The Issue of Mail in Voting

By Cami Ferrell

DENTON - Mail in voting has remained a prominent concern for many voters in this election season, and likely will through election day.

Misinformation about mail in voting has circulated widely during this election cycle. In some cases, the misinformation has come directly from the White House. President Donald Trump has said that this election would have “fraud like you have never seen” as a result of mail in ballots, and suggested that mail in voting is safer in some states than others.

Trump continued to show his disapproval for the mail in voting process on Monday after Pennsylvania decided to allow ballots to be counted up to three days after Election Day.

UNT Professor of political science, Wendy Watson, said that the actual process of mail in voting has not changed significantly in the 2020 election. Watson said that states like Oregon have had widespread mail in voting for years, and even provide each of their residents with a ballot in the mail. This has been the standard in Oregon since 1998.

Watson said that mail in voting trends in states like Texas, where coronavirus concern was not deemed a reason to vote by mail, have only slightly increased. However, these states have seen record increases in early voting.

In Texas, you can apply for a mail ballot if you are over the age of 65, have a disability, or will be out of county/absentee. “Texas has large student and military populations that tend to vote absentee,” Watson said.

Watson, said that voting by mail is generally safe, but that voters may still be concerned about time and signatures.

“The potential drawback to mail in voting is the possibility that there will be court challenges to those votes on Election Day, or after Election Day,” Watson said.

Decisions about mail in voting deadlines are created at the state level of government. For Texas voters, ballots must be postmarked no later than Nov. 3 and reach the elections office by 5 pm on Nov. 4. USPS recommended that those voting by mail send their ballots no later than Oct. 27.

Volunteer Denton County Election Clerk, Cami Everitt, voted absentee in the 2020 election. She said the process was simple and she requested an absentee ballot early in the year. However, she decided not to mail her ballot.

“I decided to turn in my ballot in person because the USPS is facing drastic budget cuts, and the removal of some mail sorting machines,” Everitt said. “It varies from state to state, but there’s been a lot of delay getting mail to the location that it is addressed to, so I thought it would be better to turn it in at the elections office.”

In addition to time restraints, mail in ballots in dozens of states will undergo a signature verification process. Signatures on mail in ballots are compared with other government documents that the person has previously signed. In some cases the process is done with technology, but often it is done by people.

A signature mismatch is not enough to reject a ballot, but can be when combined with other discrepancies in voter information. In states like Texas, voters do not have to be told that their signature does not match, while in some states voters are able to re-attempt their signatures.

According to the federal government, mismatched signatures were the number one cause of ballot rejection in the 2016 election.

Watson advised voters to carefully replicate previous signatures, and to drop off their ballots in person to their local elections office if they have not already sent them.

Anyone that requested to vote by mail may also have an election clerk suspend their ballot at their polling location if they would like to vote in person on Nov. 3.

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