Despite some voters and government officials’ questions about whether vote by mail in the 2020 presidential election was secure and efficient, the result was overwhelmingly positive. This should come as no surprise to voters perennially enrolled in the absentee voting program. Counties and other districts have been administering successful vote-by-mail programs for years. The difference between the 2020 election and the next election is an expected increase in mail-in ballot volume and additional security. Analysts expect after having experienced mail-in voting, more voters will choose this method in the future. Several state legislatures will change processes in coming years to make them more efficient and avoid any element of mistrust.
Local governments can use several templates to design their ballots and envelopes. However, the experts encourage them to observe some general best practices:
Many states compare the signature on the absentee ballot envelope to a signature in the voter registration file. Processing a mail ballot is time-consuming and can involve both automated and manual steps. The technology used is an automated signature verification application. A camera captures the voter’s signature from the ballot return envelope as it is sorted. An automated system compares the signature to the reference image from the voter registration database. In a procedure used by many jurisdictions, automated systems forward signatures with low matching scores to human inspectors for further evaluation.
These pre-checks are done with the envelope closed. Workers cannot tell by looking at the envelope if the voter is Republican, Democrat, or Independent. No one will see the voter’s ballot during the verification process.
While not required, the Postal Service recommends using the Intelligent Mail barcodes on ballot envelopes so they can take advantage of the Informed Visibility® Mail Tracking and Reporting (IV®-MTR) service. The IV-MTR application provides information about when and where the Postal Service sorts a mail piece on mail-processing equipment. The IV-MTR application allows you to track mail pieces as they travel through the mail stream to determine status by individual mail piece. The system records when and where the USPS scans a mail piece or container.
Election officials can track mail pieces via Customer Registration ID (CRID), Mailer ID (MID), and mail piece identification numbers. The USPS provides tracking results as a single lookup or in a data stream. Absentee ballots can be tracked as they are mailed to voters. Completed ballots can also be tracked as voters return them via the US Postal Service. Some jurisdictions make the IV-MTR data available to voters so they can track their own ballots after they have mailed them.
Counting and Reporting
States have different processes for counting votes. Those with significant rural populations have voted by mail for years. Typically, the elections office sends an absentee ballot to every active registered voter that requests one. The voter mails the ballot back through the Postal Service, drops it in a drop box, or leaves it at a city office in person on election day.
After signature verification, election workers remove and unfold the ballots. Clerks examine them looking for tears, tape, or any substance that might clog the ballot-counting machines. A scanner reads the ballots and converts them from into data used for tabulation.
Sorting and Signature Capture Technology
Implementation of an automated vote-by-mail system requires an investment. States need up-to-date addresses, tracking systems, and verification methods. However, studies have found that voting by mail is far cheaper than in-person alternatives.
Tritek ‘Correct Elect’ Vote-by-Mail Equipment
Tritek features patented Vote-By-Mail technology. Every Tritek Correct Elect solution is custom designed and built for each election entity’s specific requirements. This includes floor space constraints, volume fluctuations, and types of ballot designs. Portable and desktop systems are available. The number of sort bins is customizable based on volume requirements. Tritek’s Correct Elect technology is proven at many county election offices.
Tritek holds the exclusive patent on the ballot method and apparatus the system uses to provide a full audit trail, ballot process management, and status reporting. Our system saves ballot scans in color, grayscale, or black and white depending on server space and local requirements. Signature verification reduces labor costs and improves regulatory and security compliance.
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The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has an extensive website with a wealth of resources and dozens of white papers to help election officials administer vote-by-mail. The Inspector-General conducts audits, evaluations, and assessments of EAC programs and operations.