Good Question: How are absentee ballots kept private?

Brennan Somers
Updated: June 16, 2020 08:34 AM
Created: June 16, 2020 04:29 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Just one week to go until primary day in New York and there are big changes this year: early voting and absentee voting for everyone due to COVID-19.

News10NBC’s Brennan Somers got a question that has a good answer for anyone mailing in a ballot for the first time. A viewer named Deb wanted to know: "Orleans County has been sending absentee ballots out to its residents. My question is that I thought they were not to know who voted for who. Each ballot has our name and address on the ballot that is being sealed. So how are these being counted without knowing know who voted for who?"


That's a great question. While no county or city is the same, they all follow similar setups for collecting ballots, making sure your vote counts, while also keeping it private.

Somers asked Orleans County Board of Elections staff how they do it. Here's the answer:

  • They get two people (Republican & Democrat) and put them on one end of a table
  • Those people open the signed envelopes, then pass the folded ballot to the other end
  • They do this over and over again until it’s done
  • Then election workers take the ballots, mix them around like a lottery ball system, and open them to be counted

It sounds old school and basic, but they swear by it. They stress no one will know who you voted for. They've done this for years.

The New York State Board of Elections also has a set of rules everyone has to follow to prevent fraud.

As NBC News reports: The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has tracked documented cases of fraud for the past 20 years and found more than 1,200 instances, about 200 of which involve the misuse of absentee ballots. In that time, about 250 million mail-in votes have been cast.

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