Massachusetts, as most Democratically run states, has opted to go all out with mail-in ballots this year due to the novel and fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic. And, also like most states, they have seen less than optimal results.
Now, to be clear, the Bay State hasn’t had their primary yet. It is scheduled for September 1. And as such, cities and towns have been making last-minute preparations, including mailing out over one million ballots statewide. But according to the local CBS News outlet and Secretary of State Bill Gavin, just barely half of those have been received back so far.
Yep, you read that right. Just over half of all mail-in ballots sent out throughout the state have been mailed back, which means nearly half of a million are still unaccounted for. And with mere days left, as I am writing this on Friday afternoon, there is little time to suddenly find that many.
So, where are they?
Well, given that there are a few days left, some are likely still in the mail. But as many voters have already heard about the problems with ballots being received on time in other states, most would have tried to send them in early.
And, as the local CBS station reported earlier in the week, the “issues” with Massachusetts’ vote by mail process seen so far has not been what you might call ‘voter error.’ Instead, the problems seem to be much more logistical.
Consider the town of Medford, Massachusetts, for example.
Here it was reported that the city sent out mail-in ballots in early August. But about 1,200 of those didn’t include the “corresponding yellow envelope needed to certify the vote.” According to CBS, the city of Medford noted that the mistake happened on August 10 and 11, and since then, envelopes have been sent out.
However, voters like Andy Mallon, who has lived in Medford all his life, had still not received his envelope by Tuesday, August 25, a mere week before ballots are due back at the election offices. And if Mallon is still missing his envelope, you bet on all your lucky stars that there are quite a few more in his shoes.
Now, CBS did report that Mallon did decide to be proactive and go ahead and vote in person at the polls to make sure his vote was counted on time, thus negating the reason for another envelope to be sent. But how many other people who didn’t receive the needed envelope do you think did the same thing? My bet is very few.
After all, just because you’re missing an envelope doesn’t mean you can’t still mail in your ballot. Some voters may decide to use their own envelope. Of course, this would also mean they have to use their own stamp and pay for postage. And this could cause a rather serious problem.
By paying for postage and your own stamp, any person doing this is essentially paying a poll tax. And while some might not have a problem with this, others may. All it would take is one person to complain about paying a tax on voting, and this could turn into one hell of a legal battle for the state of Massachusetts.
But that’s just one logistical error. There are potentially many more.
Like the fact that, unlike Oregon and Washington, who participate in mass mail-in voting every year, Massachusetts and most other states do not keep their voting records very up to date. Sure, they may know when the last time you voted was, but have they kept track of your recent marriage and possible name change? Do they know that you moved last year?
The sad fact is that most election offices are vastly unaware of details like this. Some, if asked for a list of registered voters, are likely to even have hundreds of deceased individuals still on file, all of whom then get sent a mail-in ballot to an address where someone else lives. And once that ballot is received, who knows what happens to it.
But voting records, especially in densely populated states, could take years to get completely updated.
Another thing to note is that this is just the primary, remember only one million ballots were mailed out in Massachusetts. What happens in November when nearly five times that go out?
Talk about a disaster.