But when the names of 36 such voters were turned over recently to Florida authorities, ultimately only two appeared to warrant further investigation for fraud, said a spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
In Ohio, a grand jury in Franklin County recently indicted three people on charges of voting twice by absentee ballots in past elections. Two were charged for votes cast in the 2010 general election and one for votes in the 2008 primary, prosecutors said.
Another concern is paid ballot brokers who supposedly "assist" the elderly or disabled in filling out absentee ballots. Recently, in the Miami suburb of Hialeah, two brokers have been charged with voter fraud for allegedly filling out ballots for elderly people in assisted living facilities.
Yet when a local canvassing board examined 195 ballots collected by the brokers, only four were rejected for such things as questionable signatures.
Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the group's election monitoring hotline has received calls from around the country from voters who say people came to their front doors with purported absentee ballots for them to fill out. The visitors would then promise to "file" the ballots on the voter's behalf, she said.
"Of course, that's not correct," Arnwine said. "We have to keep watching."
Stewart, the MIT professor, said the greater risks in absentee ballots are errors and lost ballots rather than fraud. But harried voters don't seem to want to turn back, he said.
"The genie may be out of the bottle," Stewart said. "We've settled for convenience at the cost of accuracy and making sure that every vote counts."
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