Some people are very upset that Governor Hogan has rejected their demands to send mail-in ballots to every registered voter, regardless of whether a ballot has been requested, and to also eliminate in-person voting in November. Under the Governor’s plan, every registered voter will receive a postcard which they can drop in the mail to request a mail-in ballot, or they can vote in-person. Unfortunately, there has been very little factual reporting on this matter so I’ll try to clarify the issues.
First, some ask what is the problem with simply sending a mail-in ballot to every registered voter when those voters have not requested mail-in ballots? To appreciate the challenges such a system presents to election integrity, consider all of the integrity protections current included in the in-person voting process: ballots are carefully controlled and handed out only to the registered voter upon their personal request; no other person can request your ballot, open your ballot, complete your ballot, make suggestions while you vote, pressure you to vote, or handle your ballot before it is cast. Each of these protections are compromised by mail-in voting and that is the reason additional care is so important before hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots are released to the public.
The front-line protection included in the mail-in voting process is the requirement that the voter send a written request for a ballot verifying the voter’s identification. This initial step allows the state to confirm the voter’s presence at the address to which the ballot will be mailed, thereby avoiding release of ballots to undisclosed recipients. It’s a small but important step considering the large number of voters who change residences between elections. If voters’ addresses are not confirmed before mailing ballots, many thousands of blank ballots will be released to bad addresses where they are subject to misuse.
It is virtually impossible to identify a person who actually casts a mis-addressed ballot and in an election where hundreds of thousands of ballots are cast by mail, the chance of detecting such a fraud is almost non-existent. So prevention is key.
The stakes are even greater in an all mail in election. Mass distribution of mail-in ballots allows politically motivated groups to unleash their workers with voter address lists to visit every address to which a ballot has been mailed in an effort to influence the voting process. During such visits, there are no election officials present to ensure that votes are cast in secrecy, that voters are not subject to outside influences by strong willed visitors determined to “assist” with voting, or that blank ballots are not harvested for cash payments. Moreover, once a ballot is completed, there is nothing to prevent a “helpful person” from collecting the ballot and either returning it to an official drop box or discarding the ballot.
Unfortunately, the Maryland Attorney General’s only response to such concerns is that very few people are actually prosecuted for voter fraud. Of course, the same holds true for littering but is there any doubt that it happens with considerable frequency.
The legitimacy of our election process is essential for the legitimacy of our state and national governments. It is a shame that some display such little regard for the integrity of that process.
Please vote. Request a ballot by mail, visit an early voting center the week before election day, or vote in person on Election Day.