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Better options than mail-in voting

by Sen. Mary Souza
| August 16, 2020 1:10 AM

There is a critical difference between mail-in voting and absentee voting, and that difference is like night-and-day when it comes to the safety of elections and your vote. Let’s take a closer look:

Absentee voting has been available in Idaho for decades. To qualify for an absentee ballot, a registered voter must complete a signed request form each year, asking that an absentee ballot be sent to their current address, which is verified in this process. The Elections Office receives the request, documents it in their system, and sends the ballot at the appropriate time before the election. The voter completes their ballot, signs the outer envelope and sends it back to the Elections Office.

Mail-in voting is different. Registered voters do not have to request a ballot. They do not have to verify their current address or sign a form. They do not have to take any action indicating they wish to vote in the upcoming election. The Elections Office automatically sends a ballot to every registered voter in the database, even if that person has not voted in years. Some may have died, or moved out of state, or moved to a different address in the area. The ballot is just sent to the last known address on the Elections database. Many ballots then sit in vacated mailboxes or are received by unintended people. Some are tossed in the trash or piled up with bills and never used.

Do these two systems of voting seem equally safe to you? Don’t be fooled. Voter fraud and serious errors are a much greater risk with mail-in ballots. They can change the outcome of elections. There is a long list of voter fraud and error across our country, so be wary of those who say it doesn’t happen or is extremely rare. Here in Idaho, we do not allow mail-in voting.

The safest way to vote is in-person with voter ID. The second safest way to vote is by requesting an absentee ballot, sent to your current address. That is why the legislative State Affairs working group, on which I serve, will be considering changes to our laws during the Special Session starting Aug. 24. The changes are to support in-person voting during COVID and assist election staff with secure absentee ballot counting. Both changes are for this year only.

Because of the COVID problem this year, there is a critical need for poll workers who are willing to help on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Training is provided, along with modest pay, and you will be making a big difference by ensuring in-person voting can still be offered in our community. If you are interested, please call the Kootenai County Elections Office at 208-446-1030.

We cannot allow the safety and integrity of our voting system to be compromised. It is the foundation of our Republic and is our most basic right. Without our vote, all other rights can be taken from us. Please help if you can, and always exercise your right to vote!

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Senator Mary Souza represents District 4, Coeur d’Alene, in the Idaho legislature. Email: msouza@senate.idaho.gov