While the election results in Florida yesterday did not end up being close, mail ballot fraud and the outright mishandling of mail ballots in Broward County could have damaged the integrity of the election in a meaningful way had the vote been closer, and they certainly shook voters’ confidence in the system:
Once [Florida] election officials receive a vote-by-mail ballot, they check to make sure the signature on the voting certificate matches the signature on file with the voter’s registration record. This signature verification step is an important measure in protecting the integrity of the vote-by-mail process. It serves a similar role as Florida’s voter ID law, which protects the integrity of the election for those who vote in person.
One striking example of the risks involved in voting by mail comes from Seminole County in Florida. There, five people had their voting rights temporarily voided because multiple fraudulent impersonators had cast ballots by mail under their names with forged signatures. . . . Thankfully, this case ended well for the voters, but it highlighted a weakness in Florida’s vote-by-mail system. The signature verification measure worked, but only after the fraudulent ballots had been flagged by election officials at the prompting of voters who realized that their ballots were missing.
But the threat of voter fraud is not limited to outside actors. In Broward County, election staff themselves violated the law when they were discovered to be counting mail ballots in secret. That’s a major violation of Florida’s Election Code—legally, mail ballots can only be opened under the supervision of an appointed canvassing board. . . . In a quick response, the supervisor of elections reversed her untenable positionand agreed to hold public canvassing board meetings and allow the political parties and candidate representatives to be present when the mail ballots are opened and reviewed.
This would be encouraging if it weren’t tainted by new and more recent allegations that local election staff were replicating damaged ballots without the required oversight. This could potentially amount to blatant fraud. . . .
And with regard to vote-by-mail ballots, Florida should consider additional measures to confirm the identity of mail ballot voters, such as requiring copies of their personal ID or their Social Security or driver’s license number. Florida voters love the convenience of mail ballots, but they also deserve a system that is fair and deters voter fraud.
The more certain we can be about the identity of voters, the better. Similarly, when democracy can be monitored on the ground by people from both sides of the political fight, it only increases the integrity of our elections—and strengthens the American people’s confidence in the results.