USA: how are mail-in and absentee votes verified?

How are absentee and mail-in votes verified?

Whether a state requires voters to request an absentee ballot or participate in universal mail-in voting, all ballots submitted by mail or dropped off at a drop box are scrutinized to ensure their legitimacy.

Election officials record each vote-by-mail ballot so voters cannot request more than one. Those ballots are also recorded when they are returned, checked against the records, and, in many cases, voter signatures are on file to ensure that the voter assigned to the ballot is the one who voted.

And yet, mail-in ballots are one of the most frequent targets of voting misinformation, even though fraud is rare.

Different states have different ballot verification protocols. All states require a voter’s signature, while some states take additional precautions, such as having bipartisan teams compare that signature to a signature on file, requiring the signature to be notarized, or requiring someone to sign as a witness.

In Arkansas, you must send proof of your voter registration or a copy of your ID with the ballot. In states like Georgia, Minnesota and Ohio you must submit your driver’s license number or state identification card number, which will be matched against voter registration records before your vote is counted.

In states that require voters to submit applications to receive absentee ballots, the application typically includes several identifying pieces of information to ensure that you are who you say you are. In some cases, that includes a copy of your photo ID.

In almost every state, mail-in ballots can be tracked online via a unique barcode on the envelope, allowing voters to trace the path of their ballot until it is counted. Ballot security features and ballot sorting at election offices help prevent any forgery, though election officials say counterfeit ballots have not been a problem in US elections. A Georgia investigation into allegations of forged ballots in the 2020 election found no evidence to support such claims.

Secure voting boxes are placed in public places and are only emptied by trained electoral staff to prevent someone from tampering with the votes inside.

As with other forms of voter fraud, the stiff penalties for mail-in ballot fraud also act as a deterrent. Depending on the circumstances, voter fraud charges can result in a fine, jail time, or both.

Despite widespread claims of mail-in and absentee ballot fraud, the reality is that it is extremely rare. In 2017, the Brennan Center for Justice ranked the risk of voter fraud between 0.00004% and 0.0009%, based on studies of previous elections.

Meanwhile, a May 2022 Associated Press survey of states that allowed the use of secure drop boxes in the 2020 presidential election found no cases of fraud, vandalism, or theft involving secure drop boxes that could have affected the results.


The HPD answers your questions about the election in this series. Send them to: [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *