Election safety, security, and integrity during a pandemic

There has been a lot of conversation about voting during a pandemic. Thankfully, Minnesota has had a history of bipartisan and commonsense elections laws for many years that made significant changes to voting unnecessary for this cycle. Voters could already request a no-excuse absentee ballot and there were historic levels of absentee voting in this year’s Primary Election. Further, while there was a high turnout for the Primary, there were no delays in getting results and no known cases of COVID from voting. Going forward, we can use these lessons to maintain the integrity of the absentee balloting process, honor the privacy of in-person voting, and understand that mail-only balloting is a solution without a problem.

Vote-by-Mail-Only is simply not a secure way to run elections. We just have to look to states already using this method of voting. In Oregon, which adopted vote-by-mail as the only way to vote in 1998, had 60,200 ballots come back as “undeliverable” and 870,000 ballots in the “unknown” category during the 2018 election. Twenty years of vote-by-mail and 32% of their ballots still never reached the voter. Can you imagine if nearly one-third of voters were missed during a vote-by-mail-only election in Minnesota? It’s unconscionable!

Absentee balloting by mail is a decent alternative, but it’s still not totally secure. Between 2012-2018, the USPS reported losing 28.3 million ballots. That’s 28.3 million voters whose ballots were not counted and whose voices were not heard. That is 28.3 million too many. In 2020, the USPS lost 135,417 ballots and found three bins of ballots weeks after the election was decided. Even here in Minnesota, absentee ballots were being fraudulently signed by one man, resulting in 13 voters having their ballot rejected before election day. It’s why in Minnesota, you can bring your absentee ballot to a voting site before election day and see that it is verified and counted properly.

The safest, most secure way to cast your ballot is by going to the polls. Extra funding has been provided to the Secretary of State’s office to provide for COVID mitigation efforts this year, out of an abundance of caution. Again, there are no known cases of COVID transmission from Minnesota’s primary election. It is not to be underestimated that at the polling location an individual can personally sign in, receive their ballot, fill it out secretly, place it in the voting machine, and receive confirmation it was counted in a matter of minutes.

For many, visiting the polling location is a sacred civic duty. Some may have put on a uniform and fought for other nation’s rights to vote. Others have followed the process to become an American citizen and see voting as integral to their status. Newly of-age voters, who have loved politics their whole life, are thrilled to be old enough to participate in this form of civic engagement. The right to a secure, private ballot is something we should never take away from people, especially with a questionable vote-by-mail-only election process.