Safeguards against tampering with election results are in place throughout the election process, but for Pennsylvania’s absentee voters, a potential security breach exists. Printed on the envelope used to return completed absentee ballots is an “R” or “D,” noting the voter’s Republican or Democratic party affiliation. A person intent on influencing election results could weed out unopened ballots of one party. All they would need is access to the mails. That could happen in a college mail room or another origination point, at the post office, during delivery or when county mail is being sorted. The envelope marking is plain to see, but many Pennsylvanians outside of election officials are unaware of it.
“I was surprised to learn of it,” said state Sen. Lisa Baker. She hadn’t seen the markings before because she generally votes at her precinct. “I heard from a number of constituents about this.” She responded last year by sponsoring Senate Bill 630, requiring that absentee envelopes be free from marks that show party affiliation. It received bipartisan support when it was introduced in February 2011, but there has been no indication that the bill will move any time soon. If it isn’t passed by June, absentee ballots will continue to indicate party affiliation for the presidential election.