While many critics of widespread absentee voting cite fraud as a potential risk, a recent incident in Georgia revealed that not all of the threats to mail-in ballots are nefarious.
According to a Baker County Sheriff’s Office report, a mail truck believed to be carrying dozens of absentee ballots erupted in flames on Monday, destroying the vehicle and all of the mail inside.
Fortunately, the mail carrier escaped injury, but Georgia’s interim deputy secretary of state confirmed that they did not yet know which ballots might have been lost in the blaze.
As Gabriel Sterling explained in a press conference on Tuesday: “There are 43 outstanding ballots in the county. We’re working with [the U.S. Postal Service] to see if they have images of what might have been on that truck, to reissue them.”
He attempted to reassure voters that election officials are prepared to respond to such incidents, explaining that the worst-case scenario would involve reissuing the lost ballots “and first across the line for those voters will be the ballots that are accepted.”
Absentee voting has broken records in Georgia and elsewhere across the country as early voting is underway ahead of next month’s midterm elections.
“In 2018, there were around 223,000 ballots that were voted all together,” Sterling explained earlier this week. “And we’re already at nearly 250,000 ballots requested. I know some people are trying to compare this to 2020, but that’s a little apples to orange. One, it was a presidential election and two, we’re not in the middle of the height of the COVID pandemic.”
In a number of other areas, including Detroit, Michigan, the number of mail-in ballots has soared thus far in this election season. As of last week, officials had received requests for 1.6 million absentee ballots citywide and nearly 433,000 had already been returned.
At the same point in the 2018 midterm election, fewer than 900,000 ballots had been requested and just over 220,000 were submitted.
As political consultant Dennis Darnoi noted, Detroit is “looking at the possibility of another record election.”
Meanwhile, election officials in Riverside County, California, confirmed that about 5,000 duplicate ballots were sent out to absentee voters in error. The county’s registrar of voters urged voters to toss out any extra ballots they receive.