A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

2 May 2017 — 1017 mdt

Do mail ballots present an identity theft risk?


With considerable reluctance and misgivings, I cast my school election ballot by mail late last week. Normally, I deliver the ballot in person, and thus have given no thought to the implications of having my signature on the outside of the return envelope.

But this year, I had to consider the issue. Placing my signature on the outside of the envelope, in plain sight, puts it as risk of being photographed by a rogue USPS employee using a cell phone or a concealed camera. Because it’s an official signature, it has value to an identity thief.

To reduce the risk, I placed my signed return envelope, my ballot inside in the security envelope, in a plain white envelope and cast my ballot that way. I also enclosed in the plain white wrapper a tart note admonishing the school district for putting signatures at risk.

Don’t believe public officials when they aver mail ballots are secure. They are not, and the postcard privacy level afforded to one’s official signature is an invitation to identity theft.

Are voters required to vote for two candidates, or can they vote for just one? The ballot reads “VOTE FOR TWO.” As far as I know, voting for just one candidate is legal. I therefore think the ballot ought to read “Vote for no more than two candidates.”

I did vote for two, but with misgivings. School trustee elections are nonpartisan. Without knowledge of the would be trustee’s politics, I have no way of ascertaining the candidates values and policy preferences. I try to make an informed choice, but it’s really just a crapshoot. I sometimes wonder if not voting would reduce the odds that the worst candidate might win.

Finally, as long as a mark is within the box, or unambiguously identifies the candidate the voter has selected, the ballot should be counted. Trying to limit voters to an “X” within the box is not consistent with a voter friendly policy, but it’s fully consistent with the anal retentive mindset that one finds in authoritarian institutions such as schools.