Safeguarding Absentee Voting

Access to absentee voting is important for Americans who cannot visit a polling place on Election Day to exercise their right to vote. At the American Conservative Union Foundation’s Center to Protect Voters & Their Voices, we believe that absentee voting should be protected against abuse to ensure the security of every legally cast ballot. Absentee ballots should be provided only to voters who apply with a compelling reason for voting absentee. Furthermore, there should be deadlines for voters to request absentee ballots, and for election officials to send them to eligible voters. Finally, absentee ballots should be postmarked no later than election day and canvassed immediately after receipt by election officials. These measures will ensure that every eligible voter may securely cast their absentee ballot, and that their votes be timely received and counted to allow for prompt and certain election results.

Absentee voting has long been the exception and not the rule in the United States because unchecked and unnecessary sending out of absentee ballots invites abuse and fraud beyond election offices’ ability to manage. Cases of abuse of the absentee voting system are well documented, and demonstrate how easily elections can be manipulated if not properly regulated.¹ In states where absentee ballots are affirmatively mailed to voters who do not request them and give a valid reason for needing them, the system can be overwhelmed leading to disastrous results.² This system of mail balloting has resulted in the misplacement of 28 million ballots over a ten year period.³ Worse, when combined with practices such as ballot harvesting, unmonitored drop boxes and unsecured voter rolls, affirmatively-sent absentee ballots can be fraudulently tampered with and influenced, cast on behalf of dead or ineligible voters, or destroyed.4 Additionally, when ballot return is put at the mercy of the United States Postal Service, delays in delivery can cause uncertainty in election results days or even weeks after the polls have closed. These occurrences destroy voter confidence in the integrity and outcomes of elections.

ACUF’s Center to Protect Voters & Their Voices believes that appropriate safeguards must be in place to ensure the integrity of absentee voting and protect the votes of those who cannot be present at the polling place. Absentee ballots should be made available only to voters who request them and demonstrate an actual need for their use. This will prevent election offices from being overwhelmed by ballots whose authenticity cannot be verified. Deadlines should be in place both for absentee voters to request their ballots, and for election officials to send them to the voters. This will ensure that absentee voters have enough time to cast their ballot and be confident that it will be counted. Absentee ballots should be postmarked for return before the polls close on election day to ensure that the counting of all ballots is as fair, efficient, and manageable as possible. Securing absentee voting against abuse and fraud is a crucial measure to restore the integrity of our elections, and measures to ensure that absentee voting is secure and effective should be adopted throughout the United States.

¹Heritage Foundation, Election Fraud Cases: Fraudulent Use of Absentee Ballots (accessed April 14, 2022); Hans von Spakovsky, Four Stolen Elections: The Vulnerabilities of Absentee and Mail-In Ballots Heritage Foundation (July 16, 2020)

²Julie Zauzmer Weil, Voters report difficulty getting mail-in ballots for D.C.’s Tuesday Primary, The Washington Post (June 1, 2017); Mark Joseph Stern, D.C.’s Election Was an Unmitigated Disaster, Slate (June 3, 2020)

³Wisconsin Watch/Wisconsin Public Radio/PBS Wisconsin, Postal Officials investigating Wisconsin absentee ballots that were never delivered, The Cap Times (April 9, 2020); Public Interest Legal Foundation, Report: 28 Million Mail Ballots Went Missing in Past Decade (April 13, 2020)

4Carl Campanile, Dead people caught voting in NYC, election records show New York Post (November 2, 2020); Kaitlin McKinley Becker, ‘Disgrace to Democracy’: 35 Ballots Destroyed in Drop Box Fire Set in Boston, NBC Boston (October 26, 2020)