DETROIT – As the state works to get every registered voter an absentee ballot application, concerns and claims have been swirling around the conversation of vote-by-mail. Many of those claims are false.
“There's no evidence that voter fraud happens in incidents of allowing citizens to vote by mail, which they have a right to do in the state of Michigan,” Sec. of State Jocylen Benson said Thursday. We're fortunate in the fact that states have been voting by mail voters in states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon and several others have been voting by mail for decades.”
MORE: Michigan voters have option of voting by mail for August, November elections
In recent days as states like California and Michigan have begun to ramp up voting infrastructure for elections in the pandemic, efforts have been made to discredit mail in voting from as high up as the Oval Office.
“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed,” President Donald Trump said in a tweet earlier this week. Last week he also criticized Benson’s office for mailing out ballot applications, which began off a weeklong campaign by both the President and prominent supporters suggesting absentee voting could be easily tampered with to steal an election.
In states like CO, WA, OR and Utah which have moved to almost entirely vote by mail, absentee fraud has been extremely rare. In Michigan, there have only been 5 convictions for absentee ballot fraud since 2007, according to the Conservative leaning Heritage Foundation. As a percentage of the votes cast in the last 10 years. That’s comes out to 20-millionths of a percent.
When it comes to claims that ballots could be stolen from mailboxes, signed fraudulently or get lost in the mail, Benson said her office is working on that too blending old fashioned paper and snail mail with high tech tracking and software.
She said county clerk offices will be equipped with signature verification software. Each absentee ballot as a series of signatures on both the ballot and envelope which are required to match the signature of a voter’s registration to be counted. Benson added the verification system could also protect against those who vote for deceased loved ones who may try to sign a ballot or request one.
There have also been warnings about stolen mail or votes getting lost while being mailed in to be counted. Benson said her office is already working with the US Postal Service to be able to track votes that have been sent or to possibly create centrally located, ballot specific drop off boxes for those uncomfortable with mailing their votes.
“None of this is rocket science,” Benson said. “This isn't recreating the wheel we're simply looking to states who have done this who have solved these problems already from the security issues to the ballot tracking issues.”
Concerns that absentee voting will help one party over another aren't founded either, although have been a common refrain in the fight over expanding the absentee vote. A new study form Stanford, out last month, showed increased voting by mail didn't give either party an advantage but did increase voter turnout. Those findings were at least partially seen in Michigan’s early May elections which had record setting turnout.
Concerns over counting the vote are also very real and founded. An increase in absentee votes will drastically alter how ballots are normally counted, likely taking more time and manpower. Benson asked for patience from voters.
“It may be a few days before we know the results of Michigan’s elections, but to us that’s important. That patience is going to be important, so that we can ensure the results are accurate,” Benson said.
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