Counting mail-in ballots is an overwhelming process prone to conjecture, personal bias, fatigue and pressure. County employees verifying that each ballot submitted is eligible is overwhelming when under pressure to have the count done by the December 5 cutoff date–a month after the vote was cast!
As an inspector for Election Integrity Project, California I reviewed the mail-in ballot-counting process at the Orange County Registrar of Voters (ROV) for the November, 2018 Vote. Hundreds of employees, many hired part-time, worked in a huge warehouse to process the mail-in ballots. Thousands upon thousands of envelopes had to be inspected, opened; the ballots retrieved, flattened out, run through a counting machine and then verified. Verification of the voter corresponding to the original voter’s registration information is conducted by computer. Nearly 700,000 mail-in ballots were counted during the November 2018 vote.
The ROV attempted to be as transparent as possible and I commend their efforts and the commitment of individual employees, however, mail-in vote-counting is overwhelming.
The matching of signatures is virtually an impossible task in some instances. I estimate that 80% of the signatures are verifiable using characteristics of the original registration signature and the ballot signature. The remaining 20% are difficult to impossible to verify-the original signature generally is legible but the ballot signature is a scribble. The employee compares writing on the mail-in or provisional ballot with handwriting on the original registration to find similarities.
Beyond signature comparison, there are several steps to verify that a voter is eligible to vote: precinct, street address, name, driver’s license, and date of birth. Interesting that they use driver’s license as one of the criteria but is not used as identification at the polls.
The employees and volunteer observers can see what party preference the voter has listed. The employees have access to the original registration thus they see the voter’s party affiliation. Even the most diligent and committed individual has a bias that would be difficult not to ignore during the verification process.
The employees are human concerning bias and fatigue. I believe that many of the employees worked 6 or 7 days a week for 10 hours or more.
Mail-in and provisional ballots are, in my opinion, prone to abuse and fraud. There are nearly 1.6 million active voters in Orange County-imagine the workforce necessary to count mail-in ballots in November, 2020 if Governor Newsom requires all voters to use mail-in ballots.