Saturday, September 12, 2020

Mail-in ballots are an open invitation to cheat.

Albert Tieche
by Albert Tieche- Mail-in ballots are an open invitation to cheat. It is like announcing that there will be no police on the interstate to pull over speeders. In both scenarios, most people will obey the law but some will not. It is that simple. Some will cheat. 

Mail-in vs Absentee ballots 

There is a big difference between the procedure for absentee ballots and mail-in ballots. While there is variation from state to state, in Tennessee absentee ballots must be requested by voters. Conversely, mail-in ballots are automatically sent to voters without a request. Here are some specifics about the absentee voting process in Tennessee: 

To vote absentee: 
1. A voter must be a properly registered voter on the county voter database.

2. A voter must request an absentee ballot using a form designed for that purpose. Here is the Davidson County absentee request form. The request forms are filled out by the voter, signed, and returned by mail or fax, or emailed with a scanned signature.
    a. The absentee ballot request form requires the voters identifying information, including their SS number, the reason for requesting the absentee ballot, the address to which the ballot is to be mailed, and the requesting voter’s signature. That signature is matched to the signature on file with the election commission. The election commission then sends out the absentee ballot to the voter along with instructions and a specialized ballot envelope that has places for voter information on it. This return envelope must also be filled out.

3. A voter must complete the ballot, seal it in the provided return envelope and return that in a larger outer envelope. 
    a. When the absentee ballot is received at the county election commission, the information the voter provided on the specialized return envelope is used to verify that the ballot is being properly cast in that particular election BEFORE the envelope is opened. This procedure protects the secrecy of the ballot. A ballot itself can NEVER contain voter information, so verification must be done from the envelope before the ballot is revealed. A team made up of people of both parties examines the envelopes and declares absentee ballots to be accepted or rejected. A different team, again made up of people from both parties, looks at the accepted ballots and tallies the votes. The absentee process opens up an opportunity for voter fraud because the “chain of custody” of the ballot is broken from the time the absentee ballot is received in a voter’s mailbox, until the completed ballot is received back at the election commission. But, that risk of fraud is preferable to denying the vote to a voter who could not get to the polls in their home county on election day or during early voting. It is a cost-benefit analysis. Responsible people designed the absentee process to minimize the opportunities for fraud while also making allowances for those who would be absent. The absentee process works well. 
Voting by Mail

In contrast, vote-by-mail massively expands the number of ballots that are open to fraud. Simply stated, if all voters are sent a mail-in ballot, then all ballots are outside the chain of custody and every single ballot presents an opportunity for fraud. But, it is even worse than that. The number of mail in ballots sent out would be larger than the largest turnout ever in the history of every county that does mail in ballots. Here is why. 

Let’s assume for this discussion that ballots would be mailed to all registered voters. Makes sense, right? There would be no other way to do it. OK. Should ballots be mailed to “inactive” voters, too? What is an inactive voter you ask? “Inactive” is a designation noted on the voter rolls when a voter fails to vote, or contact their election commission, or respond to mailings from the election commission for a number of years. An inactive voter is still a registered voter. But, state law is written to address the fact that the election commission has good reason to believe the voter may have moved, died or otherwise ceased to be an active voter. The inactive voter designation and procedures are in place to prevent voter fraud when a voter’s status is in question. In a vote-by-mail situation, sending ballots to inactive voters, many of whom have moved out of the jurisdiction or died, would be an invitation to voter fraud. Would you mail ballots to inactive voters? Why or why not?

In large elections with high turnout, such as a presidential election, around 70% of registered voters actually vote. That means if ballots are mailed to all registered voters, 30% of the ballots will be mailed to people who would not normally vote. For other elections, the percentage turnout goes much lower, down in to the 25% range. No one likes to talk about it but, at a minimum, about 30% of registered voters, do not vote, even in the hotly contested presidential elections. There is no way to determine in advance, who is not interested in voting. It changes from election to election. With in-person voting, the uninterested voters, a minimum of 30%, simply do not show up to vote. That is how we know they were uninterested in voting. However, if we mail ballots to every registered voter, that huge additional percentage of “unwanted” ballots, (for lack of a better description) would exist outside the chain of custody, and are yet another expansion of the opportunities for voter fraud. If you are mailing to all registered voters, that 30% who were not going to vote, even in the upcoming “most important election of our lives,” as both major parties like to say, will receive ballots that they do not care about. Is that a good idea? 

We know from history that there are several methods to commit voter fraud when there are significant percentages of ballots outside the chain of custody. 

Here are some of the more common ways voter fraud can and will occur. 
1. The day or days that mail out ballots arrive in peoples mailboxes cannot be kept secret. People willing to commit voter fraud can steal ballots from other people’s mailboxes when they are delivered, by the USPS. They can complete the stolen ballots, fraudulently sign them and return them. The fraudulent ballots may, or may not, be detected upon return to the election office. Are you OK with that?

2. “Vote harvesters” can go to those who are not particularly interested in voting (30%) and persuade or intimidate them into casting a vote for the candidate for whom the “harvester” is working and being paid. We know from news reports that people are being trained to do this. Are you confident that no coercion will occur in this scenario? If you think it might happen sometimes, but not much, give me a % of time that coercing another person to vote the way you want is OK. 

3. If unwanted ballots are thrown away in the trash, “vote harvesters” can retrieve those ballots from the trash, fill them out for their preferred candidate and return them. Is that OK?

4. People who are not particularly interested in voting (remember the 30 %?) can sell their votes. You don’t think people would do such a thing? In years past, people often sold their votes for a ½ pint of whiskey. I recommend the book The Secrets of the Hopewell Box by James D. Squires. It documents the breadth and depth of voter fraud in Davidson County, TN in the 1950s. The same things were going on all over the country. The system has been greatly improved since then. Do you want to go back to the old system and the fraud involved in it?

5. Relatives can acquire the ballots of frail or disabled voters, either from the mailbox or from their homes, fill them out and coerce the frail or disabled voter into signing and returning the ballots. If you do not think that can happen, or that it could never change the outcome of an election, may I recommend the book “Injustice” by former Justice Department lawyer J. Christian Adams. He describes how that very thing happened in Noxubee County, Mississippi until the feds stepped in and people went to jail. It should be noted that state officials knew what was happening but failed to act. 

6. Corrupt postal workers can fail to deliver the blank ballots to voters in areas where the voters tend to be one party or the other. Of the 75,000 USPS mail carriers, let’s assume that 99% are perfectly honest and above reproach. That leaves 750 postal carriers who might be tempted to throw away the thousands of ballots they were assigned to deliver in order to assist a candidate for a cash reward. So are you OK if candidates corrupt only 1% of postal workers? How about ½ of 1%?

7. Postal workers can fail to deliver completed ballots back to the election commissions. Same questions as above. 
It comes down to this: What percentage of fraud are you comfortable with in a given election? 5%? 1%? ½ of 1 %. Many elections are won on much smaller margins than that. Over the years, we as a country have tightened up election laws and processes expressly for the purpose of eliminating opportunities for fraud. Why should we revert to a system that opens up massive opportunities for fraud? Another good look at human nature and voter fraud is the movie “The Battle of Athens” which shows how easily humans can justify committing voter fraud. 

The Ostensible Reason for Mail-in Ballots

COVID 19 and the need for social distancing is cited as the reason states need to move to mail-in ballots. The claim being made is that there is no way to maintain social distancing while standing in a line on election-day. That may indeed be true. However, two  weeks of early voting renders that concern irrelevant in Tennessee or any other state with early voting. Early voting locations in Tennessee currently produce around one-half of all votes cast in elections. The early voting sites are rarely crowded. “Steady all day” is typically as busy as early voting gets. The busiest times are morning rush hour, evening rush hour and lunch time. These early voting sites can handle significantly more volume they are currently handling while maintaining social distancing. 

In other words, no one needs to wait in line at a crowded poll on election day when early voting is available. In addition, if early voting still seems too risky for older people, who we now know are by far and away the most vulnerable to COVID, it should be noted that in Tennessee, ANYONE over age 60 can request an absentee ballot based on their age alone. That means COVID does not present the obstacle that some are claiming. It is only an excuse to open more opportunities for voter fraud. 


We as a society, have a set of voting laws that we have agreed on through several hundred years of experience. The election process has been improved over the years and the existing laws work well to minimize opportunities for fraud. It is extremely ill-advised for a society to allow voting laws to be ignored or, to change voting laws that were designed to prevent fraud. A secure election system insures fairness and maintains citizens’ confidence in a civil society. 

Vote-by-mail opens new and large areas for voter fraud. People of both parties who have experience with election procedures and laws know that there are indeed people who will commit voter fraud if given the chance. An election system designed and operated in a manner that prevents opportunities for voter fraud will be trusted. An election system that allows multiple, large, opportunities for voter fraud will erode everyone’s confidence in our system of representative government. Vote-by-mail opens up an opportunity for fraud for every ballot that is mailed. Anyone who understands the voting process knows this. Anyone who does not understand the voting process is too uninformed to be involved in determining voting procedures.

Albert Tieche is retired manufacturing consultant and lives in Madison, TN. He began working as an election-day poll worker in 2002, served as a contact trainer for election-day poll workers and eventually served two years as the Administrator of Elections for Davidson County, TN.

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