Amid rise in mail thefts, is it safe to vote by mail?

Early voting for the November midterms starts Wednesday and area boards of election have received tens of thousands of requests from voters for absentee ballots so far. Many people mail their absentee ballots during elections, but a surge in mail thefts over the last year has given some pause.

“I feel like if they live close enough to their board of elections and can conveniently drop off their ballot at the drop box, then that’s a really sure way to get their absentee ballot in there,” Dayton resident Emily Laidler said. “I think everyone can still trust USPS, not that many things go wrong, so they should be fine mailing it, but I personally am going to be dropping it off at the Board of Elections from now on.”

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Laidler said her and her partner’s absentee ballots for the August primary were mailed in July but never made it to the elections board and her vote didn’t count. She said the results of the races would not have changed and she is not sure if her ballot was stolen or was lost in the mail. But she was still disappointed that her vote didn’t count.

“I haven’t missed an election in a few years and I care about my voting history,” she said.

If recent thefts from area mailboxes leave some voters concerned about using U.S. Postal Service mailboxes for their absentee ballots, they should either bring their ballots inside the post office, drop them off at their local board of elections or put them in the board’s secure drop boxes, according to regional elections officials.

“We recommend to anyone who is concerned about returning their ballots that they should return them in person, or at least avoid using the blue post boxes,” said Amber Lopez, deputy director of the Clark County Board of Elections.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections is monitoring the situation but is confident in the postal system, Director Jeff Rezabek said.

“We believe that the mail system is secure,” he said.

Voters can sign up for US Postal Service tracking for their mail. And they can also check the status of their absentee ballot from the point the request arrives at the board office by looking at the Ohio Secretary of State’s Track Your Ballot website.

Election officials said voters should contact their local board office if their ballot does not appear to have been received. A ballot that is not received can be canceled and the voter given another one. If the original ballot surfaces it cannot be counted.

Laidler said she did track her ballot but wasn’t anticipating anything going wrong so she didn’t act quick enough. She has since sent a request for help to the United States Post Office Inspection Services to try to find out what happened to the ballots even though it’s too late for them to count.

The Postal Inspection Service is the law enforcement arm of the Postal Service. It said in a statement to the Dayton Daily News that the United States Postal Service takes delivering absentee ballots seriously.

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“The Postal Inspection Service utilizes its full range of technical capabilities to ensure the safe, secure and efficient delivery of political mail and election mail to and from American voters across the country and abroad,” USPIS said. “This includes balloting materials such as voter registration cards and absentee ballot applications. The Postal Inspection Service also protects all Postal Service employees as they deliver election mail to and from voters.”

United States Postal Service officials have said the mail is still the safest way to transmit information.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Staff writer Lynn Hulsey contributed to this report

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