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States have checks in place to prevent voters from voting twice

August 27, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: If a voter mails a ballot on Sunday and then shows up to a polling station to vote in person on Tuesday, election workers will not know whether the voter has already voted.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. States have various ways to protect against voters casting two ballots. Vote-by-mail ballots will be rejected in the verification process if it’s found a ballot was also cast in person.

THE FACTS: When a voter shows up to vote in person, the poll book will typically indicate if the voter has been issued a vote-by-mail ballot — and may even show the poll worker if that ballot has already been processed.

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States vary on what happens next, but voting experts say all states have checks in place to avoid voters casting two votes. In some states, a poll worker may be able to void the mailed ballot if the voter prefers to vote in person. In other states, the voter may be given a provisional ballot and election officials will determine if the provisional ballot should be counted. 

Vote-by-mail ballots are verified before they are counted, and one check is whether the voter already voted. 

“States have different processes, they have their own ways of making sure that two ballots don’t get counted,” said Myrna Pérez, the director of voting rights and elections at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. 

Yet social media users are sharing a post that suggests a loophole. “This is real - If I mail in my ballot on Sunday and show up to the polling station on Tuesday, they won’t know if I’ve already voted or not. That my friends….is a serious concern for all of us,” reads the post.

Anyone who tries to vote twice with the intent of both ballots counting could be prosecuted for voter fraud. 

Pérez said some states have contemplated policies so that if a voter worries their mailed ballot will not arrive in time, there is a process to be able to vote in person instead. That scenario would not be considered fraud. 

Matthew Weil, director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Elections Project warned that waiting until the Sunday before Election Day to mail a ballot will be too late in many states to have the ballot count.

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“I push people to vote by mail much earlier,” Weil said. Deadlines vary by state, and voting experts say voters should check the laws in their state

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536