FORT MYERS, Fla. - It is the most common form of voter fraud, but what kinds of protections exist to stop absentee ballot fraud? Wink News Call for Action investigates the vulnerabilities of absentee voting.
Voting by mail is incredibly popular. So far, more than 89,700 registered voters in Lee County requested an absentee ballot. But there are serious problems to this kind of voting that aren't being addressed by lawmakers.
A name, a birth date and a click is all you need to request an absentee ballot online. It's information that can easily be attained; but what's hard to fake is the signature on the back. Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington says that's the biggest defense election officials have against voter fraud.
"That's why we check every single signature when they come in. If it's not signed we can not open those ballots," Sharon told WINK.
This spring, Governor Rick Scott directed election officials to remove suspected non-citizens from the voter rolls. Meanwhile, more than three dozen state legislatures enacted or considered voter I.D. Laws. But those laws would do nothing to stop absentee voter fraud which is done through the mail, without the use of an I.D.
Corbin Carson is a journalist with News 21, part of the Carnegie-Knight initiative on the future of journalism education at Arizona State University. The organization has compiled a searchable database of every known case of voter fraud this century. Nearly a fourth of all cases involved absentee fraud, whereas less than one percent involved voter impersonation.
"The reason why voter impersonation is so risky is you have to be in person to present an I.D. You're there showing you're somebody else. With absentee ballot fraud, you can send in a ballot from anywhere and if it works it works, if it doesn't you are potentially hands off," Corbin explained.
News 21 found 39 cases of voter fraud in Florida since 2000. Eight of them were absentee ballots involving a school board race in Madison County. There is currently a court battle regarding absentee ballots cast in the democratic primary for a house seat in Miami-Dade county.
Remember, if you're voting by absentee ballot, sign the back of the ballot, otherwise you're vote won't be counted.