All-mail voting would only compromise the integrity of elections

Opinion: Arizonans have many options on how to vote. We should keep it that way. An all-mail election would only add unnecessary risks and costs.

By Shawnna Bolick – April 2, 2020 opinion contributor

Pundit Chris Herstam urged that “all Republican legislators be shot” if we didn’t support a mail-only election.

Apart from using the pandemic for partisan purposes in an overheated manner, here is why Herstam is wrong. First, every person who wants to vote by mail may already do so. That is a choice we must preserve.

In the early days of voting, votes were cast by voice in public. Later, ballots were distributed by political party. Polling places were created to reduce voter fraud, and to minimize improper pressure and buying votes.

Arizonans have options on how to vote

Today, Arizonans have myriad voting options, including in-person voting on Election Day, early voting centers, emergency voting centers, and the Permanent Early Voting List. Arizona voters can already request an early ballot as late as 11 days before an election.

Mail-in ballots are the most complicated process. If voters mismark their ballots, they can request a replacement ballot. Last spring, County Recorder Adrian Fontes showed us huge pallets of early ballots printed and stored to accommodate such requests. Not only does this lend itself to fraud and confusion, it requires extensive personnel and slows down counting.

Only certain types of paper can be used for ballots, available from limited vendors, making mail-in ballots expensive to print and process on voting tabulation machines. Envelopes mailed out also need to comply with criteria set forth by USPS standards.

Mailed ballots carry inherent risks

The chain of custody for mail-in ballots is important. Last fall a county recorder told us when they went into a post office to pick up ballots on Election Day, a tray of mail-in ballots was stored in a nonsecure place. Let that sink in. Would you trust USPS to protect your ballot knowing it is treated like junk mail?

When a mail-in ballot is received, elections workers have to verify a signature on the envelope. Signature verification software isn’t cheap or easy. Some voters forget to sign the affidavit, slowing the ballot tabulation process because elections officials need to contact the voter to come in and sign the envelope. Voting in person eliminates the need for this extra step.

Once a mail-in ballot is received and the envelope verified, the ballot is fed through a voting tabulation machine. Not all Arizona counties have high-speed voting tabulation systems because they don’t come cheap.

A voting machine kicks out an over vote. Election workers have to determine a voter’s intent, which is subjective. It is worth noting a political party could find enough of these mail-in ballots to overturn an election.

Mail-only election requires more staffing

If we moved to a mail-only ballot election, our 15 county recorders would all need to hire and train an even larger quantity of election workers to verify and process ballots. It’s not like they have a large pool of applicants right now. Each county would also need to rent additional space to count these ballots in a transparent and open process.

Voters on tribal lands don’t have reliable mail service – sometimes it takes up to 10 days for a voter to receive a ballot, and that doesn’t include time to mail it back.

Sixty-five percent of Americans polled by Pew Research Center reject the idea of conducting all elections by mail. Voters believe casting a ballot in person on a voting machine inside a polling place holds more integrity for their vote.

Voting in person is more accurate, secure

When a registered voter checks into their polling place, they show their government-issued ID so they can cast their ballot on a voting machine that has passed a logic and accuracy test performed by the Secretary of State’s Equipment Certification Advisory Committee.

A ballot cast in person tends to be counted more accurately and more securely than one mailed.

A knee-jerk reaction to move to a mail-only election would lead to lengthy tabulation scenarios compromising the integrity of our elections. Arizona already offers several methods to vote. Now is not the time to reduce our voting options to just one, especially during a national emergency when our voice truly counts.

Rep. Shawnna LM Bolick, a Republican, represents Legislative District 20 and is a member of the House Elections Committee. Reach her at