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Vote-by-mail experiment reveals potential problems within postal voting system ahead of November election


Valin

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covid-19-vote-by-mail-ballot-counted-election

July 24 2020

Mail-in voting, for many, is as simple as sending a letter, but rules vary across the country for when a voter can get their ballot and when it should be returned. In 2016, more than 73,000 out of 33 million mail-in ballots arrived too late to be counted. 

Many Americans are expected to vote by mail for the first time in November 2020 because of coronavirus concerns, so "CBS This Morning" sent out 100 mock ballots, simulating 100 voters in locations across Philadelphia, in an experiment to see how long one should give themselves to make sure their vote counts.

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For the experiment, a P.O. box was set up to represent a local election office. A few days after the initial ballots were mailed, 100 more were sent. 

The mock ballots used the same size envelope and same class of mail as real ballots, and even had mock votes folded in to approximate the weight. The biggest difference: real mail-in ballots have a logo that is meant to expedite them. "CBS This Morning" was unable to include those the trial.

A week after initial ballots were sent, most ballots appeared to be missing from the P.O. box.

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Out of the initial batch mailed a week earlier, 97 out of 100 votes had arrived. Three simulated persons, or 3% of voters, were effectively disenfranchised by mail by giving their ballots a week to arrive. In a close election, 3% could be pivotal.

Four days after mailing the second batch of mock ballots, 21% of the votes hadn't arrived. 

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