"Vote early and vote often" was a cynical phrase attributed to the corrupt political machines of Chicago of and Boston in the early 20th century. While voter corruption and manipulation was a commonly-known practice among political machines like Tammany Hall in New York through Mayor Curley in Boston, the Daley family in Chicago and even today in cities like Philadelphia; efforts to secure voting has made it easier to assure validity in the elections process.
Until the last decade.
Like many safe, common-sense security measures — voter identification requirements and the purging of possibly deceased or relocated voters from state elections registrations have been demonized as a right-wing scheme to suppress minority votes during the Obama administration.
This was a point of significant debate in prior election cycles, despite the fact that the argument that it’s costly and burdensome to the poor and elderly to get official identification (already needed for things like public assistance or to access Medicare programs at most healthcare providers).
It is also free and easy to check one’s voter registration (and re-register online if necessary) in every state in America, nullifying the argument that voter records should never be purged.
These issues always mattered, despite a steady campaign by the mainstream media to characterize voter fraud as a “non-issue”. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic - and the extreme security vulnerabilities presented by mass mail-in voting.
Normally, voters cast their ballots in person at a polling place based on where they are registered to vote. Regardless of whether their state requires voter identification, that voter must be on the list at that polling place, sign-in, and once they vote; their name is checked off on the list.
However, in response to the fear that in-person voting may cause increased coronavirus infections as opposed to grocery shopping or visits to the post office, most states have made it easier to vote by mail.
To understand just how much of a threat to the integrity of our democracy this presents, it’s important to dispel the myth that mass mail-in voting is the same as absentee ballots.
An absentee ballot is a ballot which is submitted, usually by mail, by a registered voter who isn’t physically able be present at a polling place on Election Day.
Absentee voting in America goes back to the Civil War era, and every state allows this kind of voting in some form — and federal law, in fact, requires ballots be sent to military and overseas voters for federal elections. To get an absentee ballot, a registered voter must request one through their local board of elections, which verifies the registration and address of the voter; and accepts or rejects the application on a case by case basis.
When someone is approved to vote absentee, election officials mail the voter an absentee ballot, nullifying their listing at the polling place, which they complete, sign, and return. Officials can reject absentee ballots if they are improperly filled out, and voters face steep penalties if they falsify any information.
Mass mail in voting differs as ballots are simply mailed out by the board of elections to the address of a previously registered voter without verification or in some cases, any pre-request.
The Risk Is in the Reconciliation of Ballots Cast
As a certified expert in security and fraud prevention, my concern with mail-in ballots is in how easy it would be to send in votes for those who have died or moved away, and/or have numerous ballots cast for a registered voter.
Furthermore, there seems to be little-to-no procedures in place to prevent or detect mail in voting fraud.
As many have seen in news and social media reports, thousands of ballots have been blindly mailed to residences in the names of voters who were deceased or had relocated from that address.
If that ballot was printed and mailed, it means that the intended recipient was still on the voter rolls at that location. Therefore, if someone fraudulently sends that "found" ballot in, it will be counted as a vote upon its receipt.
Furthermore, as the board of elections in many states including the battleground state of Pennsylvania, still use paper rosters at polling places.
Many of these same states have also extended deadlines and opened multiple locations where votes can be cast, received, and counted.
This has created a circumstance where it’s almost impossible to reconcile duplicate votes being sent in and cast in person by the same registered voter, as the lists are being checked off manually at a different place when mail-in votes are received as when the same name signs in to a polling place.
In all the political bluster offered by governors and attorneys general on their plans to extend mail-in voting, none have highlighted their plans to reconcile votes and secure the integrity of our elections.
Then there are the issues that have already been reported. Since the expansion of mail in voting, numerous reports of ballot harvesting, fraud and plain incompetence have surfaced.
Instead of addressing these issues in a way that reassures Americans that these issues will be addressed; many states have made matters worse by extending the deadlines for when mail-in votes can be received and counted — which will could cause delays to a peaceful transition of power that can result in a historic destabilization of our rule of law.
From the perspective of an expert in security, compliance, and public integrity; the issue of mass mail-in voting should be simple. While the mainstream media is quick to point out that there is no "evidence of widespread fraud" in mail-in voting, it also should be noted that there is no history of mass mail-in voting, either.
Therefore, the inherent vulnerabilities associated with how states send, count, and reconcile mail-in ballots should be of concern – not the absence of evidence that this has happened before.
As an analogy; you wouldn’t park your car unlocked in a crowded city with it’s keys in it or leave your house doors open while you weren’t there, even if you haven’t had your car stolen or home burglarized before.
So why should we leave the very cornerstone of our representative democracy open to such glaring security risks?
This is why, in my expert opinion, the U.S. Justice Department should seek an immediate injunction to halt mass mail-in voting, and require Americans to seek requested absentee ballots or cast their vote at socially-distanced polling places on election day (while wearing a mask); to safeguard the integrity of our election and more importantly, faith in the American democracy.
A. Benjamin Mannes, MA, CPP, CESP, is a Subject Matter Expert in Security & Criminal Justice Reform based on his two and a half decade career on both sides the criminal justice system. Mannes served in both federal and municipal law enforcement in though the 9/11 attacks, D.C.-area sniper task force, homeland security exercises and natural disasters. Mannes' work in D.C. led to personal encounters with the D.C.'s unlawful personnel actions, unconstitutional gun laws and criminal justice inequalities, which led him to become an advocate for public integrity. Thereafter, Mannes served for nearly nine years as the Director, Office of Investigations for North America's largest medical board, as a Chief Compliance Officer, consultant, expert witness, nonprofit board member and political adviser. Read A. Benjamin Mannes' Reports — More Here.
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