An absentee ballot request for a deceased San Juan County resident was caught by election safeguards, according to state and county election officials. While processing absentee ballot requests, a county election worker spotted two request forms with matching handwriting. The clerk’s office determined upon further review that one of the forms was for a woman who had died in April at a Farmington long-term care facility. The other form was from her daughter. The daughter, who is now facing charges for false voting and misleading on an absentee ballot request form, says it was an honest mistake and the result of confusion from unsolicited mailers.
The incident started with the absentee ballot request forms voters have been inundated with since election season began. The forms have been sent throughout the state by a third-party group not connected to either the county clerk or the Secretary of State’s Office. After repeatedly receiving the ballot request mailers, the daughter assumed she had to fill it out, and did. After consulting with her brother, a sheriff’s office official, she was told not to send it in but the request ended up in the mail by accident. All absentee ballot applications go through a verification process prior to a county clerk’s office sending out an absentee ballot, and that safeguard caught the discrepancy before handing the case over to law enforcement for follow up. Click here to read more.
Whether the absentee ballot request was truly and honest mistake or nefarious in intent is up to law enforcement and the courts to decide. But this example of potential (and perhaps unintentional) fraud raises some important points worth addressing when it comes to the unsolicited absentee ballot request forms:
- Causing Voter Confusion: In the effort to encourage voter participation, these third party ballot request forms have caused confusion for many voters. By sending repeated mailers (sometimes up to 7 per household), which can be confused for official voter correspondence, voters can easily get confused about the minutiae of the voting process. The mailers don’t recognize if you’ve voted already, leading some voters to double check that their mail in ballot was received. Or if you’re waiting for Election Day to cast your vote, you could be the recipient of multiple requests you didn’t ask for and don’t want.
- Out of Date Info: The San Juan example above demonstrates the incomplete or out of date information used by third party voter participation organizations. Just one of these organizations, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Voter Information for example, sent out over 340 million of the absentee ballot request forms. Now multiply that by the many other groups engaged in the same activity and you’ll have a veritable avalanche of request forms going out to Americans. Without accurate data on who is receiving these request forms they could be mailed to any number of incorrect voters or deceased ones – creating the opportunity for potential missteps like the one caught in San Juan.
- Too Many Mailers Stresses USPS: With chronically low funding and staffing, it’s widely known that the US Postal Service system is under added stress during this election cycle where mail in voting is expected to have record breaking turn out. As online purchasing is at an all time high due to the pandemic, campaign mailers are out in full force, and the holidays upon us, the last thing the mail system needs is millions of repeated, unnecessary and unsolicited ballot request forms when mail in voting is at the highest levels it’s ever been.
For more information on the mass mailers for absentee ballots click HERE.