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Can You Really Fix an Election by Steaming Open Absentee Ballots?

As easy as 1, 2, 3. Image from Arizona Capitol Times
As easy as 1, 2, 3. Image from Arizona Capitol Times

Arizona’s been in the spotlight a lot this election year, with the Department of Justice announcing today it’s investigating the too-long voting lines during the state’s primary. Then there’s the accusations of straight-up election fraud: Apparently people are tampering with vote-by-mail ballots using microwaves.

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Last month, a state bill was proposed to stiffen the penalties for “ballot harvesting”—collecting and destroying mail-in ballots for the opposing candidate. Certainly it might be easy to steal someone’s absentee or early-voting ballot. But the people harvesting Arizona’s ballots actually have a far more complicated methodology, at least according to Republican state senator Don Shooter of Yuma:

Shooter said he got another email just Wednesday, ahead of the vote on this bill, from someone claiming to have evidence and witnesses of fraud.

“I’ve been told the way they do it is they collect the ballots early, they put them in a microwave with a bowl of water, steam them open, take the ballots,” he explained.

“If they like the way it’s voted they put them back in,” Shooter continued. “If they don’t like the way it’s voted, they lose that ballot.”

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Journalists at the Arizona Capitol Times went straight to the source—the Arizona Secretary of State’s office—to procure an official ballot envelope and test this theory. In a government office kitchen microwave, no less.

I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I think we can all agree that is one nasty-ass microwave.

[Arizona Capitol Times]

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Alissa is the former urbanism editor at Gizmodo.

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DISCUSSION

Absentee ballots rarely make a difference, so the idea of steaming them open is a waste of time. I know I know, theoretically every vote counts, but in all but cases like Bush v Gore and a few other razor thin margins the contest was already decided long before the absentee vote came in. Realistically if you’re looking to commit voter fraud it’s far easier to rig or hack the voting machines, something that may have already occurred without our knowledge because their security is awful.