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Loosened absentee ballot process could lead to potential abuse of the system

Updated 8:10 a.m. Aug. 5

Secretary of State John Merrill has extended the opportunity for any qualified voter who is concerned about contracting or spreading the coronavirus to cast an absentee ballot rather than go to the polls on Election Day, August 25.

Those who choose to take advantage of this extended opportunity to vote an absentee ballot may do so by checking the option on the ballot that reads: I have a physical or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls (Option 2). An ID is required.

Pike County Circuit Clerk Jamie Scarbrough said with that extended opportunity to vote absentee in the August 25 municipal election also comes the possibility of an increase in voter fraud.

“Most voter fraud comes through absentee voting,” said Scarbrough who oversees absentee voting in county, state and federal elections in Pike County. “So, the more absentee votes that are cast, the greater the possibilities for voter fraud.”

Fraudulent use of absentee ballots includes requesting absentee ballots and voting without the knowledge of the actual voter or obtaining the absentee ballot from a voter and either filling it in directly and forging the voter’s signature or illegally telling the voter how to vote.

“It is the responsibility of each of us to report allegations of voter fraud,” Scarbrough said.  “That is the only way that voter fraud can be stopped.”

Scarbrough said those who need assistance with voting an absentee ballot should enlist someone they trust.

“Every voter should have the opportunity to vote his or her convictions without being influenced otherwise,” Scarbrough said. “That is why it is most important that the one who is assisting with absentee voting is someone who is doing so only in the best interest of the voter.”

Scarbrough said voting is a right and a privilege and anyone who has knowledge of any fraudulent activity has an obligation to report it to the municipal election officials.

For the August 25, municipal elections, the deadline to register to vote is Monday, August 10. The deadline to submit an absentee ballot application is Thursday, August 20, and the deadline to hand-deliver an absentee ballot is the close of business Monday, August 24. If an absentee ballot is returned by mail, it must be postmarked by August 24 and received by noon on August 25.

If necessary, runoff elections will be held on Tuesday, October 6