Overseas Ballot Security with Global Head of GOTV Heidi Burch

This year, Americans abroad are concerned about their ballot arriving securely and on time. With postal delays and late court rulings, this is a valid worry for Americans abroad. Particularly those who vote in one of the [20] states that require ballots be sent back by mail.

Every voter wants their voice to be heard. The road a ballot takes from overseas to the States can be a long one. Mailed ballots stop in numerous cities before reaching their destination. Electronic return by email, fax or online upload are the fastest and most secure way to send back your completed ballot — but only if the voter returns it in time. The number one reason absentee ballots are rejected is that they arrive too late.

To help de-mystify ballot request and return for voters abroad Heidi Burch, Global Head of GOTV with Vote From Abroad, sat down to answer some common questions.

Why should overseas voters use the FPCA over a state absentee ballot?

Heidi Burch: The FPCA is superior to state absentee forms in many ways. By using the FPCA at votefromabroad.org, you have many advantages and legal safeguards in place to protect your ballot as an overseas voter. Here are just a few:

· Your ballot must be emailed and sent out by your state 45 days before the election.

· You are guaranteed to get ballots for every election for the full calendar year. That’s why we urge people to send in their ballot requests on January 2nd so they can vote in every local race.

· A lot of states give us overseas voters additional time to return our ballots too. Check your state deadlines but several states where you have to mail back your ballot, they will say as long as it’s postmarked by Election Day it will be accepted.

· 30 states will allow overseas voters to return their ballots electronically either by email or online upload or fax. This is huge for overseas voters considering everything going on with the USPS.

How are email ballots securely sent to voters?

Heidi Burch: There are no privacy concerns when your ballot is sent to you because it is a blank form. It is emailed to you from your local election office and they are the only ones who can send you a ballot. It’s important for overseas voters to check their spam folder because sometimes we find ballots hiding there.

Most local election offices have a link to their website in the email where the voter verifies their information before gaining access to their ballot for download. When you download your blank ballot you need to print it out before you can send it back in.

Every state emails ballots out with a tracking number so they keep track of which ballots they’ve sent. When the ballot comes back to them it’s like you’re at the polls. They check it against their voter rolls and check the signature against FPCA signature. They have their procedures to keep things secure. It would be extremely inefficient to commit voter fraud masquerading as an overseas voter.

(Editor’s Note: Voter fraud overall is exceedingly rare. The rate of voting fraud overall in the US is between 0.00004% and 0.0009%, according to a 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice. A Washington Post review of the 2016 election found one proven case of postal voting fraud. Oregon has held postal elections since 2000 and has only reported 14 fraudulent votes attempted by mail.)

Why is it safer to return your ballot online through email, online upload or fax?

Heidi: No state lets you vote online. We don’t do that overseas. What we do is get our ballot by email. Some states allow you to fill out your ballot online but you still need to print it before sending it in. Finally, you take a picture of it or scan it and send it back by email as an attachment. That is very secure because email goes from your computer to the LEO’s computer. If anyone tried to hack that, they would have to access your computer or their computer because you can’t intercept an email in between.

Local Election Offices always have ballots going to a computer that is “clean” and does not interact with their computer system. LEOs scan for viruses, print out the ballot and then process it. Any hacker who is going to try to hack the system is not going to do it one ballot at a time, going to every person’s individual computer around the world. Same with fax and online upload. There’s always a paper trail for security reasons. The bigger security risk is that your postal mail ballot will be delayed or lost in the post. An email ballot is more reliable and preferable if your state allows it.



Vote from Abroad has one goal: to make sure every U.S. citizen has the info and tools to vote. Request a ballot now! votefromabroad.org

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Vote from Abroad

Vote from Abroad has one goal: to make sure every U.S. citizen has the info and tools to vote. Request a ballot now! votefromabroad.org