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Rumors vs. reality: 6 facts about voting by mail for folks worried about election integrity

Worried about mail-in voting? Don't be.

voting elections mail-in ballots

Myths and facts about voting by mail.

As we head toward midterm elections in early November, there's a lot of misinformation floating around about how voting is conducted and how votes are processed. Sadly, we're reaping what widespread misinformation has sown in the form of continued election result denial, legislation that makes it harder to vote and even vigilante voter intimidation at ballot drop boxes.

Convincing someone their preferred candidate didn't win because the other side cheated is an easy political win, especially in a hyperpartisan atmosphere. But the reality is that the vast majority of Americans want elections to be as fair and accurate as possible, so sorting out truth from fiction and understanding how our election processes actually work—as opposed to how partisan sources tell us they work—is important.

Voting by mail comes up a lot in discussions of election integrity, so let's take a look at how mail-in ballots work and clear up some misunderstandings that might cause people concern.


Frequently, people will share things they've heard from a friend or a cable news host or a social media post without verifying whether those things are true. Every state handles mail-in ballots a little differently in terms of how people receive ballots and when they get counted, but the safeguards to prevent fraud and ensure eligible votes are counted are fairly standard.

Rumor: Mail-in voting is too new to be safe and secure.

Reality: Americans have been voting by mail since the 19th century. Those early mail-in votes came from soldiers in the Civil War and since then, members of the military who are deployed outside of their home states have long been voting by mail.

Widespread mail-in voting for civilians is newer, but not new. Oregon has been conducting all mail-in elections since 2000, so has had more than two decades to perfect its system. Washington state has done the same since 2012 and Colorado since 2014. In the past three years, Utah, Hawaii, Vermont and California have gone to all-mail-in voting. (Incidentally, Vermont and Washington took the No. 1 and No. 2 spots for electoral integrity in the 2018 midterm rankings in Harvard's Electoral Integrity Project, and all of the other states named here ranked in the top 20.)

Rumor: Mail-in voting gives Democrats an unfair advantage.

Reality: Studies have shown that there appears to be no statistically significant advantage for either party when mail-in voting is implemented. So there's that.

But as an anecdotal example as well, Washington state (where I live) elected a Republican secretary of state—the person in charge of elections at the state level—multiple times with our mail-in voting system until she resigned last year to work on election security at the federal level. And that's in a Democratic-leaning state overall. And the district I live in has elected a Republican representative to the House for years with all mail-in voting. Mail-in ballots are equally available to everyone and make voting very simple, so it doesn't make sense that it would give either party an advantage.

Rumor: Mail-in voting makes it easier to commit voter fraud.

Reality: The Brookings Institution shared data from the conservative Heritage Foundation that analyzed voter fraud over many years in different states. Here are the number of voter fraud cases Heritage found for states that had mail-in voting during most of the time period they analyzed and the total number of ballots cast during that time.

Colorado: 14 cases over 13 years out of 15,955,704 votes cast.

Oregon: 15 cases over 19 years out of 15,476,519 votes cast

Washington: 12 cases over 6 years out of 10,605,749 votes cast

This is what people mean when they say voter fraud isn't a concern. It's not that it never ever happens. It's just that it doesn't even come close to being anywhere near significant enough to approach making a dent in election results.

And false fraud allegations can have tragic real-world results. Everyone needs to make sure they triple-fact-check fraud claims before passing them along.

Rumor: I know of people who received more than one ballot in the mail, which means they'll be able to vote twice.

Reality: Nope, they can't vote twice even if they have two ballots. It doesn't really matter how many ballots a person receives since only one can be submitted and processed for each voter. Election officials try to avoid voters receiving more than one ballot since it causes confusion, but if it happens, it's not an indication that anything fishy is going on. Once one ballot is processed, another ballot for the same voter can't be. Multiple safeguards are in place to ensure that only one ballot is processed for each registered voter and to ensure that the person's signature on the ballot envelope is legitimate.

Rumor: Mail-in voting opens up the possibility of voter coercion.

Reality: This could be true. At a polling place, each individual votes privately so no one else can see who they vote for. People can still feel coerced into voting a certain way, but there's no way for anyone else to really know how they voted. When ballots are mailed to homes, it is possible for one person in the home to force another person to vote a certain way, but: 1) If there are really enough controlling and abusive households that coercion could sway an election, we have bigger problems on our hands than mail-in voting, and 2) Voter intimidation and coercion is a crime, whether it's someone sitting next to a drop box with a gun or someone sitting next to their spouse with a threat.

Rumor: Mail-in voting offers more opportunities for mistakes in the election process.

Reality: There's no evidence for a claim like this. Every voting system can run into problems. Polling places have power outages and voting machines break. Tens of thousands of voters in Virginia were recently given the wrong information about which polling place they are supposed to go to to vote in person. Mail-in voting systems aren't any more prone to things going wrong than any other voting system.

The full reality is that mail-in voting is a convenient, secure way to run an election, which has been proven by bipartisan and nonpartisan sources over and over again. Claims to the contrary are simply political games designed to sow fear and distrust, which is unfortunately an easy way to sway voters.

However you decide to vote, just vote. Democracy only works as intended if we all participate.

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From political science to joining the fight against cancer: How one woman found her passion

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Krystal Brady utilizes her project management skills to help advance cancer research and advocacy.

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Cancer impacts nearly everyone’s life in one way or another, and thankfully, we’re learning more about treatment and prevention every day. Individuals and organizations dedicated to fighting cancer and promising research from scientists are often front and center, but we don’t always see the people working behind the scenes to make the fight possible.

People like Krystal Brady.

While studying political science in college, Brady envisioned her future self in public office. She never dreamed she’d build a successful career in the world of oncology, helping cancer researchers, doctors and advocates continue battling cancer, but more efficiently.

Brady’s journey to oncology began with a seasonal job at a small publishing company, which helped pay for college and awakened her love for managing projects. Now, 15 years later, she’s serving as director of digital experience and strategy at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which she describes as “the perfect place to pair my love of project management and desire to make positive change in the world.”

As a project manager, Brady helps make big ideas for the improvement of diagnosing and treating cancer a reality. She is responsible for driving the critical projects that impact the lives of cancer researchers, doctors, and patients.

“I tell people that my job is part toolbox, part glue,” says Brady. “Being a project manager means being responsible for understanding the details of a project, knowing what tools or resources you need to execute the project, and facilitating the flow of that work to the best outcome possible. That means promoting communication, partnership, and ownership among the team for the project.”

At its heart, Brady’s project management work is about helping people. One of the big projects Brady is currently working on is ASCO’s digital transformation, which includes upgrading systems and applications to help streamline and personalize oncologists’ online experience so they can access the right resources more quickly. Whether you are managing humans or machines, there’s an extraordinary need for workers with the skillset to harness new technology and solve problems.

The digital transformation project also includes preparing for the use of emerging technologies such as generative AI to help them in their research and practices.

“Most importantly, it lays the groundwork for us to make a meaningful impact at the point of care, giving the oncologist and patient the absolute latest recommendations or guidelines for care for that specific patient or case, allowing the doctor to spend more time with their patients and less time on paperwork,” Brady says.

In today’s fast-changing, quickly advancing world, project management is perhaps more valuable than ever. After discovering her love for it, Brady earned her Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification through Project Management Institute (PMI)—the premier professional organization for project managers with chapters all over the world—which she says gave her an edge over other candidates when she applied for her job at ASCO.

“The knowledge I gained in preparing for the PMP exam serves me every day in my role,” Brady says. “What I did not expect and have truly come to value is the PMI network as well – finding like-minded individuals, opportunities for continuous learning, and the ability to volunteer and give back.”

PMI’s growing community – including more than 300 chapters globally – serves as a place for project managers and individuals who use project management skills to learn and grow through events, online resources, and certification programs.

While people often think of project management in the context of corporate careers, all industries and organizations need project managers, making it a great career for those who want to elevate our world through non-profits or other service-oriented fields.

“Project management makes a difference by focusing on efficiency and outcomes, making us all a little better at what we do,” says Brady. “In almost every industry, understanding how to do our work more effectively and efficiently means more value to our customers, and the world at large, at an increased pace.”

Project management is also a stable career path in high demand as shown by PMI research, which found that the global economy will need 25 million more project managers by 2030 and that the median salary for project managers in the US has grown to $120K.

If you’d like to learn more about careers in project management, PMI has resources to help you get started or prove your proficiency, including its entry-level Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification program. For those interested in pursuing a project management career to make a difference, it could be your first step.

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