Concerns have been raised by President Trump and others about the integrity of mail-in ballots. Kevin Runbeck of Runbeck Election Services, which manufactures mail-in ballots for much of the country, explained security measures in place for mail-in ballots.
Mail-in ballots have multiple layers of security, Runbeck said, starting with heightened physical security in the facility where ballots are made and distributed.
There are also careful processes to ensure each voter receives the correct ballot. “By the time we get a voter’s name, he or she has been vetted through the county as a registered voter,” Runbeck said. “We’re aligning the exact ballot they need, what precinct they live in, and making sure that they get that.”
The pandemic has led to a heightened interest in mail-in ballots this year, but Runbeck believes that voting by mail is where his industry is headed. When a state or county moves to vote-by-mail, or offers a permanent early voting list, as Maricopa County does, people don’t go back, Runbeck said. “You can sit at your kitchen table and think about what you’re doing.”
When asked about concerns over fake ballots, Runbeck said that the first line of defense is the postal service. USPS looks for red flags, in coordination with Homeland Security and the FBI.
In order for a counterfeit ballot to be counted, there are a long list of details that would have to be duplicated perfectly.
“One, it has to be visually perfect. Same envelope, same paper, same style, which, a lot of that can be done, but more importantly they have to know what precinct that voter lived in, and the voter’s name and the address, and they have to forge a signature.” If any of those elements are wrong, the system kicks it out. If a pattern arises, FBI and Homeland Security would start and investigation within the hour, Runbeck said.
“I’m very confident that while we can’t stop someone from trying, we’ll catch them,” he concluded.
On the topic of whether changes due to the pandemic will create problems, Runbeck said that western states like Arizona, which have well-established processes for mail-in voting, are in good shape. “Arizona is a really stable environment,” he said. “I’m not worried about Arizona at all.”
However, Runbeck cautioned that the volume of mail-in ballots in this election, especially in areas that have never done vote-by-mail before, will mean a delay in final election results. “We’re probably not going to know how every vote is tabulated for a week, maybe even two weeks after the election.”
“You want to get it right,” Runbeck said. “It’s critical that everyone take a deep breath and realize that it’s a monumental job to get this many people to vote all on one day.”