Election integrity issues for November elections begin with absentee ballots
Counties in California, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania have already experienced issues with absentee ballots for November elections.
As state and local elections are set to conclude on Election Day next month, election integrity issues have already begun with absentee ballots.
Counties across the country have already run into problems with absentee ballots for local November elections, as Republicans such as former President Donald Trump and U.S. Senate candidate for Arizona, Kari Lake, have repeatedly criticized issues with absentee ballots.
In California, around 7,500 voters in San Diego County received duplicate ballots for the Nov. 7 special elections, including for the Board of Supervisors District 4 and the city of Chula Vista.
Voters there who were affected have been told that they can vote with either ballot and to destroy the ballot that they don’t cast.
While one of the two series of ballot packets has been suspended in the computer system, meaning that any suspended ballots cast will be automatically set aside, if a voter casts the suspended ballot only, then that ballot will be counted.
In Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County, absentee ballots were sent out with incorrect information for returning them for the municipal election on Nov. 7. The instructions for the ballots told voters to return their absentee ballots by inserting them in the white secrecy envelope rather than the yellow envelope. Ballots that aren’t placed in the yellow envelope won’t be counted.
For the primary election in April, Lancaster County sent out nearly 19,000 ballots that incorrectly instructed voters to only vote for one candidate in a race when they were supposed to vote for two.
In Mifflin County, Pa., absentee ballots had to be reissued because incorrect instructions were provided for the number of candidates to vote for in two races. The ballots sent to voters on Oct. 5 will be invalidated and not counted in the election results.
“If you have already returned the ballot mailed out on Oct. 5, you will need to complete this new reissued ballot to cast your vote in the election,” Mifflin County’s Election Director Paula Hoffman said. “The original ballot will not be counted and will have no effect on the outcome of the election.”
In Louisiana, East Baton Rouge sent out 655 ballots that didn’t include a family court election race. Of the 655 voters to whom the ballots were sent, 46 voted early in-person, 13 returned absentee ballots, and 12 haven’t yet returned their incorrect ballots.
Critics of absentee ballots because of security concerns include Trump and Lake.
Trump has repeatedly criticized mail-in voting, saying, “It’s a corrupt system.” However, he has decided to join Republicans in embracing mail-in voting and legal ballot harvesting for the 2024 presidential election, saying, “Our path forward is to MASTER the Democrats’ own game of harvesting ballots in every state we can.”
Meanwhile, Lake is currently involved in a public records lawsuit to examine ballot affidavit envelopes from the 2022 general election in Maricopa County because she wants to determine if the signatures match voters’ signatures that are on file with the county. She believes that the county’s signature verification process is a “sham” because of how quickly signatures were allegedly verified.
Absentee ballots have been part of the election integrity discussion for years now.
In 2005, the bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform – which included ex-President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush, James Baker – highlighted the issues that concerned them about absentee ballots.
“While vote by mail appears to increase turnout for local elections, there is no evidence that it significantly expands participation in federal elections,” the commission wrote. “Moreover, it raises concerns about privacy, as citizens voting at home may come under pressure to vote for certain candidates, and it increases the risk of fraud.”
“Vote by mail is, however, likely to increase the risks of fraud and of contested elections in other states, where the population is more mobile, where there is some history of troubled elections, or where the safeguards for ballot integrity are weaker,” the commission also said.
Another example of current concerns regarding absentee ballots is in Arizona, where a case is ongoing regarding signature verification for mail-in ballots. Twenty-seven states only require signature verification on returned absentee ballots to determine whether a ballot was cast by the voter whose name is on it.
In September, the Superior Court of Yavapai County ruled that the secretary of state office’s ballot signature verification guidance does “not have the force of law.”
An election integrity group, Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections (RITE), filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Adrian Fontes (D) challenging Arizona’s new Elections Procedures Manual (EPM).
The EPM, which determines how Arizona runs elections, does not have lawful signature-match guidance, according to the lawsuit. This is because “county recorders are erroneously permitted to compare signatures on early mail-in ballot envelopes with signatures outside the voter’s registration record, in contravention of state law,” RITE argues.
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