mail and are not required to attend traditional polling stations.

For starters, VAH critics often ignore the reality that all 50 states are already using this method of voting at some level (i.e., postal ballots). And objections are often presented in a vacuum, ignoring how traditional “polling-centric” methods have major inherent drawbacks.

Polling station-centered elections serve millions of people poorly. Think of older or disabled voters unable to get to the polls; rural voters far from a polling station; first responders whose schedules may be preempted; parents working two jobs; families with sick children; students and many others with real-life problems preventing them from voting at a fixed location within a limited period of time.

Polling station models also suffer from execution problems that can deprive large swaths of eligible voters of the right to vote, both innocent and not always: missing power cords for machines, faulty machines, polling officials. who forgot their keys, long queues where voters abandon and leave their homes, voters said their registration is not valid, voters without “correct” ID and polling stations far from some communities.

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But well-implemented VAH models allow everyone to vote on their terms and schedule, while providing more days and more ways to vote, including in-person options. And if a close election requires a recount, VAH systems have paper ballots for every vote cast.

The VAH elections – in place in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Hawaii, and most of California for 2020 – better serve voters, resolve operational issues in the voting process, and mitigate risk.

Here are the top 10 false myths about VAH and rebuttals.

# 1: If you send ballots to more voters, people will ask for “replacement ballots” and vote multiple times or duplicate the ballot and vote multiple times.

Voting envelopes are bar coded for each voter. Upon return, only one ballot per voter is accepted – the first in. Others are rejected, and if criminal intent is suspected, the voter can be prosecuted. Ballots in an envelope without a barcode are rejected.

# 2: Anyone can intercept mail and vote someone else’s ballot.

Voter validation is essential and the recommended best practice is signature verification. This means that each return ballot envelope is signed by the voter and that each signature is verified against the official signatures already registered. Signature judges may be trained by handwriting experts, including many law enforcement officials.

Voters have several paths to resolve the discrepancy, even after election day.

Verification removes onerous witness or notarization rules that can lead to unscrupulous offering of a “service” to do so.

The theft of a mail-in ballot is a federal crime. And a voter who does not receive a ballot, or loses it, can simply contact their local election office for a replacement.

# 3: If you mail ballots, non-citizens will be able to vote. The dead too.

Ballots only go to active registered voters. The issue of citizenship is addressed during the registration process, which takes place before a ballot can be mailed. States with effective VAH systems have automated processes to regularly match death records to voter registration lists to prevent ballots from being sent to a deceased voter.

# 4: Voters move around and don’t update their addresses, leaving ballots floating around for other people to use.

VAH ballots are not transferable. And if someone tries to vote on another person’s ballot – again, a crime – they will likely fail. (See n ° 2.)

VAH states have some of the most accurate voters lists in the country, in part because they use automated address updates through registration procedures or change of address database updates. from the US Postal Service. And because they’re part of the Electronic Registration Information Center, they share data and provide proactive address updates. Officials automatically update registration information when voters move, then allow them to opt out – rather than forcing them to register at a new address.

No. 5: The postal service is unreliable. My ballot may not reach me or may come back to be counted.

USPS is in fact remarkably reliable. But this is missing a key point. The reason we call this “home voting” is that in well developed systems with many secure drop boxes and staffed voting centers, a solid majority of ballots are returned in person. Well-developed VAH systems also use ballot tracking tools (think FedEx) so voters and election officials can see in real time where their ballot is, from mailing to mailing. tabulation. Additionally, USPS now offers informed delivery, so voters have a responsibility to know where their mail is in the process.

No. 6. Other members of the household may influence the vote unduly.

While undue influence is possible (and also a crime) in almost any electoral system, hundreds of millions of VAH ballots cast over the past 20 years reveal that this is not a problem. . Rather, those affected by this issue should work to strengthen state laws that deter and punish bad actors from taking advantage of voters, in all states.

# 7: It’s so easy to hijack a ballot. People who do this only get a slap on the wrist if caught.

In Oregon, if you intentionally forge or misappropriate a mailed ballot, it is a felony punishable by a fine of $ 25,000 and up to five years in prison for each ballot. Harsh penalties severely distort the risk-reward equation of someone thinking about electoral interference.

# 8: If people can’t make an effort and vote in person, they don’t deserve to vote.

Voting is a right. We get this right with our citizenship. We don’t have to re-qualify by taking a test or paying a voting fee. Studies also show that voters with a ballot in their hands vote further “at the bottom of the ballot” because they have more time to research and educate themselves on the issues and the candidates.

# 9: More practical voting options, such as house voting, is a conspiracy of the political left.

Utah, now the fourth (and most recent) state to send a ballot to every registered voter, is decidedly “red.” Republicans also have the advantage in Montana and Arizona, where 70% of voters automatically receive their ballots in the mail as “permanently absent” voters. Reliably, Nebraska and North Dakota have also expanded the use of VAH options. While Oregon and Washington, the first two states where VAH took hold, are bluer than red, both have current Secretaries of State who are Republicans – and huge fans of the system.

# 10: States that use more mail-in ballots are not seeing significantly higher voter turnout.

It’s easy. First, check out America Goes to the Polls 2018. It shows three variables that determine which states have the highest turnout. VAH is one, because the model is voter-centric. Then take a look at this map that shows the 2018 turnout and note the correlation between the ballots posted and the high turnout. Next, see how Utah counties that switched to VAH systems outperformed their polling station counterparts by 5-7 points in 2016. Finally, here is the data from the 2018 primaries showing voting in the original states. with a participation rate 15% higher than that of the polling stations. -Centred states.

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