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Common sense says to sign the ballot, not the envelope


I tend to reason through my personal experiences using common sense, but I have learned as Will Rogers once said, “Common Sense ain’t so common.” If it doesn’t make common sense I usually don’t accept it as fact or the truth. Voting in Arizona just doesn’t make the common sense smell test.

Gary Babb

Gary Babb

I moved to Arizona earlier this year, and this was the first time I voted using a mail-in ballot. When I finished marking the ballot the instructions required me to sign the envelope and not the ballot. The ENVELOPE!?  What the hell was that all about? I tried to find a detailed description of the voting process on line to find out how the process worked and the logic behind it. I eventually found a website after a lengthy search: State of Arizona – Election Processing Manual. This manual is a lengthy 550 page book describing the laws and processes in nauseating detail, but I actually found nothing that described the actual step-by-step process. So, I tried to logically reason out how the process must work.

Evidently, the mail-in ballots remain unopened while the signatures on the envelopes are verified and matched to the voter signature of record, at which time the envelope is stamped approved. Logically this massive process must be done mostly electronically and compared with the voter data file to determine the total number of eligible votes cast. This seems reasonable, but logic seems to end there. I must assume the approved envelopes are then opened, scanned and tabulated. It appears that the ballots are removed and added to a stack of pending ballots then ran through the voting machine without any traceable identification. But, since the ballot itself is not signed by the voter or coded in any way that I could determine, all accountability to the voter is lost at that point. The ballots become only numbers in the tabulation, which must match the number of verified envelopes.

Being untraceable back to the voter by signature, code or even a ballot number, how, for example, is the voter assured that his or her vote is entered the way they intended. Simply put, how can the voter know that another ballot was not substituted in its place? We would not know if that was done as long as the approved total number of voters (signed and approved envelopes) continued to reasonably match the number of tabulated ballots. How, also, would the voters know their vote was counted in the case of a recount? It seems to me that the voter identification is lost once the signature has been verified. How can the tabulated information be later analyzed for mistakes or voter fraud. I don’t like the idea of the ballot and envelope being separated. The ballot now becomes untraceable. This whole process seems wide open to corruption.

The logical solution to this problem is an obvious common sense approach. Print the voter information and affidavit on the actual ballot and require the voter to sign the ballot instead of the envelope. The envelope could have a clear or open window for scanning voter signature verification or simply require two signatures, one on the envelope and one on the ballot. An alternate method could be having the ballot coded with the voter identification information, but I saw nowhere that this is done. Requiring voter identification on the ballot would allow later absolute analysis to be accomplished to verify accuracy or voter fraud. With signatures actually on each ballot, recounts would become easier to track and also totally accountable.

In today’s computer age with available technology, it could be easily possible to set up a voter database where an individual voter can verify the status and accuracy of their vote. Taking this a step further, each voter could be mailed a copy of their recorded ballot. This would provide total assurance to the voter.

The manual states that there must be a website available to a voter to be able to verify their signature was verified and the ballot was processed, but it appears that the ballots themselves are not traceable to an actual voter by a signature, code or ballot number. Without this absolute tracking and accountability all the elaborate voting and counting supervision means nothing as long as the total count matches.

This Arizona voting process appears open for and even promoting corruption and should be seriously questioned and reviewed.

Gary Babb is a senior, veteran, retired businessman and author currently living in Phoenix.


The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.


  1. Arizona Eagletarian

    Perhaps someone can direct Mr Babb to the Coursera.org MOOC (a FREE online class) titled Securing Digital Democracy.

    One of the most important principles is to NOT enable anyone but the voter to know who that voter voted for.

  2. Arizona Eagletarian

    To save Cap Times moderators a few keystrokes, here’s the link https://www.coursera.org/learn/digital-democracy

    Please check it out, even if you don’t intend to approve the comment.

  3. You do realize that if what you are suggesting is implemented, the concept of “Secret Ballot” is totally thrown out the window. As long as that paper ballot has identifiable markings, you are at the mercy of whoever is conducting the count or storing the ballot to keep your vote secret. Having the signature on the envelope serves the purpose of authenticating the ballot as valid and then as it is separated and tabulated, the secret ballot is maintained.

    What difference is there to signing a book at the polling place and marking a blank ballot – once you receive a ballot no identifying data is on that piece of paper.

    I’d never trade my secret ballot for any vote authentication issue – if that were to happen, I can’t see anyone voting by mail due to the lack of voting without revealing who someones vote for.

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