Voter Fraud Is Extremely Rare And How Oregon Manages Election Security

November 8 is election day, but many voters have already mailed in their votes because Oregon is a state that allows voters to cast ballots by mail. Many viewers wrote to us with questions about what happens next and how we can be sure our votes are handled and counted fairly. Tim Scott, the director of elections for Multnomah County, provided us with qualified advice.

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How are ballot boxes safeguarded against stuffing? Do they have security watching them?

Every ballot envelope has a special ballot ID and barcode, according to Scott. “We won’t process the ballot within a ballot envelope if it lacks such features. Only the most recent ballot ID is acceptable if someone seeks a replacement ballot when they are in possession of two ballots; the other one is declared invalid when the replacement ballot is generated.”

Sometimes visualizing the procedure can aid in explaining how it operates. Scott demonstrated a sizable ballot-sorting device to our team.

According to Scott, sorting used to be done by election workers, but COVID-19 made it impossible. The $275,000 sorting machine was purchased with federal tax dollars, and it now replaces 24 workers.

Scott claimed that the device was carrying out numerous tasks at once. The bar code on the ballot envelope is being scanned to determine the next course of action.

“The distinctive identifier for this envelope is that bar code. The ballot ID thus serves as a unique identifier for this envelope. Nobody else will receive that identifying number in this election, “added Scott. “And the voter and that go together. Therefore, we can be certain that the voter has returned a ballot when we scan this ballot’s bar code. And if that bar code can’t be read or isn’t one that qualifies for this election, it will be thrown into bin number one. All of the rejected items end up there.”

According to Scott, there are a few possible causes for rejections. Perhaps a voter used an envelope from a previous vote or failed to sign the envelope outside. Election authorities are usually able to get in touch with the voter and fix the issue.

This technology prevents people from stuffing the voting machine. Each ballot has a bar code attached to it, and the voting system would reject a phony ballot with a fake bar code. Each person has one vote.

According to Scott, a fresh ballot is sent out to a voter who already has one at home but asked for a second one because they misplaced the previous one. The first ballot, however, is canceled at the same time and will be rejected by the sorting device.

Another reader disputed a claim made by The Story the previous week that election security is “on everyone’s mind.”

How Oregon Manages Election Security
How Oregon Manages Election Security

What if I disagree with the premise that election fraud or cheating is a significant issue?

Although it’s useful to understand how Oregon’s election security operates and why fraud is more difficult than some people believe, this viewer has a point. Contrary to what the late President Donald Trump claimed, there was no solid proof of rampant voter fraud in the 2020 election. Even Bill Barr, the then-attorney general, referred to these assertions as “bullshit” and “total nonsense.”

Particularly in Oregon, there is hardly any documented election fraud history. Out of 60.9 million ballots returned, 38 felony prosecutions for election fraud occurred in Oregon between 2000 and 2019, a 19-year span. The most typical type of fraud involves voters casting ballots in both Oregon and another state, albeit the majority of those mentioned claimed it was just an error or a case of voter confusion.

However, a few people raised concerns about the signature that voters are required to place on the exterior of the ballot envelope, raising more queries about our election procedure.

How can poll workers handle such “signatures” on ballots if kids aren’t taught cursive in school?

No matter how the registration card is signed, Scott added, “we can typically match that to the signature on the ballot.” The majority of signaturesβ€”99% or moreβ€”are matched without further contact with the voter.

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How is a person’s signature verified if they registered to vote online so that the one on the envelope can be compared?

For voters who register to vote online or through automatic registration at the DMV, the DMV provides the signatures, according to Scott.

To extrapolate, the DMV will share the voter’s signature with the Oregon Secretary of State’s office in order to validate it when the voter signs for a driver’s license. The DMV maintains the voter’s signature on file.

Over time, people’s signatures evolve. How can I be certain that my current signature is the same as the one I used to register?

“Although a person’s signature can change over time, they typically share a lot of the same traits. On the basis of such similarities, we can typically find a match, “added Scott.

“The voter will receive a letter along with a registration form if there aren’t enough similarities to make a match, and they’ll have until 21 days after the election to submit it with a signature that matches the voter’s signature on the ballot. Most of the recipients of these letters reply, allowing us to count their votes.”

Here, the sorting device also plays a role. It captures the signature when it scans the bar code on the envelope and immediately matches it to the signature on file. The machine will accept the signature if it completely matches. The envelope will be placed aside for additional inspection if there is any uncertainty.

Scott claimed that because the ballots themselves are essentially anonymous for privacy concerns, all of this verification is done on the envelopes up front. Once the envelope is opened, the ballot disappears into a sea of other ballots with no means to identify the voter.

Scott stated, “In Multnomah County, we do not place unique identifiers on our ballots. “Therefore, once it is removed from the envelope, it is no longer connected to you. We put a lot of effort into making sure it is you before it is taken out of the envelope, which is why.”

Because of this, Oregon is unable to go back and match each ballot with the voter who cast it. However, Scott noted that in addition to the observers present on Election Day, election authorities conduct audits after each election to guarantee the validity of the results.

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