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Election Dissection

Voting by mail is still secure. Here’s why.

Whether it's the outlandish claim that expanded vote by mail will lead to massive fraud or that the mail-in voting process can be easily exploited by foreign adversaries, the White House has persistently spread dangerous myths about the integrity of our elections.

Foreign adversaries, such as Russia, China and Iran, are out to discredit our electoral process and undermine our democracy. Such rhetoric does the dirty work for them.

As former election directors who have worked for both Republicans and Democrats, we know how important it is to cut through the noise and reassure our electorate what we know to be true: Voting by mail is a secure and important voting option, particularly amid the pandemic.

There's no question this year's election will be different, with more expected to cast ballots remotely than ever before. This is why election officials at all levels of government have been working hard to protect their election infrastructure.

For example, with help from state and local officials, the Department of Homeland Security recently published a resource analyzing the risks of mail-in voting systems in order to help states, localities and vendors run smooth and secure elections. The National Vote At Home Institute released two toolkits, one focused on communications and one focused on operations. The aim is to help election officials create messaging around expanded vote-by-mail options and prepare their polling places for large numbers of in-person voters by analyzing staffing levels, space and other resources each polling place needs.

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The Alliance for Securing Democracy, with the help of other organizations, has published papers focused on election security and integrity. They examine the equipment, staff, supplies and other costs during the pandemic and provide recommendations to help protect voters and election workers from the coronavirus while ensuring elections remain secure.

Many states are also taking appropriate steps to ensure their election offices can handle an influx of mail ballots: Public education campaigns encouraging return of ballots as early as possible, close coordination with postal officials, increasing the number of ballot drop boxes, voter-friendly online ballot tracking systems, and redesigned ballots with clearer instructions.

Recently, Georgia took the step of building an online voter portal for voters to request mail-in ballots. South Carolina approved pre-paid postage for all mail-in ballots to remove another barrier to voting that some voters might face. In California, statewide ballot tracking was implemented to ensure voters can know the status of their ballot after casting it.

After Postmaster General Louis DeJoy faced tough questioning from Congress, the Postal Service needs to reassure the electorate that mail-in voting is secure. While the USPS recently announced it was suspending until after the election operational changes that had resulted in delivery delays across the country, DeJoy told lawmakers he will not be reversing cost-cutting moves made earlier. This could affect Americans' ability to cast votes through the mail — making the proactive steps of election officials even more important in protecting our vote by mail systems.

Not every American will vote by mail. Some are only eligible to do so if they have a valid excuse — and for some, the pandemic does not count. For others, such as voters in certain Native American tribes or with certain disabilities, voting by mail may be less convenient. And some simply prefer to vote in person. It's important to give all voters the option to do what's best for them, but that means every method must be safe and secure.

What's most important is that voters who are considering voting by mail feel confident about the process. At a time when some Americans might not trust our elections to be fair, accurate and secure, false information about voting by mail isn't just problematic, it's downright dangerous.

To their credit, many election officials have implemented protections and improvements to their systems in an effort to make sure every ballot is counted. Despite what some with a vested interest in the election outcome may have said, we are confident voting by mail is safe and secure — in a pandemic and beyond.

David Levine is an elections integrity fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy. Amber McReynolds is CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute. Read more from The Fulcrum's Election Dissection blog or see our full list of contributors.

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