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How you can avoid voter fraud

All the evidence points to very little potential for voter fraud. And procedures are in place to eliminate this potential.

Lexi Menth of Seattle holds up her vote-by-mail ballot.
Lexi Menth of Seattle holds up her vote-by-mail ballot.
REUTERS/Jason Redmond

“They” claim that voter fraud will be rampant this fall, with the dramatic increase in absentee ballots. 

Among others, the Brennan Center for Justice debunks this claim. As of Primary Election Day in Minnesota, there were almost 645,000 applications for absentee ballots requested. Of these, so far, more than 500,000 ballots have been accepted, according to the Star Tribune. 

The best evidence concerning whether voter fraud exists comes from states that have been using mail-in voting exclusively. The New York Times reported that, “In eight states and Washington, D.C., every registered voter will be mailed a ballot ahead of the election. California, D.C. and Vermont will do this for the first time this fall.”

Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington now have all-mail elections. There have been only a handful of fraudulent votes in these states, certainly not enough to affect an election outcome. In 2016, incidents of voter fraud were “next to none” out of more than 137 million votes.

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Just 30 cases alleged in Colorado from 2005 to 2018

For example, in Colorado, there were 30 cases of alleged voter fraud (including in-person voting) from 2005 to 2018, according to the Brookings Institution. This was out of a total of 15,955,704 total votes cast, or 0.00019%. In Hawaii, the rate was 0.00003% from 1982 to 2016.

Despite these facts, President Donald Trump convened a panel on voter fraud, but disbanded it after it found no real evidence of voter fraud

Nevertheless, it is imperative that all necessary steps be taken to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, in order to achieve the necessary credibility that this year’s election requires. Secretaries of state throughout the country have established mail-in voting procedures designed to eliminate fraud. Each step of the mail-in voting process addresses the possibility of fraud. 

How Minnesota does it

This is particularly true in Minnesota. Minnesota does not automatically send a ballot to every registered voter. Here, one must first apply for an absentee (mail-in) ballot, even if he or she is registered. A voter can apply for an absentee ballot without being registered, but must simultaneously submit a voter registration application. The address of registration must match the absentee ballot application address (or a new voter registration must be submitted). If, for example, a voter is registered at one address, and has moved since he or she last voted, a new registration must be filed. Any application for a mail-in ballot must clear this hurdle.

Ronald Goldser
Ronald Goldser
The ballot itself is typically mailed to the registered address. However, a temporary address may be used to receive the ballot. For example, if a college student is registered in Minnesota, but goes to college in Wisconsin, the student voter can receive the absentee ballot in Wisconsin. The ballot can be returned by mail, but it can also be returned in person. If a voter is uncomfortable with the reliability of the Post Office, one can return the ballot in person by 3 p.m. on Election Day. The voter’s name and address on the ballot must match the ballot application. The number on the ballot (last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number or driver’s license number) must match the application. If the numbers do not match, the election official then compares the signatures. If the ballot is rejected, the voter is notified and permitted to revote. If the absentee ballot procedure is used, there are multiple opportunities to ensure the accuracy of the vote. 

Registration on Election Day

If a voter is uncomfortable with voting by mail for whatever reason, that voter can still vote in person. Of course, in Minnesota, one can go to the polls on Election Day, as has been true from the beginning. Onsite registration is available if the voter does not appear on the rolls of the precinct where he or she appears to vote. In order to register, one must prove one’s current address. This can be done by state-issued identification (driver’s license or identification card). But it can also be proved by mail to the voter’s address, e.g. a utility bill. And, finally, someone with personal knowledge can vouch for the voter.

In addition, early voting can be done in person at the local election office. “You can vote in person at your county election office…. [S]ome cities and towns offer in-person absentee voting,” according to Minnesota’s secretary of state website. For this year’s general election, the first day to vote is Sept. 18. 

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Already voted? ‘A.B.’ appears on roster

The issue of double voting is also frequently raised. However, if a voter has already voted absentee, the roster provided to the election judges at the polling place will be marked with “A.B.,” indicating the voter has already voted

Similarly, if someone has already voted absentee, but does not appear on the registration rolls, the election judges consult a list of those who registered via the absentee ballot process to ensure no duplicate votes are cast. 

All the evidence points to very little potential for voter fraud. And procedures are in place to eliminate this potential. While it is every voter’s duty to vote, and ensure the accuracy and completion of his or her vote, existing infrastructure minimizes the possibility of fraud. 

The white noise about voter fraud is little more than fear mongering. Don’t be scared off. Whether you choose to vote by mail or in person, you can make sure your vote is received and counted.

Ronald Goldser, of Eagan, is the vice chair of DFL Senate District 51 (Eagan/Burnsville).

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