On Election Day, millions of votes will be counted from people who do not vote in person. Instead, they will make their voices heard through mail-in, absentee ballots. Election officials insist absentee ballots are a secure way to vote, and they have become increasingly popular. Others brand absentee ballots as the weak link in the electoral system, charging that they are susceptible to voter fraud. “We have a very thorough verification process so that anyone who should be able to vote, and chooses to vote by mail, their right will be preserved,” insists John Hogan, the county clerk in Bergen County, N.J. “We have very, very little voter fraud, and if there is any indication of voter fraud, it is investigated immediately.” The United States Election Assistance Commission says that in the last federal election, the 2010 mid-terms, 90.8 million Americans cast ballots, and of that total, 14.2 million, or 15.6 percent, used absentee ballots.
Hogan explained how absentee ballots are handled when a voter request one. “Our people get the information. They do a verification process,” he said. “The ballot is sent out. … That ballot is then returned to the Board of Elections, which actually counts and does another verification process to make sure it is the correct person.” When absentee ballots are opened, Bergen County, like many other jurisdictions, relies on officials from each major party, a pair of Democrats and Republicans, to oversee the process. They then verify the ballot, and if it passes muster, it is counted as a vote. The ballots are kept under constant guard.