KAKE News Investigates: Is mail-in voting safe in Kansas?

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - Can states secure your vote when you mail it in?

A blue Post Office box is hardly the ballot box most think of on Election Day.  But it’s likely to become more common this year.  As we told you in April, the state of Kansas is pushing for more mail-in balloting to cut down on crowds and the number of pollworkers they’ll need during the pandemic.

“If you're scared to go out, don't use it as reason not to vote, you can mail-in vote,” said Scott Schwab, Kansas Secretary of State. 

This comes even as nationwide more and more people are voicing concerns about the safety of mail-in balloting, from the White house to all those memes popping up all over on social media.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed,” President Donald Trump tweeted last week.

“I’ve seen a little bit about it on social media,” Madeleine Stevens said. 

Like many Kansas voters, she’s paying attention to these concerns.

“I can see how it could be an issue, yeah,” she said about some of the worries raised. 

“Kansas is not a high cheat state,” said Schwab, who runs the state’s elections.

Schwab says mail-in balloting is old hat here in Kansas.

“In 1996 we actually removed the provision where you had to have an excuse to mail-in a ballot,” he said.

He added that the state has plenty of security measures built in.

First, you actually have to apply for a mail-in ballot.  Part of that application includes your state ID number.  That’s so they have access to an official copy of your signature.  Then you have to put your signature on that ballot when you mail it in.

“You have to sign that envelope. Sign the envelope. I'm going to tell you again, sign the envelope,” Schwab emphasized.

Election officials then match up the signature on the envelope to your official signature.  No match, or no signature, and they’ll call you to find out what’s going on.

Schwab says he’s much less concerned about fake ballots, or forged signatures, than he is about ballots just not getting to the election office.

“If there is a breach of security, that's my biggest concern,” he said.  “That the mail actually delivers on time and puts the postmark on there.”

Mail-in ballots must be postmarked no later than the day of the election. 

Once your ballot is in the mail, the United States Postal Service takes over security. A spokesperson tells KAKE News Investigates they know at every moment where your ballot is at, from the mail box to the election office.

In a written statement, the Post Office said, “The postal service employs a robust and proven process to ensure the proper acceptance, processing and delivery of election mail. We proactively conduct inspections and certifications of our facilities to ensure that all ballots are handled appropriately.”

If you’re still concerned about your ballot making it in time, you can always just deliver it straight to your local election office yourself.

“A lot of county clerks actually put outside their election office a drop box,” Schwab said.  “Sort of like a security drop box if you were to do a night deposit.  You can put your ballot in there. That's a very safe way to do it.”

Sedgwick County says it has a drop box on order for the August primary, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

As for those worries about fake votes?  Schwab says the best way to fight them is to get more Kansans to the polls.

“If you have three people cheating…but 3 million voting, those three people really don't affect the outcome of an election that much,” he said.

Increasing turnout is something the Kansas Democratic Party (KDP) says their presidential primary shows mail-in balloting will help with.  The party went to an all-mail-in ballot for the vote after the pandemic led to stay-at-home orders statewide.

“The Democratic Party had an amazing turnout, nearly quadrupled turnout for 2016,” said Brandon Johnson, Vice Chair of the KDP.  “You say, ‘Here's your ballot.’  Maybe you weren't thinking about it, then you'll pay attention and then you'll vote, and we saw that with our election.”

Meanwhile, Stevens says she’ll still vote in person this year, but sees no problem with mail-in ballots when properly secured and delivered.

“You know, voting by mail is a right that we have. People can do it,” she said.

Counties are already sending out the applications for mail-in ballots to all registered voters.  So look for those in your mailbox soon.  And don’t forget, June 1st is the deadline to file to run for an office in Kansas or to switch your party for the August primary.


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