NTF issue paper: cong188.doc. 8-20.

. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more NE voters appear to rely on mailing in their ballots. They rely on the postal service to deliver their ballots quickly and safely to their election commissioner or county clerk offices. Unfortunately, investigations and reports of lost, delayed, and fraudulently diverted mailed ballots should make NE voters seriously consider not mailing in their precious constitutional right to vote for the candidates of their choice. Governments developed voting by mail to assist absentee voters and those who resided out of the country, worked away from home, or suffered from physical impairment. States have trended toward further expanding voting by mail to those who are too inconvenienced to vote at a poll on election day. Many states have moved to expand access to mail balloting in an effort to reduce in-person voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, leading to growing concerns that postal service delays could delay the vote count for days or weeks past Election Day. The percentage of mailed ballots therefore has skyrocketed but with little research on security, privacy, reliability, and accuracy. Genuine fears that ballots that are late, missing, or disqualified for small irregularities will lead to lawsuits and questions about the integrity of the elections. In every close election, the outcome must wait for the count of mailed in ballots. Vote by mail problems have become the greatest security vulnerability in our elections.

. President Trump rightfully has cautioned against wholesale voting by mail, warning that the election result might not become known for months, with ballots lost, and maintains that mailed ballots will result in increased voter fraud that may cost him the election. Trump noted that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) lost 20% of mail-in ballots, describing universal mail-in voting as “catastrophic” and a threat to our democracy. He repeatedly condemned mail-in voting while praising absentee voting. “Again, absentee voting is great—I’m an absentee voter, because I requested, I got and then I sent in my vote. So that works out very well. That’s what we’ve had. But now they want to send in millions and millions of ballots. And you see what’s happening; they’re being lost, they’re being discarded, they’re finding them in piles. It’s a disgrace,” he continued. The President and conservatives draw a distinction between absentee voting and ballots automatically sent to voters requested or not, a method ripe for fraud that would allow the Dems to steal elections.

. Liberals allege that Trump is attempting voter suppression by criticizing mailed ballots. The postal union, which represents 300,000 current and retired workers, endorsed Joe Biden for president, which explains their harsh criticism of the Trump Administration and its Postmaster-Gen. for supposedly causing ballot slowdowns by cutting overtime and removing mailboxes no longer needed in several areas as mail volume declines. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is mobilizing Socialist Democrats to dump millions into the USPS in order to curry favor with the postal union. Democrats accuse Trump of dismantling the postal service in an effort to make it more difficult to vote by mail.

. The beleaguered Postal Service is under tremendous pressure to ensure that an unprecedented number of Americans can vote by mail, avoiding the potential health risk of in-person polling places during the coronavirus outbreak. We already have seen significant delays and mistakes in delivering primary ballots in Indiana, New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. The Postal Service has not met its own goals for on-time delivery of any type of 1st class mail in 5 years. Performance on that type of mail, which is how absentee ballots go out, has declined for a decade. Of 13 postal districts serving several presidential battleground states, 4 failed to meet on-time service objectives handling 1st Class mail between April 1 and June 30, and 6 districts met only 1. More than half of the national 67 postal districts failed to meet a 1st Class mail delivery goal, and 23 only met 1. This travesty may foreshadow ballot upcoming counting controversies. In the general election, mail delays in line with the USPS historical performance could affect millions of votes. USPS acknowledges that it needs more time to deliver ballots than required by election rules. It advises voters to mail their ballots at least a week before Election Day to ensure on-time delivery and to request their ballots at least a week before that date. “To account for delivery standards and to allow for contingencies (e.g., weather issues or unforeseen events), voters should mail their return ballots at least 1 week prior to the due date established by state law,” the USPS warned on May 29. “If a state law requires completed ballots to be received by election officials by a specified date (such as Election Day) in order to be counted, voters should be aware of the possibility that completed ballots mailed less than a week before that date may not, in fact, arrive by the state’s deadline.” Now, USPS warns states that it cannot guarantee all mailed ballots for the Nov. 3 election will arrive on time for counting, even if mailed by state deadlines, leaving thousands of NE voters disenfranchised. USPS has placed copies of its warning letter on its website. It is expecting a record number of mailed ballots because of COVID-19. Chaotic events during the primaries did not instill confidence. Thousands of absentee ballot requests went unfulfilled, and tens of thousands of mailed ballots rejected for multiple reasons, including arriving too late for counting. In Fulton County, which includes Atlanta and is the most populous in the state, thousands of mail-in ballots did not reach voters until after the polls had closed. Washington, D.C. voters similarly afflicted. In Milwaukee, almost 2,700 mail-in ballots never mailed, because election staff halted a batch printing of mailing labels, the state election commission later reported. It was only one of multiple bungles. “I believe it is highly likely that in the November General Election, the absentee ballots of at least tens of thousands of voters will arrive at election offices after Election Day and will not be counted unless the Ballot Receipt Deadline is extended,” wrote Ronald Stroman, the deputy postmaster-general from 2011 until June 1, 2020. So haywire is postal service processing that mail sometimes can travel hours for processing and sorting, even if its destination is blocks away.

. Lack of accountability makes mailed ballots the best choice for those intent on committing fraud. Validating and counting a deluge of posted ballots in an open and accountable way presents a major challenge, one for which only about a half dozen states seem fully prepared. The complexity of signature matching is a major issue. Many election offices register voter signatures from a variety of sources, like those scribbled with styluses on cramped touchscreens at motor vehicle departments. The result: A matching process prone to human error. Sometimes insider fraud does happen (essie Bur, Mail Reliability). New Jersey held municipal elections on May 12 entirely by mail. There were reports of mail delays and problems in several cities including Paterson, where a city council race decided by only 1 vote. At least 300 ballots for the Paterson race, left in a mailbox in a nearby town, discarded because of suspicions that they were illegally bundled together. The mayor said that authorities are investigating possible ballot harvesting, which occurs when a political operative collects and submits large numbers of mailed ballots. New Jersey prohibits bundling by individuals of more than 3 ballots. “Something nefarious has happened because I don’t know how anyone can explain 300 ballots appearing in a neighboring town,” the mayor said. A media report noted that Ramona Javier complained of being recorded as voting, when in fact she had not. “We did not receive vote-by-mail ballots and thus we did not vote,” she told NBC, which then showed her an official list of people, including herself, who had voted on her block. “This is corruption. This is fraud,” Javier said, adding that there are 8 relatives and immediate neighbors listed as having voted but who insist they never received ballots, including 1 relative who had vacationed in Florida for weeks. Reports abound of ballots mailed to pets in the names of dogs and cats. Mailed in ballots are not auditable and negatively can impact any election. States that abruptly transitioned to a vote-by-mail system saw elections plagued by fraud and infrastructure and logistical nightmares, a clear and ominous warning ahead of November. NE Sec. of State Bob Evnen warned that there are many things problematic related to mail-in ballots. One is if the person who mails in the ballot is actually the voter. He recalled that over 59,000 ballots sent out during our 2020 primary campaign were never returned.

. On April 8, one day after the Wisconsin primary, a Postal Service official found 1,600 mailed ballots headed for Appleton and Oshkosh in an area factory, according to a report by the Wisconsin Election Commission. Those ballots never reached voters. The report condemned the USPS response. Written inquiries to the USPS did not produce specific information about these ballots. It said that its staff unable to learn more, and that Wisconsin’s 2 U.S. senators requested the Postal Service inspector-general to investigate. There exist numerous examples of large numbers of mailed in ballots lost. Election officials do not know if unreturned ballots became lost, stolen, or if a voter decided not to vote. No way to know how many mailed ballots completed and mailed but lost or stolen in transit. Compelling evidence that from 5% to 10% of mailed ballots never counted. Because of lack of tracing, impossible to tell if ballot loss is accidental or purposeful. USPS designed its systems to deliver a large volume of mail in a short time. They are not designed to track each item, so mailed items routinely lost, and occasionally, large volumes of mail become lost. Mailed ballots lost in the mail system with no ability to find them or even to detect their loss. In Tampa in 2008, over 1,100 mailed ballots disappeared. In Broward County, Florida, in 2004, 58,000 mailed forms lost. Thousands of voters disenfranchised in every election because of handling errors between election officials and the mail system that result in late delivery of blank ballots. If these ballots intentionally lost or delayed, it constitutes fraud and can change election outcomes. In Washington, D.C., election officials received so many complaints of missing ballots that officials allowed voters to send in ballots via email. In the 2018 elections, 42.4 million ballots mailed to voters in states that allow or require mail-in voting. Of those, more than 25% failed to arrive, according to the Public Interest Legal Foundation. Using U.S. Election Assistance Commission numbers, the foundation said 1.1 million of those ballots became undeliverable to the addresses where sent. More than 430,000 others rejected by election officials, and more than 10 million, about 25%, unaccounted for, according to the data. Based on federal data from that commission, millions of mailed ballots never counted as completed votes. Taking into account the 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018 federal general elections, 28.3 million mailed ballots disappeared after officials routed them to the USPS (Hans Spakovsky, Heritage Foundation, April 20, 2020). This data demonstrates the danger of placing the 2020 general election in the hands of the USPS.

. Nebraska residents traditionally trust their postal carriers who pick up and deliver all forms of personal and highly sensitive financial data. But postal carriers are human, and effective oversight of mail pickup and delivery is difficult or impossible. If postal workers are careless, negligent, or malicious, they can do significant damage to postal patron mail, like ballots. Because most postal items not tracked, it is difficult to detect if a postal carrier discards mail between the mail box and the post office, particularly if that carrier acts alone. Two weeks after the polls closed in the 2020 Ohio primary, 2 USPS employees came to the office of the director of elections in Butler County. The workers carried a tray of 317 unopened ballots hidden in a corner of a Postal Service warehouse since the day before the election. The ballots would have counted if delivered on time. Now, there was no way to legally count them. The next day, another ballot postmarked in time for counting arrived with no explanation. The USPS official excuse for misplacing the Butler County ballots was an “unintentional mis-sort.” The Justice Department announced that Thomas Cooper, a mail carrier in Pendleton County, W. VA., admitted to election fraud. Cooper held a USPS contract to deliver mail in Pendleton County. In April, 2020, the county clerk received 2020 Primary Election COVID-19 Mail-In Absentee Request forms from 8 voters on which the voter’s party-ballot request appeared altered. After the clerk reported the finding to the West Virginia secretary of state office, an investigation found 5 ballot requests altered from Republican to Democrat. On 3 other requests, the party not changed but other information altered.

. Voter privacy commonly considered voter ability to cast a ballot without anyone knowing the selections. Mailed ballots do not protect against vote falsification and become susceptible to widespread ID fraud. There is no opportunity for picture identification or other face-to-face interaction at polls that could detect identification malice or error for mail-in voters. It is impossible to guarantee that a designated voter returned a mailed ballot. The main ballot attribution mechanism, signature recognition, is a highly imprecise practice. Handwriting experts have trouble identifying signature variations given the small writing sample incorporated in a signature. Election officials and temporary election workers who process mailed ballots are not handwriting experts. Hospital workers, nursing home personnel, postal carriers, and many other persons in management or maintenance positions among residential populations have ample opportunity to request and intercept scores of mailed ballots with little chance of detection and even less chance of being prosecuted. Physically and mentally-impaired voters become subject to other individuals either filling out their ballots or manipulating their votes. A ballot mailed to you may go to another individual who can impersonate you.

. In Nebraska, voters can deposit ballots in drop boxes. However, these boxes poorly secured, and criminals can vandalize and steal them.

. Mail voting weakens the traditional civic experience of voting with neighbors at a local school, church, or community polling place. Cost savings largely nullified by the expense to print and mail ballots to registered voters in a jurisdiction. Savings from administering an election entirely by mail actually offset by an increase in postage costs for each registered voter mailed a ballot. Mailed ballots do not provide the level of security and voter confidence inherent in polling place voting. If you vote by mail, there is no one to help you and fix a mistake. Votes disqualified because ballots not properly filled out. Mail voting glitches are fatal to your vote. Make sure that your vote counts this Nov. 3. If you vote early by mail, by Election Day, you may have changed your mind about a candidate. No matter what the weather, vote in person at your designated polling station and take our NTF Voting Guide with you. If you need a ride, call a neighbor or friend beforehand.

Research, documentation, and analysis for this issue paper done by Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom. This material copyrighted by Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, with express prior permission granted for its use by other groups in the NE Conservative Coalition Network. 8-20. C

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