How do states protect and verify absentee/mail-in ballots? (2020)

From Ballotpedia:

* All 50 states require a valid signature for an absentee/mail-in ballot to be counted. According to The New York Times, 32 states use the signature provided with a voter’s absentee/mail-in ballot to verify his or her identity by comparing it with the signature on file (e.g., the signature on a driver’s license or voter registration application). Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia practice signature matching and allow voters to remedy mismatches. Another four states practice signature matching, but do not allow voters to remedy mismatches. Eighteen states either do not have signature matching laws or do not practice signature matching on a regular basis.[1]

Amber McReynolds, CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, told The New York Times that signature matching “is the best way to strike a balance between security, transparency, and accessibility for voters” when done properly, including a process to fix signature mismatches. Mark Gaber, the director of trial litigation at the Campaign Legal Center, said that signature matching was problematic, with courts having found “that there’s a high risk of wrongly being identified as not having signed your ballot.”

* Most states have laws allowing someone other than a voter to return the voter’s absentee/mail-in ballot. These laws, referred to as ballot collection or ballot harvesting laws, vary by state. As of August 2020, 24 states and the District of Columbia permitted someone chosen by the voter to return the ballot on the voter’s behalf in most cases. Twelve states specified who may return ballots (i.e., household members, caregivers, and/or family members) in most cases. One state explicitly allowed only the voter to return his or her ballot. Thirteen states did not specify whether someone may return another’s ballot.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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