Today’s election systems that include in-person voting options, which rely heavily on electronic voting machines present security challenges. In contrast, vote at home primarily relies on paper ballots, which enhances security and leaves a clear paper trail to help ensure the sanctity of election results. 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. In a vote-at-home system, envelopes are barcoded to match each individual 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 –- after and if the signature is verified, the ballot is extracted from the envelope and the ballot proceeds to the counting process ensuring the secret ballot. These protections greatly reduce the possibility of voter fraud.
Election systems that rely primarily on electronic voting machines in each precinct present security challenges. In contrast, 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 a vote-at-home system, envelopes are barcoded to match each individual 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 systems 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 or 40 percent per voter, according to a study by The Pew Research Center.
Vote at home is designed specifically around 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 reviewing their ballot at home and researching their options. They don’t need to feel rushed, especially when ballots are long and complex and their lives are increasingly packed with competing demands. 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. Those with special needs requiring in-person attention, need to replace a lost or damaged ballot, or to update their registration, can go to a staffed vote center.
For those who are unable to vote via paper ballots, a comprehensive vote-at-home system can adapt current best practices used for members of the military and other Americans living overseas. These have proven to be secure and will work well in these limited circumstances.
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 elections 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 comprehensive vote-at- home states, 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 states have 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.