Election office worker Keith Martinez feeds absentee ballots into a scanner at the Prince William Office of Elections in the fall of 2019.

Courtesy of Virginia Mercury

All Virginia voters who cast absentee ballots will send their forms back in envelopes marked with tracking codes, according to a new rule adopted Tuesday by the State Board of Elections.

The regulation, approved in a unanimous vote, requires local election officials to print a 65-character U.S. Postal Service Intelligent Mail barcode on both the outgoing envelopes sent to voters and the included return envelopes voters use to mail completed ballots back.

“This regulation requiring these will allow registrars to track the absentee ballots as they make their way to voters,” said Danny Davenport, a policy analyst at the Virginia Department of Elections. “And then also it will allow voters to track their completed ballots as they make their way back to the registrar’s office.”

Some localities have already started using the tracking codes, but the new regulation makes the practice mandatory across the state. State officials said every locality currently has the capability to print the barcodes on their envelopes.

The change comes as election officials across the country try to boost confidence in election integrity amid a nationwide shift to voting by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The regulation also requires all ballot envelopes to be marked with an official insignia identifying as election-related mail, which officials said will help the Postal Service spot and prioritize votes moving through its system.

President Donald Trump has assailed the idea of widespread mail-in voting, despite little to no evidence of widespread absentee ballot fraud and the fact that he and members of his administration have voted absentee. He seemed to partially reverse himself Tuesday, taking to Twitter to encourage Floridians to vote by mail and telling them they have a “Safe and Secure” system.

That’s the same message Virginia election officials have tried to send.

“Casting a ballot by mail is a safe and secure process,” Elections Commissioner Chris Piper said Tuesday, adding that it will be “a new process” for a significant number of voters who haven’t done it in the past.

In addition to the public health crisis, the Democratic-led Virginia General Assembly voted this year to loosen absentee voting rules, allowing 45 days of early voting for anyone who wants to take advantage of it. Previously, voters had to offer a valid excuse for why it would be difficult or impossible for them to go to their polling place on Election Day.

To protect against mail snafus, the General Assembly also passed legislation allowing registrars to accept absentee ballots received by noon on the third day after an election as long as the ballot has a postmark showing it was cast on or before Election Day. 

On Tuesday, the elections board adopted another regulation specifying that late-arriving ballots with a missing or illegible postmark must be counted.

Proponents said the rule would ensure no otherwise valid ballot would be tossed out due to a technicality that’s not the voter’s fault. But some Republicans objected, arguing it could conceivably allow someone to fill out and send in their ballot after the polls have closed.

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(1) comment


Let me ask since we already have proof of fraud and statewide intentional fraud...the post office told WAPO they cant handle the onslaught of ballots and we know that apartment bldgs, condos and alleys have found stacks of unopened mailed out ballots so answer me this.

Does the barcode system prevent a person or party from getting their hands on stacks of mailers out ballots and then filling them in, driving around and posting them. And does this prevent people with NO ID from voting onsite twice. Since Northam no longer requires ID the stats has no way of knowing their eligibility to vote so does this bar code stop that OR are we assuming the local registrars are "on top of it" and no feaud will take place.

Keep in mind a recent primary in NY tossed out 13000 mail in ballots for fraud, in a Socialist Demo vote...20% was disqualified and the lady won ny.less then 4k...I am sure it's all on the up and up.

We wont KNOW the Prez election results until summer of 2021 when the Supreme Court rules.

You bar codes is simy a PR ploy.

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