State Rep. Kinkead: “Elections are safe and secure.”

Photo: Office of Rep. Kinkead

May 18 is Primary Election Day and I encourage each of you to vote. Even if you are not affiliated with a major political party, if you are a registered voter, you can vote FOR or AGAINST the Pennsylvania Constitutional amendments and other ballot questions on the ballot. 

Speaking of elections, I want to address the security of vote-by-mail and assure you that you can have confidence in the safety and security of our elections, whether you vote by mail or in person.

Let me answer some of the most frequent questions that I get from residents:

QUESTION: My daughter, who lives and is registered elsewhere, received multiple mail-in ballots. How can I believe our vote-by-mail system is safe when this happened?

ANSWER: While they often look similar, what you received for your daughter were not ballots, but mail-in ballot request forms. Your daughter would only receive a mail-in ballot if a completed form requested her ballot to come to your address. If anyone attempted to complete a ballot request listing your address as her voting address, the request would have been rejected, because she is not on the voter rolls there. These forms were likely sent by third-party organizations with whom your daughter has not updated her contact information.

Q: Doesn’t mail-in voting make it easier for people to vote on behalf of their dead relatives?

A: When someone dies, the county or state Health Department registers the death, as does the Social Security Administration. Both agencies communicate the death to the county elections office, which maintains the voter rolls. The voter rolls are continually updated as people register, move, die, etc., because it is a federal crime NOT to keep voter rolls up to date.

Nevertheless, this is not instantaneous. So, if someone dies shortly before an election, and they were already signed up for an absentee or mail-in ballot, it is possible the ballot was sent. If a deceased person received an absentee ballot year after year, it would mean that the voter rolls had not been updated. However, if it happened only once, that shows the voter rolls were updated as they should be.

Q: What would have happened if someone voted for a deceased person or a person under their care, without that person’s knowledge?

A: Voting for someone else is voter impersonation, whether in person or by mail. Voter impersonation carries a severe punishment.

Election systems catch this by running databases against each other to detect whether people whose death pre-dated an election were shown to have voted by mail or at the polls.

In 2020, a man from Delaware County was charged with felonies for attempting to vote on behalf of his deceased mother and mother-in-law. His case made national news not because he was evidence of a widespread problem, but because our controls in the system worked and he was easily caught.

Alternatively, a caretaker would have to have such complete access to a person’s personal information, as well as their mail, that they could complete an application and be present exactly when the ballot came. They, too, would risk severe punishment for such actions.

Still, the consensus from credible research and investigation is that illegal voting is extremely rare, does not sway elections, and the incidence of certain types of fraud – like voter impersonation – is virtually nonexistent.

Q: Some people in Allegheny County got multiple ballots. Couldn’t they have their votes counted more than once?

A: Every voter is identified with a unique barcode on the exterior envelope of the ballot. That envelope is scanned upon receipt at the Elections Office and the voter is recorded as having cast a ballot. If other ballots come in from that person, or they attempt to vote in person, the votes would be rejected so that they are not counted. In short, you should feel confident that our election protection systems work.

The last day to register to vote before the primary is May 3. Mail-in ballot applications must be received by May 11. As always, reach out to my team and me by calling 412-321-5523 or at RepKinkead@pahouse.net – we’re here to help!

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