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Are Mail-In Ballots Secure; And How About Our Elections?

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Florida's primary elections are coming up Aug. 18, and close to two million people have already cast ballots. Almost 90% of those have been cast by mail. That's a lot more than the volume of mail-in ballots that were cast in the last major election two years ago.
We'll take a look at how secure voting by mail is. WUSF's Steve Newborn talks with Patricia Brigham,president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, and Brian Corley,supervisor of elections for Pasco County.

Here's an excerpt from the show:

There's a ton of confusion out there - not in the least prompted by the president's wavering assertions on the "trustworthiness" of mail-in ballots.  Brian Corley, should there be any confusion out there about the security of elections?

Elections are very secure. If you'd have asked this question in the summer of 2016, about secure elections, and it had to do with cyber security, I would have said, Well, I have an IT staff that handles that. But compliments of what happened in 2016, I've had to immerse myself in all things cyber security. And, you know, I can't tell you what we've done. But I can tell you, we've partnered with the Department of Homeland Security. We know elections were declared critical infrastructure, which was one of the greatest decisions ever, we have a seat at the table nationally, we've done everything we can to shore up our cyber posture.

 Brian Corley
Credit Pasco Supervisor of Elections office
Brian Corley

So I'm very confident and quite frankly, with Florida, back in 2008, going to paper ballots was one of the best decisions we ever made. We have a lot of redundancies built in. So I'm confident there with vote-by-mail. The requests are secure. We don't mail out to just random people - you have to request it. It's easy to request and pass but I'm proud to say I was the first county in Florida to utilize what's called Ballot Scouter. You can track your ballot like an Amazon package you can opt-in for. In some other counties now joining a similar program, you can opt-in for a text or email alert when we get your ballot back. If there's a problem, we'll notify you, we verify every signature, they are securely stored. And when we tabulate those, we do so in a public setting where anyone can come out and watch and see for themselves.

And so, you know, I'm proud of what we've done here in Florida. Voters need to appreciate the precious freedoms we have as citizens and remember, we've had men and women cross overseas to fight for our freedoms, and some never came back. I don't care your political views, who you like, don't like - but I care that you care enough to come out and have your voice heard. That's all we ask. We'll handle the rest.

Patricia Brigham, any thoughts on allegations of voter fraud out there, for instance, and is there any validity to those arguments at all?

We’ll refer back to the study that I talked about at the beginning of this interview that vote-by-mail fraud is extremely rare. The League of Women Voters is a very scholarly organization and we would not be promoting vote by mail if we did not firmly believe that it was a safe and secure method of voting.

Patricia Brigham
Credit League of Women Voters of Florida
Patricia Brigham

It is certainly an easy and convenient way to vote and who would have thought we would be under a pandemic at this time a year ago? And so now we have even more reason to utilize vote-by-mail. And we just encourage every voter no matter what their party to get their vote out because the greatest way to exercise your power and exercise your voice is at the polls.

Here are links to elections scheduled in the greater Tampa Bay area:

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.