Ballots: Safeguards in place for absentee voting

Nearly half the West Virginians who voted in the June primary election did so by mail. Given the resurgence of COVID-19, it is likely even more will at least consider using that method for the Nov. 3 general election.

Is it safe? What about the possibilities for election fraud? How can I be certain votes on my mail-in ballot will be counted accurately and honestly?

These are understandable concerns, especially given controversy over mail-in ballot security.

Here in West Virginia, we are all-too-familiar with the potential for problems. In July, a U.S. Postal Service carrier in Pendleton County pleaded guilty in federal court to “attempt to defraud the residents of West Virginia of a fair election.” His crime was altering eight requests for absentee ballots that had been mailed to the county clerk.

His offense, which he claimed was committed just for fun, has received national attention.

But he was caught — and, to our knowledge, there have been no other complaints of fraud from the June primary election.

As West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner has pointed out, it is less likely that fraud will be a factor in November than that human error will affect the mail-in voting process. If you choose to vote by mail, get your ballot in the mail in plenty of time. Don’t wait until the deadline to mail it.

Warner’s office has developed a set of recommendations meant to make the vote-by-mail process go as smoothly as possible. They should be adopted by election officials in every county.

In addition, both Warner and our congressional delegation should push the U.S. Postal Service to handle mail-in ballots with extraordinary care. The last thing we need is the experience some states had during the primary season, of hundreds of ballots being found in post offices long after elections.

Request and use a mail-in ballot if you have any reason to believe you may not be able to vote in person, either during early voting or on Election Day. Voting in person is better — but don’t let concern about the mail-in process result in you not participating at all in the Nov. 3 election.


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