I've seen news articles that there was electronic tampering in the last US national election[1][2]. Some articles say the registration systems were tampered with--so people were marked as not registered or registered in the wrong precinct. While other articles raise questions about the security of electronic voting booths.

Will my vote be safer, (less risk of tampering with my registration and ballot), if I cast an absentee ballot by mail?

  • 6
    Citations please
    – James K
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 18:52
  • 7
    Amending @JamesK's comment somewhat: credible citations please. Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 20:44
  • I guess there is not enough information available to conclude this question positively or negatively. There is simply not enough reliable knowledge about the methods how votes are tampered with. Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 15:14

3 Answers 3


Will my vote be safer (less risk of tampering with my registration and ballot) if I cast an absentee ballot by mail?

No. It is much easier to tamper with an absentee ballot than a vote cast in person. In particular, consider what happens if someone sends in a second absentee ballot. Depending on the rules of the state, the result could be any of

  1. Neither ballot counts.
  2. The first ballot counts.
  3. The last ballot counts.

One argument against requiring IDs to vote is actually based on the point that absentee ballots require no identification whatsoever. So the argument is that there is no reason to require ID for in-person votes when any fraudster could simply vote absentee.

  • But I would think it would be a bit more difficult for the Russians to rewrite a mail ballot.
    – TomO
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 16:53

To quote from the first article:

no clear-cut evidence of digital sabotage has emerged, much less a Russian role in it.

For the second I invoke Betteridge's law of headlines: "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no." And quote:

The New York Times reporters acknowledge that it is uncertain whether the problems were caused by Kremlin-directed hacking or a more innocuous mishap like software malfunctions or human error

The second article seems to be a rehash of the NYT article, it doesn't seem to me to add anything significant.

As for your question: you can vote using any method and be reasonably sure that your vote will be counted. There is no evidence of widespread malpractice. As the articles note, there is nothing substantial that suggests that problems that voting machines had were caused by Russian "hackers". And so there is no reason to believe that that voting by absentee ballot is in any way "safer".

To illustrate by analogy, you could have asked "I heard a woman got attacked by a monkey at walmart. Will I be safer if I shop at Kroger?"

  • Re "no evidence of widespread malpractice": given malpractice, the impractical hodgepodge of voting systems the USA currently deploys aren't well-engineered for verification and are unlikely to leave much evidence behind, except boastful yet unpopular office holders.
    – agc
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 3:45

Electronic voting machines are expensive, can confuse voters, and are increasingly difficult to maintain.

More importantly,

• Voters surveyed said they chose to vote absentee because of the convenience it affords and out of a lack of trust of voting machines.

Santa Cruz County, California, 2006

This matches my personal experience in Maryland, where as electronic voting was introduced, people scrambled to find plausible excuses to request an absentee ballot to avoid the inauditable electronic machines.

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