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- Washington implemented statewide vote-by-mail in 2011. There is no history of widespread voter fraud in Washington linked to this voting method.
- Completed ballots can be returned through the mail or dropped off at specific locations.
- A Washington election official said there are security measures in place to identify if people have voted more than once or if they’re ineligible to vote.
With early voting underway in several states ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections, misinformation about voting methods continues to spread on social media.
A video shared Oct. 23 on Instagram assails the security of mail-in ballots in Washington state. In the video, a woman lists three things voters must do to secure their votes — one of which is not to mail in their ballot.
Mailing a ballot "gives the bad guys a chance to know how many ballots they need to make," the woman says in a stage whisper.
In the video’s caption, the woman cites far-right commentator Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary "2000 mules" to back up her claim of voter fraud through mail-in ballots. The movie makes the baseless claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen through fraud, including fake absentee ballots.
The Instagram post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
A Washington election official told PolitiFact the woman’s claim is false. The Instagram video follows a general theme of questioning the security of vote-by-mail ballots that has gained prominence in the last several years among conservative groups.
Charlie Boisner, external affairs director for the Washington Secretary of State’s Office, said voter fraud hasn’t been a widespread issue in the state. Occasionally one or two incidents may happen that involve fraud, but those are "dealt with in a pretty quick fashion."
"We have systems and security measures in place to be able to identify if people have voted more than once or if they’re ineligible to vote," Boisner said. "As far as widespread voter fraud is concerned, especially with mail-in ballots, we haven’t seen anything that’s been substantiated or proven."
Vote-by-mail was introduced in Washington in 1983 for special elections; in 2005, the state allowed individual counties to hold elections completely by mail. Vote-by-mail was eventually adopted statewide in 2011.
People also can still cast their ballots in person at designated voting centers.
Boisner said ballots sent through the mail are processed separately from regular mail. Election officials communicate regularly with the U.S. Postal Service to ensure that processing goes smoothly and the ballots are quickly sent to election officials for counting.
"We’ve developed over the course of time the infrastructure to support this and the procedures to help navigate ballots going through the mail," he said. "I would say vote-by-mail is incredibly safe here in Washington."
Each mail-in ballot is tied to a person’s voting record. If more than one ballot for a person is sent in to be counted, it will be flagged by election officials and the voter will be notified, Boisner said.
An Instagram video says mailing in a ballot "gives the bad guys a chance to know how many ballots they need to make."
A Washington election official said the claim is false and there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the state.
If election officials receive more than one ballot from a voter, the ballot gets flagged and that voter is contacted to resolve any issues.
We rate this claim Pants on Fire!
Interview with Charlie Boisner, Oct. 24, 2022
FactCheck.org, "Evidence Gaps in ‘2000 Mules,’" June 10, 2022
Associated Press, "FACT FOCUS: Gaping holes in the claim of 2K ballot ‘mules,’" May 3, 2022
PolitiFact, "The faulty premise of the ‘2,000 mules’ trailer about voting by mail in the 2020 election," May 4, 2022
Associated Press, "GOP voters told to hold onto mail ballots until Election Day," Oct. 21, 2022
Washington Secretary of State, The history of voting and elections in Washington State, accessed Oct. 25, 2022
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