Mail-in Voting LTE - May 2020

Brentwood Newsletter LTE about the issues with Mail-in Voting - May 2020:

The Secretary of State has issued guidance for primary and general elections this year which states “Any voter may request an absentee ballot for the September 2020 Primary and November 2020 General Elections based on concerns regarding COVID-19.” The person would check the “disability” option if the concern/illness is theirs and “employment” if they are caring for another. As he states in his guidance, “disability” with regard to absentee ballots is not defined in statute and he is trying to clarify his interpretation which is the person that investigates and recommends prosecution if he feels someone broke the law.

A few years ago, there was going to be a snow storm on voting day and people wondered if they qualified to get an absentee ballot. One might say they were disabled from physically going to vote by the storm, but what if the storm didn’t come in at the expected time and it was clear skies for most of the day. Would everyone that claimed “physical disability” because of weather broken the law without knowing it at the time? A strict interpretation might suggest they did. It seems unjust to make an honest voter try to predict the weather on a particular day in the future. A weather exception was added after that event to make it so a “concern” about the weather was a valid reason, but what about another concern which doesn’t fall into one of the specified reasons, does your voice have less value because no one thought of that situation? For example, what if you are sick when you request the absentee ballot under the “physical disability” qualification, but feel better by the time voting day comes along? A strict interpretation might suggest you broke the law by feeling well enough to vote on voting day.

We have votes pass or fail by a very small margin so we must make sure that every vote counts by ensuring only people eligible to vote are voting because those votes could change the result. Without trust in the election process there is a lack of trust and acceptance of the results and all the civil unrest that comes with it. One way we ensure eligibility to vote at the polls is to check ID against the voter rolls. How does that happen by mail? If a copy of the ID is required with the application submitted by mail, how do we ensure that document was not altered/forged in some way? How do people that died or moved get removed from the Checklist? The removal process is more reactive than proactive, so it is possible a non-trivial amount of people are on this Checklist that shouldn’t be and that could be misused. Then there is the added complication of the mail system, including lost mail and mishandled mail like in Wisconsin just a few weeks ago, or an election clerk in Colorado that found 574 ballots for the Nov 2019 primary in a drop box in Feb 2020 because they had not checked the box. These can all contribute to a view that the election lacks legitimacy and, in turn, the lack of legitimacy of the government/policy adopted because of the election.

While I voted for HB1672 allowing absentee voting for any reason, I have concerns that we cannot ensure the vote would be counted or that only eligible voters get a ballot which could reduce the perceived (even if not actual) legitimacy of our election results. For that reason, I am starting to think we may need to solve some election security issues before increasing the use of absentee ballots permanently. I know our governor has some of the same concerns so a veto of HB1672 is likely to happen which gives me time to think more about this issue and another opportunity to vote on this policy again. Feel free to reach out with additional information which you would like me to consider before voting on this again. I can be reached at or with questions and comments.

Josh Yokela

State Representative (Brentwood, Danville, and Fremont)