Elections that rely heavily on electronic voting machines and in-person voting present many security challenges. Many so-called secure computer systems that we depend on have been breached, and hackers are constantly innovating to expose new vulnerabilities. This ongoing cyber arms race can be won by primarily relying on time-tested paper ballots, counted and audited in a central location, with layers of checks and balances. Vote at home options primarily rely on paper ballots, which enhance security and leave a clear paper trail to help ensure the sanctity of election results. In a vote-at-home system, envelopes are barcoded to match each voter and are sent securely through the U.S. Postal Service. Ballots are not forwarded if voters have moved without updating their registration information. Voter rolls are compared to constantly updated address databases. Envelopes containing ballots are returned with signatures that must be verified against the voter registration file –- if the signature is verified, the ballot is extracted from the envelope and the ballot proceeds to the counting process ensuring a secret ballot. These protections greatly reduce the possibility of voter fraud.
Vote at home primarily relies on paper ballots, which leave a clear paper trail and can be counted and audited at a central location with layers of checks and balances. In contrast, Election systems that rely primarily on electronic voting machines present many security challenges. In a vote-at-home system, envelopes are barcoded to match each voter and are sent to voters securely through the U.S. Postal Service. Ballots are not forwarded if voters have moved without updating their registration information. Voter rolls are compared to constantly updated address databases. Envelopes containing ballots are returned with signatures that must be verified against the voter registration file. After the signature is verified, the ballot is extracted from the envelope and the ballot proceeds to the counting process, ensuring secrecy. These protections greatly reduce the possibility of voter fraud or security breaches.
Despite extra layers of meticulous security, states and localities with a comprehensive vote-at-home system spend significantly less because of the reduced need for equipment and poll workers in each precinct. Colorado, which has the nation’s most comprehensive vote-at-home system, showed a savings of more than $6 per voter or 40%, according to a study by The Pew Research Center.
Vote at home is designed specifically to suit voters’ needs. In a vote-at-home system, voters don’t have to take time off work, drive to a polling place or stand in long lines. Voters can spend as long as they want to review their ballot at home and to research their options. They don’t need to feel rushed, especially when ballots are long and complex. Crucially, voters with limited mobility or who lack transportation access don’t need to figure out how to get to the polling place.
In a comprehensive vote-at-home system, voters primarily receive their ballots by mail but they can choose how to cast their vote. Voters can return their ballot by mail, take it to a secure drop-off location, or vote at a fully staffed vote center – it’s their choice. Voters who prefer the experience of casting their ballot in person can choose that option as well. Those who require in-person attention, need to replace a lost or damaged ballot, or need to update their registration, can always vote at a staffed vote center.
Vote at home builds on the time-tested absentee voting process and adds more options and extra layers of checks and balances to ensure the integrity of elections and the validity of each ballot. These measures include (1) Risk-limiting audits, which allow election officials to double-check the vote count. Vote at home's centralized ballot collection facilitates these audits, and (2) tracking services that follow individual ballots as they are processed through the mail system, both outbound to voters and as the ballots are returned. In a vote-at-home system, every ballot cast goes through a signature verification process. Election officials compare the voter’s signature on the return envelope with the signature on the voter’s registration card.
While both comprehensive vote-at-home systems and absentee voting use the U.S. Postal Service to deliver ballots, there are important differences. In a comprehensive vote at home state, voters are automatically sent ballots by mail. Voters in these states can then choose if and how to cast their ballot (send it back by mail, take it to a secure drop-off location, or vote at a fully staffed voting center). Traditional “absentee” systems require voters to apply to receive a ballot by mail. State laws vary dramatically, which can make absentee ballots easier or harder to access and to return, depending on the state. See our state map to find out what your state offers.
Vote at home has significant acceptance in red, blue, and purple states, with strong advocates from both sides of the aisle. Nearly half of the United States has provisions allowing certain elections to be conducted entirely by mail and several states allow it for all elections. In 2016, 33 million Americans cast ballots that were mailed to them –- roughly a quarter of all votes that year, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. About 22 million of those votes came via traditional absentee ballots, and another 11 million were cast by voters living in states and counties with some form of vote at home. Since 2000, one-quarter of a Billion mailed-out ballots have been cast nationally without significant issues.
Contact the National Vote at Home Institute at info@VoteAtHome.org.