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Our opinion: Unsecured voting must go away

The Pennsylvania Senate last week voted to effectively eliminate one of the most-contentious issues undermining the public’s confidence in elections — unsecured ballot drop boxes.

Now before those on the left start shouting about the legislature being hypocritical on mail-in voting, we want to point out that when the legislature enacted mail-in voting as a means of holding an election during a pandemic, lawmakers never intended for drop boxes to be part of the equation. That was added to the law by a blatantly partisan court ruling.

So, why are ballot drop boxes a bad thing? Because they make it easier for people to violate election law.

The most-common violation was so-called “ballot harvesting.” The rules for mail-in voting clearly state that someone who is not mailing in their ballot must deliver it themselves. If they are unable to do so, they must sign an affidavit designating one specific person to deliver it on their behalf.

The reason for this is so one person can’t round up or “harvest” dozens or hundreds of ballots that may or may not have been filled out by the person who actually requested them. This option was designed only for those who truly cannot deliver the ballot themselves — such as the ill, disabled or elderly — not for some political activist to show up to the drop box a truckload of votes for their preferred candidate.

Making voters return ballots to secure locations make it so someone who is disobeying the rules is much more likely to be caught and punished. If a drop box isn’t in a place where it’s being watched, there’s no way to ascertain how many ballots were inserted legally and how many weren’t. It’s also much more likely that ballots not filled out by their rightful owners will be deposited and counted.

Even if that happens once, that’s one time too many.

To eliminate this problem, the state Senate’s bill requires that mail ballots not returned using the U.S. Postal Service must be delivered to the county elections office by the voter who is casting the ballot or the person listed on a sworn affidavit. It effectively restores the rules of mail-in voting to what the legislature intended when it took action to allow it, which will only make our elections more secure.

Admittedly, it doesn’t solve everything, as mail voting as currently constructed still has ways it can be exploited. But it at least is a step toward avoiding a repeat of the 2020 election fiasco that saw numerous examples — highlighted in a press release by the Republican majority that passed this bill — of people blatantly violating the rules without consequence.

And while we cannot be sure who those rule breakers favored, we do know that Democrats are far more likely to vote by mail than are Republicans or independents, which means skirting mail-in voting laws is more likely to benefit Democratic candidates and harm Republicans, independents and third-party candidates.

Election integrity is vital to a free state and nation like our own.

We hope the state House and the governor will agree.

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