Lawmakers advance bill to make mail voting more transparent

The House Oversight and Reform Committee advanced a measure on Thursday to make it easier to track mail-in ballots for federal elections. 

The Vote by Mail Tracking Act requires that all mailed ballots include a U.S. Postal Service barcode that enables tracking of each individual ballot, as well as meeting other requirements for envelope design and bear an official election mail logo. 

Mailed ballots have been thrust into the political spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic, with millions of Americans choosing to vote from home. The 2020 general election saw record numbers of mail votes cast, and voting by mail remained popular in this year’s midterms. 

According to NBC, over 47 million people voted early in the 2022 midterms with 55 percent of them choosing to cast their ballot by mail.  

Oversight committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said many of those people wanted a way to ensure their votes were counted. 

“I can tell you that during the past election and in 2020 we got hundreds of phone calls from people trying to track their ballots, they wanted to make sure their ballots were cast, and recorded,” said Maloney. 

“Ensuring Election Officials and voters have the resources to track the status of their ballots would create even more peace of mind and confidence and further protect the sanctity of our elections,” she said. 

The bill had bipartisan support, though some Republicans on the panel were skeptical about its effectiveness. 

“I believe that increased use of mail-ballots provides additional opportunities for election fraud, so I support equipping the postal service with the ability to track ballots through the mail,” said ranking member Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.).

“Another important benefit of this legislation is it will help protect the postal service from being blamed for election irregularities,” he added. 

However, other Republicans said the bill didn’t go far enough to protect against concerns of voter fraud. The GOP has regularly raised fears of voting fraud after former President Trump falsely blamed his 2020 election loss on ballot fraud. 

“This is good, but until you have some kind of voter identification attached to your mail-in ballot that’s stronger than amateur hand-writing experts assessing somebody’s signature on the outside of an envelope, I think we’re going to have a problem,” said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.).

Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) said there was still ““no way of verifying the legitimacy of the contents of that envelope.”

“This provides a false sense of security across the country,” he added. 

Despite these concerns, the bill was able to pass the committee by a 34-5 vote margin.

A spokesperson from Maloney’s office said it would be up to House leadership to decide if the bill gets a floor vote during the lame-duck session.

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