(Pic Courtesy: National Conference of State Legislatures)
The mail-in ballot (a.k.a. absentee voting) has a long history in USA. In 17th-century Massachusetts, men could vote from home if their homes were “vulnerable to Indian attack,” according to historian Alex Keyssar’s book The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States.
The USA of the 21st Century, to state the obvious, is remarkably different from the USA of 17th, 18th, 19th and the 20th Century. USA, in those days, didn’t have all pervasive information companies like Google, who may rightfully sometime claim that I know more about your father than you do.
Media reports currently in circulation are:
“Lindsey Graham must resign,” Pramila Jayapal, a cochair of the House progressive caucus, wrote. “It has now been corroborated that he urged the Secretary of State in Georgia to find a way to throw out legally cast ballots. There must be accountability and justice for this dangerous attack on our democracy.”
“All I’m asking for is that Georgia have a bipartisan group to verify a signature on a mailed ballot, not leave it up to a single individual.” Lindsay Graham (R-SC).
“You stay in your lane. I could understand why you want me out of the Senate ‘cuz I’m going to bury your agenda,” Graham said. “You’re the most radical people in the history of American politics. You’re anti-Semitic when it comes to Israel, you bunch of socialists.”
He continued, “You would transform America to make it Venezuela. I’m gonna stand in your way. I could understand why you don’t want me in the Senate, but I’m not going anywhere.”
Given below are the mail- in ballot counting practices in different States (Source: https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/vopp-table-14-how-states-verify-voted-absentee.aspx).
And for 2020 elections States did make changes that are listed at the end of these tables (from page 25).
“This table details all states’ statutes on verifying absentee ballots. Note: The federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) places additional identification requirements on first-time voters who registered by mail. That information is not included in the table below.
|State||Copy of ID Required?||Notary or Witness Signatures on Return Envelope Required?||Details on How Absentee Ballots Are Verified|
|Alabama §17-9-30(b) §17-11-7 §17-11-10||Yes.||Yes; either two witnesses older than 18, or a notary public must sign envelope.||Absentee ballot return envelopes have an affidavit that the voter must sign. Those voting an absentee ballot shall submit with the ballot a copy of one of the valid forms of identification. Signatures of two witnesses or a notary public or other official authorized to acknowledge oaths are also required. If the affidavit envelope is not signed by the voter and properly witnessed, it is not opened and not counted. More details on this process can be found on the Alabama secretary of state’s website.|
|Alaska §15.20.203||No.||Yes; an attesting signature is needed by a witness older than 18 or an official authorized to administer oaths.||Ballots are not counted if the voter or the official or witness authorized by law to attest the voter’s certificate failed to properly sign the certificate on the outside of the return envelope.|
|Arizona Ariz. Rev. Stat. §16-547 §16-550 §16-552(B)||No.||No.||Absentee ballots include an affidavit that must be signed by the voter under penalty of perjury. Upon receipt, the signature on the affidavit is compared to the signature on the voter’s registration form. The vote is counted only if the affidavit is found sufficient.|
|Arkansas Constitution, Amendment 51, § 13 Ark. Code Ann. §7-5-409(b)(4) §7-5-412 §7-5-416||Yes; a copy of valid voter identification must be included with an absentee ballot.||No.||An applicant for an absentee ballot must include verification or voter registration or a copy of a valid ID. A voter statement is included with each absentee ballot and must be signed under penalty of perjury and returned with the voted absentee ballot. The penalty for providing false information is a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 10 years. Voters must also include verification of voter registration or a copy of a valid ID. If a voter fails to return the voter statement, the ballot is not counted.|
|California Election Code § 3019||No.||No.||Upon receipt of a vote-by-mail ballot, the elections official compares the signature on the identification envelope with either of the following to determine if the signatures compare: (1) The signature appearing on the voter’s affidavit of registration or any previous affidavit of registration of the voter. (2) The signature appearing on a form issued by an elections official that contains the voter’s signature and that is part of the voter’s registration record. If upon conducting the comparison of signatures pursuant to subdivision (a) the elections official determines that the signatures do not compare, the identification envelope shall not be opened and the ballot shall not be counted. The cause of the rejection shall be written on the face of the identification envelope. Voters are given the opportunity to verify their signatures before the election is certified for their ballots to be counted.|
|Colorado Colo. Rev. Stat. § 1-7.5-107.3||No.||No.||Note: Colorado sends a mail ballot to all eligible voters for every election. In every mail ballot election, an election judge shall compare the signature on the self-affirmation on each return envelope with the signature of the eligible elector stored in the statewide voter registration system. If the election judge determines the signatures do not match, two other election judges of different political party affiliations shall simultaneously compare the signatures. If both other election judges agree that the signatures do not match, the county clerk and recorder shall send to the eligible elector a letter explaining the discrepancy in signatures and a form for the eligible elector to confirm that the elector returned a ballot to the county clerk and recorder. If the county clerk and recorder receives the form within eight days after Election Day confirming that the elector returned a ballot to the county clerk and recorder and enclosing a copy of the elector’s identification as defined in section 1-1-104(19.5), and if the ballot is otherwise valid, the ballot shall be counted. If the eligible elector returns the form indicating that the elector did not return a ballot to the county clerk and recorder, or if the eligible elector does not return the form within eight days after Election Day, the self-affirmation on the return envelope shall be categorized as incorrect, the ballot shall not be counted, and the county clerk and recorder shall send copies of the eligible elector’s signature on the return envelope and the signature stored in the statewide voter registration system to the district attorney for investigation.|
|Connecticut Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann.§9-137, §9-150a(d), §9-140a, §9-359a||No.||No.||The inner envelope of an absentee ballot return envelope is printed with a statement under false statement penalty. Absentee ballot applicants are required to sign the form on the inner envelope. If the statement on the inner envelope is not signed as required, the ballot is rejected.|
|Delaware Del. Code Tit. 15, §5505(b)(4), §5514||No.||No.||Absentee ballot return envelopes are printed with an oath that must be signed by the voter. If a ballot is returned without a signature on the oath or if the envelope is open or appears to have been tampered with, it is not counted.|
|District of Columbia D.C. Mun. Regs. Tit. 3, § 717||No.||No.||An absentee ballot shall be counted provided that the voter signs the absentee ballot envelope to certify that the voter has voted the ballot and has not voted in any other jurisdiction or in any other manner in the election.|
|Florida Fl. Rev. Stat. §101.64 §101.68(1)(c) §101.68(4)(a) §101.68(4)(c)||No.||No.||Absentee ballot return envelopes are printed with a voter’s certificate which must be signed by the voter. Election officials compare the signature of the elector on the voter’s certificate or on the vote-by-mail ballot cure affidavit with the signature of the elector in the registration books or the precinct register to see that the elector is duly registered in the county and to determine the legality of that vote-by-mail ballot. If an elector returns a vote-by-mail ballot that does not include a signature or the signature does not match the signature in the registration books, the supervisor allows the elector to complete and submit an affidavit in order to cure the vote-by-mail ballot until 5 p.m. on the second day after the election. A photocopy of the voter’s identification is required to be submitted along with the cure affidavit if the voter’s signature does not match the one on file.|
|Georgia Ga. Code Ann. §21-2-384(c) §21-2-386(a)(1) §21-2-573||No.||No.||Absentee ballot return envelopes are printed with an oath which must be signed by the voter. The identifying information in the oath is compared with information on file in the clerk’s office, and the signature on the oath is compared with the signature on the absentee ballot application. Ballots that do not conform are rejected. A voter is notified of the rejection.|
|Hawaii Hawaii Rev. Stat. §15-6 §15-9||No.||No.||Note: Hawaii sends a mail ballot to all eligible voters for every election. Mail ballot return envelopes are printed with a statement to be subscribed to by the voter which affirms the fact that the voter is the person voting. Prior to opening the return ballot envelopes and counting the ballots, the return envelopes are checked for a signature on the affirmation statement and whether the signature corresponds with the absentee request or voter registration record. If not, the envelope is marked “invalid” and not counted.|
|Idaho Idaho Code §34-1009 §34-1005||No.||No.||Absentee ballot return envelopes are printed with an affidavit on the back, which the voter must sign. The ballot may be challenged if the affidavit is insufficient. Upon receipt of an absent elector’s ballot, the county clerk of the county wherein such an elector resides shall verify the authenticity of the affidavit.|
|Illinois 10 ILCS 5/19-8||No.||No.||The election judge or official shall compare the voter’s signature on the certification envelope of that vote by mail ballot with the signature of the voter on file in the office of the election authority. If the election judge or official determines that the signatures do not match, or that the vote by mail voter is not qualified to cast a vote by mail ballot, then without opening the certification envelope, the judge or official shall mark across the face of the certification envelope the word “Rejected” and shall not cast or count the ballot. If a vote by mail ballot is rejected, the election authority informs the voter within two days after the rejection. The notice informs the voter of the reasons that the ballot was rejected. The voter may then appear before the election authority on or before the 14th day after the election to present evidence supporting the contention that the ballot should be counted. The election authority appoints a panel of two election judges, from different political parties, to review the evidence submitted and make a final determination as to the validity of the contested vote-by-mail ballot.|
|Indiana §3-11-4-21 §3-11-10-1.2 §3-11-10-4 §3-11-10-5 et seq §3-11-10-7||No.||No.||Absentee ballot return envelopes are printed with an affidavit on the back, which the voter must sign under penalty of perjury. An absentee voter is not required to provide proof of identification when: mailing, delivering, or transmitting an absentee ballot under section 1 of this chapter; or voting before an absentee board under section 25 of this chapter. Upon receipt of an absentee ballot, a county election board examines the signature of the absentee voter to determine its genuineness. If a member of the absentee voter board questions whether a signature on a ballot envelope or transmitted affidavit is genuine, the matter shall be referred to the county election board for consideration. If a county election board unanimously finds that the signature on a ballot envelope or transmitted affidavit is not genuine, the board shall write upon the ballot envelope or transmitted affidavit the words “The county election board has questioned the genuineness of the signature of this voter.” If a county election board is unable to unanimously determine whether the signature on a ballot envelope is genuine, the board shall write upon the ballot envelope or transmitted affidavit the words “Signature Disputed.” These ballots shall be delivered to the polls on Election Day with instructions to verify the voter’s signature. After receipt of disputed ballots, a precinct election board shall determine whether each disputed ballot will be voted or rejected.|
|Iowa Iowa Code §53.16 §53.18||No.||No.||Absentee voters sign an affidavit on the ballot envelope. Affidavits are reviewed for completeness and if incomplete, voters are notified and may complete the affidavit in person at an election official’s office by 5 p.m. the day before the election, vote a replacement ballot or appear at the voter’s precinct polling place on election day to cast a ballot. If the affidavit contains a defect that would cause the absentee ballot to be rejected, the voter is immediately notified that the ballot shall not be counted unless the voter requests and returns a replacement ballot. A return envelope is considered to contain a defect if it appears that the signature on the envelope has been signed by someone other than the registered voter, in comparing the signature on the envelope to the signature on record of the registered voter named on the envelope.|
|Kansas K.S.A. §25-1122 §25-1120||No, but an application for an absentee ballot must either include the applicant’s current and valid Kansas driver’s license number or non-driver ID number, or a photocopy of other identification.||No.||The absentee ballot envelope contains a declaration that must be signed by the voter. A voter applying for an absentee ballot in person must present valid identification and a mailed absentee ballot application must either include the applicant’s current and valid Kansas driver’s license number or non-driver ID card number, or a photocopy of other identification as specified in §25-2908. Before sending an absentee ballot, the county election official verifies that the signature of the person matches that on file in the county voter registration records. If the signature of a person who is requesting an advance voting ballot does not match that on file, the county election officer shall attempt to contact the person and shall offer the person another opportunity to provide the person’s signature for the purposes of verifying the person’s identity. If the county election official is unable to reach the person, a provisional ballot may be transmitted. The provisional ballot is not counted unless a signature is included that can be verified, and the person provides valid identification. For the purposes of this act, Kansas state offices and offices of any subdivision of the state will allow any person seeking to vote by an advance voting ballot the use of a photocopying device to make one photocopy of an identification document at no cost.|
|Kentucky Ken. Rev. Stat. §117.085(6) §117.087(3)||No.||No.||The return envelope is printed with a space for the signature of the voter and two witnesses who must sign if the voter signs with a mark instead of a signature. Signatures on the outer envelope are compared with the signature of the voter on the registration card.|
|Louisiana §18:1306(E) §18:1313(F)||No.||Yes; the absentee ballot return envelope must be signed by a witness.||Absentee ballot return envelopes bear a certificate and affidavit which must be signed by the voter and a witness. The name on the certificate is compared with the names on the list of absentee-by-mail voters. If a majority of members of the counting board determine that an absentee ballot is invalid, the ballot is rejected and not counted.|
|Maine 21-A M.R.S.A. § 756, § 759, § 791||No.||No.||The signature on the envelope is compared with the signature of the voter on the absentee ballot application. The absentee ballot is rejected and not counted if the signatures do not appear to have been made by the same person or if the affidavit is not properly completed. It is a crime to forge the name of another on an absentee ballot, the return envelope or the application for an absentee ballot.|
|Maryland MD Code, Election Law, § 9-310, COMAR 33.11.04.05, 33.11.05.03, 33.11.06.03||No.||No.||Absentee ballots are enclosed in a ballot envelope on which has been printed an oath prescribed by the state board. When absentee ballots are received, a team of election officials verify that the oath is signed and the return envelope sealed. Ballots are rejected if the voter failed to sign the oath. The state board is required to provide a free access system that any voter who submits an absentee ballot application may access to determine whether the local board received and accepted the voter’s absentee ballot application and received and counted the voter’s absentee ballot.|
|Massachusetts M.G.L.A. 54 § 92, § 94||No.||No.||The absentee ballot envelope contains an affidavit that the voter must sign. The signature on the absentee envelope is compared with the signature on the absentee ballot application. If the ballot envelope was not signed by the same person who signed the absentee ballot application, it is rejected. Voters whose ballots are rejected are notified.|
|Michigan M.C.L.A. §168.761 §168.766 §168.767||No.||No.||Applications for absentee ballots must be signed by the voter and the voter’s signature is compared with the digitized signature in the qualified voter file. Absentee ballot return envelopes are printed with a statement that must be signed by the voter. The legality of returned absentee ballots is determined by comparing the signature on the statement with the digitized signature in the qualified voter file or the registration record. If the signature on the envelope does not agree sufficiently with the signature on record, the ballot is rejected.|
|Minnesota § 203B.07 § 203B.121||No.||No.||A certificate of eligibility to vote by absentee is printed on the back of the return envelope. The certificate shall contain space for the voter’s Minnesota driver’s license number, state identification number or the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number, or to indicate that the voter does not have one of these numbers. The space must be designed to ensure that the voter provides the same type of identification as provided on the voter’s absentee ballot application for purposes of comparison. The certificate must also contain a statement to be signed and sworn by the voter indicating that the voter meets all of the requirements established by law for voting by absentee ballot and space for a statement signed by a person who is registered to vote in Minnesota or by a notary public or other individual authorized to administer oaths. Election judges of different political party affiliations examine absentee ballots. If information provided on the absentee ballot envelope does not match the information on the absentee ballot application or voter record, the election judges compare the signature provided by the applicant to determine whether the ballots were returned by the same person to whom they were transmitted. An absentee ballot may be rejected if the voter did not sign the certification on the envelope. Voters are sent written notice of absentee ballot rejection and may receive a replacement absentee ballot and return envelope if the envelope has been rejected at least five days before the election.|
|Mississippi Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-627, § 23-15-635, § 23-15-633, § 23-15-639, § 23-15-641||No.||Yes; absentee ballot application and absentee ballot envelope must be signed by an official witness.||The application for an absentee ballot must be signed by an official authorized to administer oaths for absentee balloting which includes any notary public, U.S. postmaster, assistant U.S. postmaster, U.S. postal supervisor, clerk in charge of a contract postal station, or other officer having authority to administer an oath or take an acknowledgment of acting as an attesting witness. This is provided, however, that in the case of an absent elector who is temporarily or permanently physically disabled, the attesting witness may be any person age 18 or older and such person is not required to have the authority to administer an oath. Voters must sign a certificate and the ballot must also be accompanied by an attesting witness certificate. Absentee ballots are not counted if the envelope is not signed by the voter and an attesting witness. Election officials compare the signature on the ballot envelope with that on the absentee ballot application. If the signatures match, the ballot is counted. If the signatures do not match, the ballot is rejected.|
|Missouri V.A.M.S. §115.279, §115.283 §115.295||No.||Yes; absentee ballot envelope must be signed by election official, notary or other officer authorized to administer oaths, except for individuals who have declared themselves to be permanently disabled.||An application for an absentee ballot must be signed by the voter and witnessed by an authorized individual (election official, notary or other officer authorized to administer oaths). Absentee ballot return envelopes are printed with a statement that must be signed by the voter under penalty of perjury. The affidavit of each person voting an absentee ballot shall be subscribed and sworn to before the election official receiving the ballot, a notary public or other officer authorized by law to administer oaths. The ballot is rejected if the statement is not completed.|
|Montana Mont. Code Ann. §13-13-213, §13-13-201, §13-13-241, §13-13-245||No.||No.||An absentee voter must sign an absentee ballot application and the signature is compared to the voter’s registration record. An election administrator who is not convinced that the person signing an absentee ballot application is the same person who appears on the registration card may request ID. An affidavit is printed on the return envelope and must be executed by the voter. The signature on the affidavit is compared with the signature on the absentee ballot request application. If the signatures match, the ballot is counted. If the signature on the absentee ballot signature envelope does not match the signature on the absentee ballot request form or on the elector’s voter registration form or if there is no signature on the absentee ballot signature envelope, the election administrator shall notify the elector. The elector may verify the elector’s or agent’s signature or provide a signature, after proof of identification, by affirming that the signature is in fact the elector’s, completing a new registration form containing the elector’s current signature or providing a new agent designation form; or if necessary receive a replacement ballot.|
|Nebraska Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-947, § 32-1502||No.||No.||The absentee ballot envelope contains an oath that must be signed by the voter.|
|Nevada Nev. Rev. Stat. § 293.325 § 293.313 § 293.330||No.||No.||Election officials check the signature on the absentee ballot envelope against the voter registration signature. It is unlawful for a person to fraudulently request an absent ballot in the name of another person or to induce or coerce another person fraudulently to request an absent ballot in the name of another person. It is unlawful for any person to return an absent ballot other than the voter who requested the absent ballot or, at the request of the voter, a member of the voter’s family.|
|New Hampshire N.H. Rev. Stat. § 657:17 § 659:53 § 657:26||No.||No.||The voter executes an affidavit on the absentee ballot envelope. If the affidavit is not properly executed or not signed by the proper person, the ballot is rejected. The secretary of state shall make a public website available for absentee voters to determine when the absentee ballot request has been received, whether the absentee ballot was sent and whether it was accepted or rejected, including the reason for the challenge.|
|New Jersey N.J. Stat. Ann. § 19:63-8 § 19:63-13 § 19:63-17||No.||No.||Election officials compare the signature on the mail-in ballot request with the person’s voter registration record on the paper form or the digitized images of the voter’s signature stored in the statewide voter registration system. If it is determined the applicant is not entitled to a ballot, the clerk shall mark on the application “Disapproved” and shall so notify the applicant, stating the reason therefore. Mail-in voters sign a certificate on the ballot envelope. Signatures on the envelope are compared with the signature and information contained in the request for a mail-in ballot. Signatures that do not match are rejected.|
|New Mexico N.M. Stat. Ann. § 1-6-4 § 1-6-8 § 1-6-14||No.||No.||Applications for absentee ballots must be signed by the applicant and require the applicant’s printed name, registration address and year of birth to be supplied by the applicant, which shall constitute the required form of identification. Absentee ballot envelopes contain a form that must be executed by the voter. If the signature is missing, the ballot is rejected.|
|New York McKinney’s Election Law § 8-410, § 9-209||No.||No.||Absentee voters subscribe to an oath on the envelope. The signature on the envelope is compared to the registration poll record to determine acceptance.|
|North Carolina N.C.G.S.A. § 163A-1310 § 163A-1317||No.||Yes; absentee ballot envelope must be signed by two witnesses or a notary public.||The voter signs a certificate that must be witnessed by two persons at least 18 years old or by a notary public. The two witnesses must indicate their addresses. A notary shall affix a valid notarial seal to the envelope and include the word “Notary Public” below his or her signature.|
|North Dakota §16.1-07-08 §16.1-07-12||No.||No.||Return envelopes are printed with an affidavit that the voter must sign under the penalty of possible criminal prosecution for making a false statement. The signature on the affidavit is compared to the signature on the absentee ballot application to determine if they correspond. If they do not correspond or the affidavit is found to be insufficient, the ballot is rejected.|
|Ohio R.C. §3509.03 §3509.04 §3509.06||No.||No.||Ballot return envelopes are printed with an identification statement requiring both the voter’s signature under penalty of election falsification and the voter’s driver’s license number or the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number. In lieu of providing either of those numbers, a voter may enclose a copy of one of the aforementioned IDs. The signature on the envelope is compared with the signature on the voter’s registration form to determine eligibility.|
|Oklahoma 26 OS §14-107 26 OS §14-108 26 OS § 14-108.1||No.||Yes; absentee ballot envelope must be notarized.||Absentee ballot return envelopes are printed with an affidavit which the voter must sign. The affidavit must be witnessed by a notary. Notary publics must maintain a log of all absentee ballot affidavits for a single election and may not notarize more than 20 absentee ballot affidavits without the written approval of the election board.|
|Oregon O.R.S. § 254.431, § 254.470||No.||No.||Note: Oregon sends a mail ballot to all eligible voters for every election. If a voter returns a ballot and did not sign the return identification envelope, or if the signature of the elector on the envelope did not match the signature in the voter registration record, the county clerk shall mail the elector a notice. In order for the vote of the elector to be counted, the elector must provide evidence sufficient to disprove the challenge not later than the 14th calendar day after the date of the election. In the case of an unsigned return identification envelope, providing sufficient evidence may include completing a certified statement on a form provided by the county clerk.|
|Pennsylvania 25 P.S. § 3146.2 § 3146.4 § 3146.8||No.||No.||The elector signs a declaration on the absentee ballot envelope. The declaration on the envelope is examined at a voter’s local precinct and information contained on the envelope is compared with the information in the “registered absentee voters file” and list of absentee voters. If an elector fails to provide proof of identification that can be verified by the county board of elections by the sixth calendar day following the election, then the absentee ballot shall not be counted.|
|Rhode Island Gen. Laws § 17-20-23, § 17-20-2.1 §17-20-26||No.||Yes; two witnesses or a notary public must sign the absentee ballot envelope for most absentee voters. Military and overseas voters do not need a signature or notary.||Mail ballot envelopes for most absentee voters must contain the signature of the elector and a notary or two witnesses. The names, residence and signature on the certificate is compared to the signature on the absentee ballot application to ensure they are identical.|
|South Carolina S.C. Code §7-15-220 §7-15-230||No.||Yes; the absentee ballot envelope must be signed by the voter and a witness. Military and overseas voters are exempt from the witness requirement.||Absentee ballots must be returned with an oath, signed by the voter and a witness. Military and overseas voters are exempt from the witness requirement. No ballot is counted unless the oath is properly signed.|
|South Dakota S.D. Code §12-19-10||No, but an application for an absentee ballot must be accompanied by either an oath verifying the information, administered by a notary public or authorized officer, or a copy of the voter’s ID.||No.||An application for an absentee ballot must be accompanied by either an oath verifying the information, administered by a notary public or authorized officer or a copy of the voter’s identification as required by §12-18-6.1. There is a statement on the absentee ballot return envelope that must be signed by the voter. The signature on the statement is compared to the signature on the absentee ballot application to ensure both were signed by the same voter.|
|Tennessee Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-6-202, § 2-6-204||No.||No.||The voter’s signature on the absentee ballot application and the absentee ballot envelope is compared with the signature in the registration record. If upon receipt of any absentee ballot the administrator determines that the ballot is not entitled to be cast under this title, the administrator shall mark the absentee ballot envelope “Rejected,” write the reason for the rejection on the envelope and sign it. Notice of the rejection shall immediately be given in writing to the voter.|
|Texas Elec. Code §86.013, §87.027||No.||No.||Absentee ballot carrier envelopes are printed with a certificate which must be signed by the voter. A signature verification committee compares the signature on the envelope with the signature on the voter’s ballot application or registration application to determine whether they were made by the same person. The committee may also compare the signatures with any two or more signatures of the voter made within the preceding six years and on file with the county clerk or voter registrar to determine whether the signatures are those of the voter.|
|Utah §20A-3-305 § 20A-3-302 § 20A-3-308||No.||No.||Note: Utah sends a mail ballot to all eligible voters for every election. The back of the return envelope is printed with an affidavit which must be signed by the voter. The signature on the mail ballot envelope is compared to the signature on file to ensure that they correspond. If the election officer rejects an individual’s mail ballot because the signature on the ballot does not match the individual’s signature that is maintained on file, the election officer shall contact the individual by mail, email, text message or phone, and inform the individual how to resolve the issue.|
|Vermont 17 V.S.A. § 2542, 17 V.S.A. § 2546, 17 V.S.A. § 2547||No.||No.||Absentee voters must sign the certificate on the outside of the envelope for the ballot to be valid. Election officials determine that the certificate has been properly completed and signed before counting the ballot. If the certificate is not signed it is marked as “defective” and not counted.|
|Virginia Virginia Stat. §24.2-706 §24.2-707 § 24.2-711.1||No.||Yes; absentee envelopes must be signed by the voter and a witness.||Voters must sign a statement on the back of the return envelope in the presence of a witness, who must also sign. The secretary, in coordination with local election officials, shall implement a free-access system by which a voter may determine whether the voter’s application for an absentee ballot has been received and accepted; and whether the voter’s absentee ballot has been received and the current status of the absentee ballot. The electoral board of each county and city shall send a written explanation of the reason for rejection of an absentee ballot to the voter whose absentee ballot is rejected within 90 days of the date on which the ballot is rejected.|
|Washington Wash. Rev. Code §29A.40.091 §29A.40.110 §29A.60.165||No.||No.||Note: Washington sends a mail ballot to all eligible voters for every election. Voter must sign a declaration on the return envelope declaring that the voter meets the qualifications to vote and has not voted in any other jurisdiction during this election. The signature on the oath is matched to the signature in registration records. All personnel assigned to verify signatures must receive training on statewide standards for signature verification. Personnel shall verify that the voter’s signature on the ballot declaration is the same as the signature of that voter in the registration files of the county. Verification may be conducted by an automated verification system approved by the secretary of state. A variation between the signature of the voter on the ballot declaration and the signature of that voter in the registration files due to the substitution of initials or the use of common nicknames is permitted so long as the surname and handwriting are clearly the same. If the voter neglects to sign the ballot declaration he or she must be informed by first class mail and advised of the correct procedure. If the handwriting doesn’t match, the voter is notified and advised of the procedures for updating his or her signature on the voter registration file.|
|West Virginia WV Stat. § 3-3-5 § 3-3-10||No.||No.||Voters sign the absentee return envelope. The official designated to conduct absentee voting may challenge an absent voter’s ballot if the signatures of the person voting an absentee voter’s ballot are not in the same handwriting as they appear on the absentee voter application or the registration record.|
|Wisconsin Wis. Stat. Ann. §6.87 §6.88||No, but a copy of ID must be included with the absentee ballot application.||Yes; the ballot must be voted in the presence of a witness, who signs an affidavit on the absentee ballot envelope.||Absentee ballot applications must be signed and accompanied by a copy of the elector’s proof of identification unless the voter is otherwise exempt. Once a mail-in absentee voter has provided photo ID, they are not required to provide it again with subsequent absentee ballot requests unless their registration status changes (name or address). If a municipal clerk receives an absentee ballot with an improperly completed certificate or with no certificate, the clerk may return the ballot to the elector, inside the sealed envelope when an envelope is received, together with a new envelope if necessary, whenever time permits the elector to correct the defect and return the ballot. If the certification is insufficient, the ballot is rejected.|
|Wyoming Wyo. Stat. § 22-9-111 § 22-9-121||No.||No.||Absentee voters sign an oath on the return ballot envelope. If the affidavit on the absentee ballot envelope is not legally sufficient, the ballot is rejected.”|
Specifically, for 2020 Elections:
“This resource is intended to catalog state policies on absentee/mail voting that will be in effect for the 2020 general election. Many of these policies represent temporary changes that will only apply for the 2020 election.
|State||Expanding Absentee/Mail Eligibility (1)||Mailing Applications (2)||Mailing Ballots to All Eligible Voters (3)||When Ballot Processing Begins||Absentee/Mail Ballot Receipt Deadline|
|Absentee and Mail Voting Policies in Effect for the 2020 Election|
|Alabama||Yes, any voter may use illness or infirmity as an excuse.||No||No||7 a.m. on Election Day.||Noon on Election Day if postmarked the day before Election Day. Day before Election Day if returning in person.|
|Alaska (4)||N/A||No||No||Seven days before Election Day.||10 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day.|
|Arkansas||Yes, any voter may use illness or disability as an excuse.||No||No||Seven days before Election Day.||Election Day if returned by mail or the day before Election Day if returned in person.|
|Arizona||N/A||No||No||14 days before Election Day.||Election Day by 7pm.|
|California||N/A||No||Yes, for November 2020.||29 days before Election Day.||17 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day.|
|Colorado||N/A||No||Yes, for all elections.||Upon receipt.||Election Day by 7pm.|
|Connecticut (5)||Yes, any voter may use COVID-19 as an excuse.||Yes||No||14 days before Election Day (2020 only).||Close of polls on Election Day.|
|Delaware||Yes, no excuse required.||Yes||No||Friday before Election Day.||Close of polls on Election Day.|
|District of Columbia||N/A||No||Yes||Signatures can be verified and the secrecy envelope removed prior to tabulation. Exact timing not specified.||10 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day.|
|Florida||N/A||No||No||22 days before Election Day.||7pm on Election Day.|
|Georgia||N/A||No||No||Upon receipt.||Close of polls on Election Day.|
|Hawaii||N/A||No||Yes, for all elections.||Upon receipt.||Close of polls on Election Day.|
|Idaho||N/A||No||No||Upon receipt.||8pm on Election Day.|
|Illinois||N/A||Yes||No||Upon receipt.||14 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day.|
|Indiana||No||No||No||On Election Day. (Initial signature review can be done before Election Day).||Noon on Election Day.|
|Iowa||N/A||Yes||No||The Saturday before Election Day (2020 only).||Noon on the sixth day after Election Day if postmarked the day before Election Day,|
|Kansas||N/A||No||No||Prior to Election Day, timing not specified.||3 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day.|
|Kentucky||Yes, any voter may use COVID-19 as an excuse.||No||No||Sep. 21, 2020.||3 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day.|
|Louisiana||No||No||No||The day before Election Day if the parish has more than 1,000 absentee ballots, or on Election Day if less than 1,000 absentee ballots.||The day before Election Day.|
|Maine||N/A||No||No||Seven days before Election Day (2020 only).||Election Day.|
|Maryland (6)||N/A||Yes||No||Oct. 1, 2020 (2020 only).||10 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day.|
|Massachusetts||Yes, no excuse required.||Yes||No||Upon receipt.||3 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day.|
|Michigan||N/A||Yes||No||In cities with population over 25,000, processing may begin the day before Election Day. (2020 only)||Close of polls on Election Day. (pending litigation)|
|Minnesota (7)||N/A||No||No||Processing upon receipt and envelopes opened fourteen days before Election Day. (2020 only)||7 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day. (pending litigation)|
|Mississippi (8)||Yes, voters who test positive for COVID-19 or are quarantined may request an absentee ballot.||No||No||On Election Day.||5 business days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day.|
|Missouri||Yes, voters who test positive for COVID-19 or are in an at-risk category may request an absentee ballot.||No||No||Five days before Election Day.||Election Day.|
|Montana||N/A||No||Yes, counties’ choice.||Signature verification upon receipt, envelopes opened three days before Election Day.||Close of polls on Election Day.|
|Nebraska||N/A||Yes||No||Second Friday before Election Day.||Close of polls on Election Day.|
|Nevada||N/A||No||Yes, for November 2020.||Upon receipt.||7 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day. Ballots without postmarks will be accepted up to 3 days after Election Day.|
|New Hampshire (9)||Yes, any voter may use COVID-19 as an excuse.||No||No||Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. (2020 only).||5pm on Election Day.|
|New Jersey (10)||N/A||No||Yes, for November 2020.||Upon receipt.||7 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day. Ballots without postmarks will be accepted up to 2 days after Election Day.|
|New Mexico||N/A||Yes (counties choice)||No||If more than 10,000 absentee ballots are sent in a county, they may be opened and inserted into an electronic voting machine two weeks before Election Day. If fewer than 10,000 absentee ballots are sent, processing may begin four days before the election.||Election Day.|
|New York||Yes, any voter may use illness as an excuse.||No||Upon receipt.||7 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day. Ballots without postmarks will be accepted up to the day after Election Day.|
|North Carolina (11)||N/A||No||No||Fifth Tuesday before Election Day.||9 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day. (pending litigation)|
|North Dakota||N/A||No||No||October 29, 2020. (2020 only)||6 days after Election Day if postmarked the day before Election Day.|
|Ohio||N/A||Yes||No||Processing may begin before the time for counting ballots. Exact timing not specified.||10 days after Election Day if postmarked the day before Election Day.|
|Oklahoma||N/A||No||No||10 a.m. on the Thursday before Election Day.||Election Day.|
|Oregon||N/A||No||Yes, for all elections.||Seven days before Election Day.||8pm on Election Day.|
|Pennsylvania||N/A||No||No||7 a.m. on Election Day.||3 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day.|
|Rhode Island (12)||N/A||Yes||No||20 days before Election Day. (2020 only)||Election Day.|
|South Carolina||Yes||No||No||Nov. 1, 2020 at 7 a.m. (2020 only)||Election Day.|
|South Dakota||N/A||No||No||Processing may begin when sealed absentee ballots are delivered to precincts with the election supplies.||Election Day.|
|Tennessee||No||No||No||Upon receipt.||Election Day. Ballots must be mailed and cannot be returned in person.|
|Texas||No||No||No||Upon receipt.||1 day after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day.|
|Utah||N/A||No||Yes, for all elections.||Processing may begin before Election Day. Exact timing not specified.||Absentee ballots must be postmarked by the day before Election Day and received by noon on the day of the county canvass (which varies by county but may be as late as Nov. 17).|
|Vermont||N/A||No||Yes, for November 2020.||Day before Election Day.||Election Day if returning by mail, the day before Election Day if returning in person.|
|Virginia (13)||N/A||No||No||Before Election Day as needed to expedite counting absentee ballots.||3 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day.|
|Washington||N/A||No||Yes, for all elections.||Upon receipt.||Postmarked by Election Day.|
|West Virginia||Yes||No||No||On Election Day.||6 days after Election Day if postmarked by Election Day.|
|Wisconsin||N/A||Yes||No||After polls open on Election Day.||8pm on Election Day.|
|Wyoming||N/A||No||No||On Election Day.||Election Day.|
(1): Expanding eligibility refers to states that normally require an excuse to vote by absentee/mail ballot but have expanded eligibility in 2020 temporarily. States tagged “N/A” did not require an excuse prior to COVID-19.
(2): Refers to states that are mailing applications for absentee/mail ballots to voters proactively.
(3): Refers to states that are mailing ballots to all eligible voters, no request needed.
(4): The State Supreme Court waived the witness signature requirement for 2020.
(5): HB 6002 extends the timeframe for processing absentee ballots and allows the use of ballot drop boxes.
(6): The state board of elections’ decision expands early voting and requires vote centers and ballot drop boxes. The state will also allow ballot counting to begin on Oct. 1, 2020.
(7): Following a lawsuit, the state will waive the witness requirement for absentee ballots.
(8):The state has created a new process for voters to cure issues with their ballots.
(9): HB 1266 made temporary changes to the state’s absentee voter registration, absentee ballot application, and absentee voting processes.
(11): HB 1169 reduced the number of witness signatures required for absentee ballots from two to one and allows absentee ballot requests to be submitted by email or fax.
(12): Following a lawsuit, the state will waive the witness requirement for absentee ballots.
So, I hope you understand how simple is mail-in ballot counting in USA.
But critical it is!
Critical it is for the world’s oldest democracy, the prime most face and voice of democracy in the world today, the most credible democracy to challenge alternative governance structures like kingdoms, dictatorships, communists and socialists. That is the US Democracy.
Unless Mail-in Ballot counting is above board and trusted, US democracy is a BIG SWAMP.
DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.