Can you fill out another voter's absentee ballot?

That may be one area where we have to look at local law. The mail-in ballots I receive do not use the signature to make any statements about who filled in the little boxes. (Actually, we complete a line segment on an arrow pointing to the name.) For us, at least, the signature just affirms that this is your ballot/vote and that seems entirely within the scope of what the OP is doing.

Even the witness signatures for disabled voters’ ballots only assert that a non-signature mark is intended to represent the voters’ signature.

There are laws like this, for which if there is no problem, nothing will happen…

But if you do this and the other person DID NOT AUTHORIZE IT, and complains, then you are in big trouble!

It probably depends on your state but in many states even offering an opinion to someone you are helping fill out an absentee ballot is coercion and a felony. Hereis an article about how Florida is trying to fight ballot fraud and one of the ways they are doing it is limiting the number of people one witness can attest to having voted. In other states there are limits on who can bring someone an absentee ballot.
I don’t know where you live but I would be shocked if filling out other people’s ballot wasn’t a felony there.

In a broader sense one might ask why there are outlines for the how to and the do not do parts in the legal language when it comes to helping disabled folks and the like fill out ballots.

I think one could easily argue that the reason those are there is BECAUSE those folks need help, therefore we need to cut some legal slack when it comes somebody other than the actual voter filling out the ballot.

Which I think from there it could be argued that the implication is that OTHERWISE filling out someone elses ballot is something you should not do.

Otherwise, why is that info in there in the first place?

It is very easy to intimidate people in such situations. So it is a really good idea to not do it and better yet to have laws against it.

One example of such intimidation is reports in previous elections of sergeants or higher getting together with the privates filling in their absentee ballots and making sure they are voting for the right candidate for President. The privates are, of course, very reluctant to demur and reporting this thru channels results in even worse abuse. (Certain groups are well aware of this and make sure that every serviceman possible gets an absentee ballot.)

And, again: telling yourself that the other people are cool with you doing this doesn’t remotely mean it is true.

The important thing to keep in mind, is that each state is fully responsible for every aspect of their electoral process. The US government can intervene only where there is evidence of a violation of federal law, suck as civil rights violations against voters of a protected class, or holding the voting age to be 21.

So for any question about voting protocol or procedures, that is always spelled out by state voting laws. For Congressmen, the state decides how its representative are chosen, and qualifies them to go to Washington to be sworn in. For president, the state decides how its electors are credentialed, for their January visit to DC. States have very wide latitude.

For example, in some states, a convicted felon loses his right to vote forever, but in Vermont, incarcerated felons can mail in an absenee ballot from prison.

Secrecy of the ballot is a tradition, and may not even be a law in some states. In any case,a voer has a perfect right to tall anyone he pleases how he voted, you are not obliged to keep it secret. In fact. if you wrote on your ballot “I am going to assassinate this candidate if he wins”, I bet you would discover that your ballot is not really as secret as you think it is.,

I imagine the legality would depend on the state. In Ohio, this would be a 5th degree felony. From my identification envelope that requires a voter signature:

“I declare under penalty of election falsification that the within ballot or ballots contained no voting marks of any kind when I received them, and that I caused the ballot or ballots to be marked, enclosed in the identification envelope, and sealed in the envelope.”

So what if I just have a bunch of loyal friends who will vote how I tell them, with no other action taken on my part? No coercion, filling out of any ballots (other than my own) on my part, etc? That just sounds like leadership, to me, and in fact is exactly what every political candidate ever is attempting to do.

If someone takes it a step further and says “Hey, I don’t have time to fill this out, but I’m voting for the exact same candidates you voted for anyway, could you just do me a favor and fill this out for me?” I’m not sure, ethically or legally, how that makes a difference, so long as the person whose ballot it is approves (and signs the ballot signifying so) under no threat or coercion.

Even there, the OP might be OK if he walks the line correctly. Not that I’d be taking any chances, but “I caused the ballot to be marked” doesn’t explicitly say that you had to make the mark using your own hand. “Would you please fill out my ballot for me?” is technically a method of causing your ballot to be marked.

Of course, if the voter complains it’s going to get ugly.

North Carolina appears to be unusually strict. A 2011 article, Elections officials: Morrisville candidate tried to vote twice states: “It is a felony to even touch a ballot belonging to anyone but a close relative.”

In the other thread I quoted relevant Oregon law. Seems apparent enough that filling out ballots on another’s behalf is illegal except in the cases of assisting a disabled person or a person who does not read the language the ballot is printed in.

Every state has its own laws. Texas spells it out quite clearly:

Texas law clearly defines which persons are eligible to receive assistance and penalizes those who provided assistance to persons who are not eligible for assistance.

It is very common for state legislatures to enact criminal laws which they know perfectly well would in most cases be beyond the state’s capacity to satisfy their burden of proof for a conviction, but they pass the laws anyway in order to create a perception of deterrence. Or to fill the statue books with gotcha laws that can be exercised if and when they are really out to get somebody.

As a practical matter, nobody is going to be prosecuted for illegally handling a ballot on someone else’s friendly behalf, unless the someone else was available as a ready and willing witness for the prosecution.

As a practical matter, there are quite a number of laws I could break without getting caught. Does that mean that breaking those laws is okay to do?

I would say as long as the voter signs the ballot in the end (and therefore approves of who was chosen on it) there’s nothing unethical happening.

Suppose I don’t follow current events. I ask my friend “You’re a lot more informed about these things than I am. Who should I vote for? Smith or Jones?” and my friend tells me I should vote for Smith and I follow that suggestion, I don’t think anybody would object to that.

Now go a step further. I have an absentee ballot and I’m looking at a list of thirty or forty candidates running for over a dozen different offices. Rather than read each choice out loud, I just hand my ballot to my friend and say “Here, you fill it out with the people you think I should vote for and then I’ll sign it when you’re done.”

You probably do break some every day. Do you always check every label to see if it says “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with the labeling”, and then read every word of the label, and comply to the letter?

Do you have a pet? Are you sure you have never done anything that would technically quality as cruelty to the animals? How much leeway do you have when training or disciplining an animal?

How often do you check the air in your tires? Driving with improperly inflated tires constitutes operating a mechanically unsafe vehicle.

Do you report and pay your state’s sales tax on every purchase you make in another state?

Do I read and follow instructions, yes. As I use quite a number of animal products at my business, most of them do in fact have labels and warnings that you are not to use it improperly. The reason for this is because it has not been tested on people, or animals other than those it is specified for. This is not a stupid law, but one that prevents illness and injury from chemical or poison exposure. If you are asking me if I take MSDS very seriously, yes I do.

I have a few pets, I also have several hundred other people’s pets in my care every week. Ohio actually has virtually no laws about what constitutes animal cruelty, but I stay well within those laws. My personal code and business policies of animal treatment has a much higher standard.

Pretty often, I like getting good gas millage. Unsafe vehicle doesn’t mean that you only have 33 PSI when you are rated at 35. You could even be down in the 20’s and not be unsafe. If your tires are visibly distorted while you are driving because your pressure is in the teens or lower, then you are driving an unsafe vehicle, and should get that looked at before you harm yourself or others.

No, I do not. My CPA does. With some of my out of state vendors charging sales tax, and some of them not, it’s easier to let him take care of those details.

Now, I get your point. People break laws every day through ignorance, neglect, or laziness, and we could never prosecute them all. We probably shouldn’t prosecute them all. But they are not just there to be a gotcha, they actually serve a purpose in protecting the individual or others from harm. They are there as guidelines for behavior in society. Even if compliance cannot be enforced, most people like to follow laws, and will often pressure their peers into following laws. The fact that you can get away with breaking a law does not invalidate it.

There are much more serious laws, ones about assault, theft, and even murder that people get away with all the time too, are those laws invalid because only a minority of these crimes are punished?

There are laws against voting in someone else’s name without their permission too, is that just a gotcha law, or is there a reason for it? There are laws that you have to be a resident where you vote, is that just another gotcha?

The vast, vast majority of laws do nothing of the sort. They are counterproductive and harmful, simply some ex-lawmaker’s pet bugaboo, and should be repealed. But until then, zero enforcement is a good substitute.

Which laws are these, specifically? There are some laws that I don’t like, some I think are counterproductive (like most drug laws), but most laws are to prevent harm from befalling yourself or society.

I would agree with your statement if you said “a few,” “some”, or even “many”, but the “vast, vast, majority” implies that only a very few percent of laws do you feel are actually useful. Which laws are those? Can we at least keep murder illegal, please?

I take it that you feel that laws against voting in another’s place would be one of the laws that you disagree with.

Really? Really??? :frowning:

Really. :smack:

Do you agree with DrCube that at least 9 out of 10 laws is counterproductive and harmful?

If so, then it should be easy to point some out.

Maybe it would be easier if you said what few laws that you do agree with.