Even though the true origin of absentee voting is unknown, the phenomenon became popular during the Civil War. The presidential election of 1864 – where Republican incumbent President Abraham Lincoln defeated Democrat George McClellan – had countless eligible male voters away from home fighting the war. Absentee voting was in full swing as the Union soldiers were afforded the ability to vote in camps and field hospitals; under the watchful eyes of clerks or state officials, of course.
Over the years, the practice of allowing deployed soldiers to vote via absentee voting has been utilized. Absentee voting, which is also called mail-in voting, has gained momentum in the most recent elections. According to the United States Elections Project, over 47 million Americans casts their votes for the 2016 presidential election via absentee and mailin ballots.
Those numbers are expected to increase more than double for the 2020 election due to the coronavirus. In an attempt to practice social distancing and keeping the coronavirus infection rate down, many citizens are moving toward mail-in voting.
Absentee voting is not without its own issues, however. Issues such as voter identity, the voter’s state of mind and irregularities have always been possibilities with mail-in voting. A mayoral candidate in Carrollton, Texas was recently arrested for allegedly capitalizing on one of the issues and compromising the integrity of mail-in voting.
Zul Mirza Mohamed was arrested October 7, 2020 and charged with a total of 109 counts of voter fraud. He is facing 25 counts of Unlawful Possession of an Official Mail Ballot and 84 counts of Providing False Information on a Voting Application.
In a press release with the Denton County Sheriff’s Office and the Attorney General Ken Paxton, it was alleged that Mohamed “forged at least 84 voting registration applications for Denton County residents and had the resulting registrations sent to a post office box he had obtained with false identification.”
It was also noted that Mohamed was in the process of stuffing envelopes with mail-in ballot applications for Dallas County at the time of his arrest – Carrollton is nestled in Denton, Dallas and Collin counties.
The mail-in fraud occurs more than anybody realizes. In September 2020, a Gregg County Commissioner was arrested for voter fraud in the 2018 election. Shannon Brown allegedly falsely claimed that voters were disabled in order to obtain absentee ballots.
As if those issues were not enough to worry about, now, citizens have to worry if their mail-in vote has enough postage to get the envelope to its destination, or if it will arrive in one piece.
A few Oklahoma newspapers were contacted with issues surrounding mail-in ballots. The Stroud-American was contacted by a concerned citizen about some mail-in ballots being damaged. Luckily, it turned out only two ballots were chewed up by the automated machine in Oklahoma City. However, this could be a problem if it were on a larger scale.
A reader of the Watonga Republican phoned in with a concern, as well. They claim their mail-in ballot was returned due to insufficient postage.
Apparently, this particular concern is sweeping the nation. Social media posts are running rampant on Facebook, warning people about the postage for the mail-in ballots.
One post, or meme, in particular is warning readers to make sure to place two stamps on the mail-in ballots to be sure they arrive at their destination. According to the post office, this should not be a concern for Americans; the ballot should be delivered no matter the postage.
Becky Hernandez, a Strategic Communications Specialist for the United States Postal Service said there are procedures in place to avoid any delays in the delivery of the ballots.
“Each state, or the local Board of Elections if authorized, determines whether to provide voters with a pre-paid return envelope for mail-in ballots or request that voters apply their own appropriate postage,” Hernandez said in an email. “Where voters are required to apply postage, the Postal Service requires election officials to inform voters of the amount of postage required.”
Hernandez said that insufficient should not be an issue, even those are required to be delivered.
“If a return ballot is nevertheless entered into the mailstream with insufficient or unpaid postage, it is the Postal Service’s policy not to delay the delivery of completed mail-in ballots,” she said. “We are proactively working with state and local election officials on mailing requirements, including postage payment. In cases where a ballot enters the mailstream without the proper amount of postage, the Postal Service will deliver the ballot and thereafter attempt to collect postage from the appropriate Board of Elections.”
It was also noted that it was rumored some Marshall County residents’ ballots were met with the same fate. The Madill Record was told by the US Post Office that to their knowledge, nobody in Marshall County encountered the issue.