Fact check: Is your vote no longer secret with mail-in ballots?

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
Views:
Truthfulness: Mostly False

Claim:

“There’s no more secret vote, there’s no secret vote,” Barr said. “Your name is associated with a particular ballot. The government and the people involved can find out and know how you voted. And it opens up the door to coercion.”

Claim Publisher and Date: U.S. Attorney General William Barr on 2020-09-10

Fact Check By: Newswise, Newswise

The claim made by Attorney General William Barr is mostly false. There is no real evidence that mail-in voting somehow violate people’s privacy.

As reported by Tara Subramaniam, CNN:

Attorney General William Barr has become one of the staunchest supporters of the President’s campaign against mail-in voting. Speaking in Phoenix on Thursday [Sept 10, 2020], Barr continued to push false and negative narratives about mail-in voting.

“There’s no more secret vote, there’s no secret vote,” Barr said. “Your name is associated with a particular ballot. The government and the people involved can find out and know how you voted. And it opens up the door to coercion.” 

Facts First: Elections experts say Barr is wrongly suggesting that mail-in ballots somehow violate people’s privacy and that he is ignoring safeguards that are in place to ensure the security of people’s ballots when they vote by mail.

Rick Hasen, a University of California-Irvine, professor and one of the nation’s top experts in election law, told CNN, “There is no validity to this claim and it shows once again that either AG Barr has not done even a rudimentary amount of research into how mail-in balloting actually works or he’s deliberately obfuscating.” 

Of Barr’s claim that “governments and the people involved” can find out how someone voted, Charles Stewart, a political science professor at MIT, said “that’s just incorrect, if people follow the law.”

As he has done on many previous occasions, Barr is questioning the validity of mail-in balloting, even though millions of Americans, including Barr, have used this method to vote. Hasen told CNN that while “absentee ballot fraud happens at relatively higher rates than other kinds of election fraud,” that overall rate is still “quite low.”

Privacy Safeguards

Several states require mail-in ballots come with a second envelope, sometimes known as a “secrecy sleeve,” an envelope devoid of any personally identifying information in which the voter places the ballot. This secrecy sleeve is then placed inside a larger envelope containing the voter’s signature and other identifying information, like an individualized barcode, for verification purposes. One of the primary ways voter ID is verified is through the ballot envelope.

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