Thousands of uncounted mail-in ballots have surfaced in Massachusetts in a tight congressional race between two Democrats, according to reports.
Staff members from Secretary of State Bill Galvin's office have found around 3,000 uncounted ballots in Franklin, an office spokesperson told the Boston Herald. Previously, it was believed that the number of ballots not counted on Election Day was 600.
The close race for a seat in 4th Congressional District has Jesse Mermell trailing Jake Auchincloss by nearly 1,400 votes, with 96 percent of precincts counted, WBUR reported.
Galvin ordered election officials to continue counting ballots cast in the state primary on Sept. 1, which were received on time but not yet counted.
Katie Prisco-Buxbaum, campaign manager for Jesse Mermell, issued the following statement in response to Galvin's order: “We are pleased to see the actions being taken by clerks and Secretary of State Galvin to secure and count all the votes in this race. This is exactly in line with the concerns our campaign raised earlier today. Given the unprecedented nature of this election process, we believe it is incumbent on all communities to be clear about how many ballots are outstanding, including ballots that arrived as polls closed, so that w can have the utmost confidence in the end result.”
Mermell feared there could be more uncounted ballots elsewhere in the district.
"We also believe based on conversations we’ve had with leaders in several communities that there may be even more uncounted ballots in communities across the district, and that’s deeply concerning,” she said on Thursday, ahead of ballot counting, the Boston Herald reported.
On Thursday evening, poll workers continued to count ballots.
“I don’t think there was any ill will or ill intention in missing these ballots, I think folks were just a little overwhelmed with everything that’s going on,” said Alex Psilakis, policy and communications manager at the advocacy group MassVOTE, who observed the vote count, WBUR reported.
Psilakis said it is fortunate the incident happened in a small place like Franklin and not in a big city like Boston. According to earlier reports, over 1 million Massachusetts residents have requested vote-by-mail ballots ahead of the state's primary and November presidential elections.
The late vote count in Franklin comes amid expectations of a surge in mail-in voting during the November general election due to COVID-19 fears, raising concerns about election integrity.
Attorney General William Barr, in an interview on CNN this week, claimed that a system in which mail-in ballots are distributed widely is “very open to fraud and coercion,” calling it “reckless and dangerous,” and "playing with fire." Asked about the lack of evidence for "widespread" fraud, Barr argued that this may be because "we haven't had the kind of 'widespread' use of mail-in ballots that is being proposed."
“Absentee ballots are the tools of choice of election fraudsters because they are voted outside the supervision of election officials, making it easier to steal, forge, or alter them, as well as to intimidate voters,” Heritage senior legal fellow Hans A. von Spakovsky wrote in an op-ed.
While Heritage’s own database of all reported instances of election fraud, dating back to 1979, lists only 1,277 “proven instances of voter fraud,” the organization’s communications manager told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that “the database is only intended to represent a small sampling of the types of voter fraud that can occur—it is by no means a comprehensive report of all the voter fraud that happens around the country.”
In the broader debate about election security, which includes discussions around mail-in balloting, Republicans have tended to argue that casting a vote is a privilege of citizenship that should be safeguarded with secure processes and restrictions, and that lowering requirements opens the process up to fraud and abuse.
Democrats tend to hold the view that voting is a right and that barriers to casting a ballot should be as low as possible.