by Dr. Andy Jackson
Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, John Locke Foundation
As we get ready for the 2022 election, here is an important reminder:
Make no mistake, ballot secrecy is incompatible with secure mail-in balloting. At the polls, we each go into a little booth and make our choices in private. By contrast, no one knows where a mail-in ballot was filled out, or if a party or union activist hovered over the voter or even filled in the circles. Nobody knows what inducements, whether cash or threats, were offered to ensure that the person voted “correctly.” And if the ballot was “harvested” – turned in to the vote-counters by activists instead of by voters themselves – our suspicions deepen.
With mail-in voting, you can have secret ballots or you can have secure ballots, but you cannot have both.
Voting by mail is inherently less secure than voting in person on election day. In North Carolina, one way we handle this dilemma is by putting identifying marks on mail and early ballots:
For all absentee ballots, including one-stop ballots, election workers write an identifying number on your ballot. This is a special number assigned to each ballot and voter as required by law.
This number allows the ballot to be retrieved if necessary based on a voter challenge, such as if the voter dies before Election Day or double votes. It can also be used to retrieve ballots in the event of a successful election protest, such as if several voters are given the wrong ballot style and the margin for a contest is less than that number of voters.
In other words, if you vote by mail or in-person before election day, election officials can identify which ballot is yours.
So, if you want to assure that your ballot is secret, vote in person on election day.