State elections officials push back against concerns around mail-in voting, drop boxes

State elections officials push back against concerns around mail-in voting, drop boxes
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Multiple top state election officials on Friday pushed back against recent concerns that the increase of mail-in voting could lead to a spike in voter fraud.

Officials from both sides of the aisle testified in front of the House Homeland Security Committee during a hearing about protecting the upcoming elections. 

“We actually have now conducted three elections this year alone with a full right to vote-by-mail with more citizens voting by mail than ever before and with zero reports or evidence of fraud,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) testified during the hearing. 

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Benson testified alongside Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams (R), who said that mail-in voting in his state had jumped during the primaries. 

“I am very pleased to say that our election this year was clean, I did have some concerns about going from about 2 percent absentee balloting to what we ended up with, which was about 75 percent,” Adams said. 

He noted that while there had been “isolated incidents” of voter fraud in Kentucky over the past several decades, the state had implemented a series of best practices that ensured officials were “vigilant” for fraud during the elections. He also pointed to concerns over his elderly grandparents voting in-person and risking COVID-19 transmission. 

“I think all these things being equal, I think voting in person is the gold standard, but we are in unique times and we have got to acclimate to them,” Adams testified. 

Benson and Adams’s comments came on the heels of weeks of concerns that mail-in voting could lead to a spike in voter fraud. President TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance MORE also suggested delaying the election over these concerns.  

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“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Trump tweeted last month. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

There has been strong pushback against this claim, including a comment earlier this week from a senior FBI official who told reporters that despite the concerns, the FBI had “not seen to date a coordinated national voter fraud effort.”

Trump has also raised questions around the security of ballot drop boxes, tweeting earlier this week the boxes “make it possible to vote multiple times” and calling them “a big fraud.” The tweet was later flagged by Twitter for violating its civics and ethics rules.

But Adams testified Friday that despite Trump’s concerns, he had seen an increased interest in ballot drop boxes — which often weigh several hundred pounds and are subject to multiple security controls — from Republicans during Kentucky’s primary election.

“A lot of Republicans are comfortable applying for an absentee ballot, getting it, voting at home safely, and then they don’t want to mail it back, they want to bring it back, they want the personal satisfaction of dropping a vote into a bin, and knowing it’s in the bin,” Adams said. “We actually found there was greater like of the drop boxes on the GOP side than on the Democratic side in our June primary.”

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) emphasized the safety of mail-in voting while testifying before the House Administration during a separate hearing on Friday, criticizing Trump for promoting “misinformation” around the process. 

”Widespread attacks, fueled by President Trump, on the integrity of vote-by-mail and ballot drop boxes seek to undermine public confidence in our elections,” Padilla said. “This misinformation is baseless and is easily disproved by numerous reports and studies that voter fraud and vote-by-mail fraud is rare and isolated.”

California was already moving toward a system with an emphasis on voting by mail prior to this year, with the state instituting a “no-excuse” vote-by-mail system in 1979. Padilla said that during the state’s recent primary, voting by mail shot up from 27 percent of votes cast to 72 percent. 

Washington, Oregon, Utah and Colorado had used majority mail-in voting for elections prior to 2020. 

Julie Wise, the director of elections for King County in Washington, which includes Seattle, testified to the House Administration Committee that during the 2016 election the county saw only 17 suspected cases of voter fraud out of more than 1 million ballots cast, while there were only 29 suspected cases during the 2018 midterm elections. 

“Voter fraud is almost non-existent,” Wise said. 

All officials emphasized their focus of ensuring a safe and secure election could go forward in November, despite partisan divisions about the voting process. 

“If we can put partisanship aside, and just work together to succeed in holding elections that are secure, accessible and on schedule, if we fight back against misinformation and speak the truth to our voters, it’s possible, it’s doable to hold these elections safely in November, and our voters of course should demand no less of us,” Benson said.