ELECTION INTEGRITY

Tens of Thousands of Pennsylvania Ballots Returned Earlier Than Sent Date: Researcher

November 10, 2020 11:47, Last Updated: November 12, 2020 0:11
By Petr Svab

More than 20,000 absentee ballots in Pennsylvania have impossible return dates and another more than 80,000 have return dates that raise questions, according to a researcher’s analysis of the state’s voter database.

Over 51,000 ballots were marked as returned just a day after they were sent out—an extraordinary speed, given U.S. Postal Service (USPS) delivery times, while nearly 35,000 were returned on the same day they were mailed out. Another more than 23,000 have a return date earlier than the sent date. More than 9,000 have no sent date.

The state’s voter records are being scrutinized as President Donald Trump is challenging the results of the presidential election in Pennsylvania and other states where his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, holds a tight lead. The Trump campaign is alleging that invalid ballots have been counted for Democrats and valid ballots for Republicans were thrown away.

The analysis of the publicly available data was conducted by a data researcher who submitted it first to the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times. The researcher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he consulted about the matter with several USPS field engineers, who said the return dates shown in the database are “impossible.”

The dataset made public by Pennsylvania’s secretary of state was last updated on Nov. 10, and “describes a current state of mail ballot requests for the 2020 General Election.” The data includes the mailed-out and return dates.

In Pennsylvania, voters must request a ballot, which is sent to them via USPS. The voter then fills out the document and sends it back via mail or returns it in person. The process usually takes several days or even weeks, depending on the speed of delivery and response by the voter.

This year, Pennsylvania also allowed voters to “request, receive, mark and cast your mail-in or absentee ballot all in one visit to your county election office or other designated location.” That may explain the ballots with no sent date—they may have been received and cast in person.

While it could also explain the ballots with the same sent and returned date, that appears to clash with the description of the database, which says the sent date is “the date the county confirmed the application to queue a ballot label to mail the ballot materials to the voter.”

If the ballot was received by the voter in person, there would have been no need for a mailing label.

A screenshot of publicly available mail ballot data in Pennsylvania showing the date when ballots were sent out (3rd column from right) and received (2nd column from right) only one day apart. (Data source: Pennsylvania Secretary of State)
A screenshot of publicly available mail ballot data in Pennsylvania showing the date when ballots were sent out (3rd column from right) and received (2nd column from right) on the same day. (Data source: Pennsylvania Secretary of State)
A screenshot of publicly available mail ballot data in Pennsylvania showing the date when ballots were sent out (3rd column from right) and received (2nd column from right) a day before the sent date. (Data source: Pennsylvania Secretary of State)

“Since October 1, the average time of delivery for First-Class Mail, including ballots, was 2.5 days,” USPS said in an Oct. 29 release.

Impossible and improbable return dates indicate there’s something wrong with either the database or the ballots.

The Office of Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State didn’t immediately respond to requests by The Epoch Times for comment.

In addition to the ballots described above, there were more than 43,000 ballots returned two days after being sent out, which is still remarkably fast, although still possible if the voter quickly delivered the ballot to an election office or a ballot drop box in person. The flagged ballots comprise almost 4 percent of all those issued by the state.

According to the data analyzed by the researcher, at least 31 people who appear to be older than the oldest known person in the state returned ballots. They were all born between 1900 and 1907, based on the state’s data. The oldest known person in the state is 113-year-old Ardith Grose.

About 20 of the voters shared the birth date of Jan. 1, 1900. The date corresponds to an allegation in Michigan, where a poll watcher said he saw operators adding people to the poll book while they were counting their mail-in ballots, raising concern that these voters weren’t properly registered and thus were ineligible to vote. The operators input the names with fabricated birth dates, such as Jan. 1, 1900, according to a sworn affidavit by the poll watcher.

Another analysis of the Pennsylvania data showed that the extremely old voters were mostly registered Democrats.

Update: The article was updated with a source of the Michigan mail ballot data, additional information about the data and mail-in voting in the state, and ballot delivery time information from the Postal Service. The article and its headline were edited to reflect the updated information.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly characterized the concern raised by the allegation by a Michigan poll watcher. The concern was that the voters in question weren’t properly registered and thus were ineligible to vote. The Epoch Times regrets the error.

Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab

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