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Mail-in voting? Maybe think again!

September 14, 2020

COVID-19, which has a potential for death and a greater potential for “long hauler” permanent incomplete recovery, makes mail-in voting a simple and attractive option. However, many reports have now come out about mailed-in ballots being not counted because of “errors and omissions” and signature mismatches.

Opinions I have read so far, saying that mail-in voting is OK or not OK, were not reassuring either way to me. And I have never voted by mail-in before. But reports in the media indicate that different states have vastly different requirements (some need a witness signature and even notarization).

The big question is about the person judging the compliance of the ballot received from you. Were your check marks “correct”?  Were all other lines filled in absolutely correctly and  absolutely compliantly? And, maybe most important, does the signature match that on file? Signature mismatch is a very big problem, and articles have appeared that said many ballots in the past were rejected because signatures were judged as not matching. 

I know that my own signature, depending on circumstances, is sufficiently unlike at different times that it bothers me. An internet search on “signature forgery detection accuracy” returned many references to accuracies, in controlled experiments, of 75 to 95 percent from handwriting experts.  How many ballot counters are handwriting experts? Do they get any forensic training?  Are computer systems used? 

From New Jersey, a website,  www.njspotlight.com had an article titled “One in 10 ballots rejected in last month’s vote-by-mail elections” by Colleen O’Day, dated June 10, that gave one report on this problem. The article is long and detailed. Another internet article (from NPR, dated 8/22), titled “More than 550,000 primary absentee ballots rejected in 2020, far outpacing 2016” says it happened all over the country.

What assurance do we have that the ballot counting operation does not include political bias-induced ballot rejection on the part of ballot-counters who let their partisan sentiments overrule  their duty? 

One website (www.ncsl.org, the National Conference of State Legislators) reported on a list that only 19 states notify the voter of a ballot rejection and offer them an opportunity to re-vote or correct the rejected ballot. Delaware was not on that list.  Time factors and deadlines were not given. In addition, another uncertainty is the additional delays caused by the sorting machine shutdowns and the effect of reassigned or displaced 23 senior USPS officials (to sabotage the USPS?) by recent Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis De Joy, a person who is politically pro-Trump and also has commercial conflicts of interest. Since I was a kid, elections were supposed to be secret. Nobody but you and anyone you told was to know how you voted. On a mail-in ballot, your name and how you vote will be visible to everyone who handles your ballot. That information could be easily captured by digital camera and sold or traded or used in other ways. What laws guarantee or warrant your privacy? What “checks and balances” are there on these processes?

Political litigation has exploded - in both directions - during the Trump administration.  Trump continually issues “rock-the-boat” statements such as his repeated “vote twice (or more)” suggestion. And in two interviews he declined to promise he would not challenge the election result if he lost. Thus the election is already partly destabilized. An internet search returns links to many other in-progress lawsuits over mail-in ballots. Proto-king Trump has already floated his idea that his power to pardon is unlimited and thus he can say anything at any time regardless of its legality or ethicality.  Could he selectively “blanket pardon” all people that over-vote for him but not those who over-vote for Biden?  Maybe the choice is: do you want (King) Trump or take your chances with COVID-19 by voting in person?

Arthur E. Sowers
Harbeson
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