The 2020 election is set to be unlike any other in history.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, election officials expect up to 70% of all ballots to come in through the mail.
There have been claims of fraud by President Donald Trump, but experts say the data does not support those claims.
"Somebody is more likely to be struck by lightning than they are to commit voter fraud,” said Lawrence Nordon, director of the election reform program at the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan public policy group at NYU.
Nordon says in the last few federal elections, 25% of all votes were cast through the mail. He says it can not only be more convenient, but an important tool when it comes to verifying results.
“Mail ballots are paper ballots. That means we do have an opportunity to audit all of those ballots,” said Nordon. “But I think people should feel very comfortable with the security of the system.”
As for security, election officials take extra measures to ensure the integrity of the ballot. Firstly, mail-in voting reduces the risk of foreign interference to nearly zero. Mail-in ballots are printed on a specific type of paper with technical markings that are difficult to duplicate. They also include several local elections like city council, school boards, and ballot initiatives. It means there are thousands of different ballots for our country’s 3,000 counties.
Then you consider the actual ballot itself.
It comes in a secrecy envelope that is connected to each individual voter who needs to sign it. That signature is verified by judges who are sometimes trained by the FBI to detect inconsistencies.
Counties across the country also have system in place that update voter registration, death records, and address changes daily while they go in and cross-reference the data as well to make sure the ballots are going where they are supposed to and people are who they say they are.
“[Voter fraud] is not a thing. I think we’ve had one prosecution in 15 years,” said Paul Lopez, clerk and recorder for the city and county of Denver.
Lopez says of the nearly 213,841 votes cast by Denver residents in the state primary on June 30, 211,626 were cast through the mail. And this is for a state that had the highest voter turnout of 77% in 2016.
“The biggest thing we can do is inform folks and make sure they understand the process, make sure they understand that it’s secure, that it’s safe, that it’s transparent,” said Lopez.
This is not to say there are not cases of voter fraud; there are. In July 2019, prosecutors in North Carolina filed charges against a Republican political operative accused of ballot tampering in a congressional election in 2018.
Since 1982, the conservative Heritage Foundation says there have been 1,088 proven cases of individual voter fraud.
That may sound like a lot, but the Brennan Center for Justice says considering the hundreds of millions of votes cast in that time, it is considered so rare and happens on such a small scale, that it does not warrant the broad-based red flags some people raise.