Absentee ballots should have a numbered stub which must match the number on the outer envelope used to return the ballot. This stub is removed when the ballot is entered into the tabulator. Without retention, when the ballot is processed the link between the ballot and the envelope is broken.
During the 2020 election, many voters complained of arriving on Election Day to vote, who were informed that they had already voted by absentee ballot, despite not voting.
There must be a uniform, standardized procedure to properly link ballots to voters in order to provide complete election information for audits. Absentee envelopes & ballots must be able to be paired together after tabulation to permit improperly counted or fraudulent votes to be excised from the vote totals. Election officials should be required to keep the pairing system in confidence to preserve the ability to cast a secret ballot.
Utilizing Data Anonymization techniques can to preserve the secrecy of a voter’s identity during routine ballot handling particularly when ballots are processed in large batches.
Typically after tabulation, each batch is bound and stored. Once ballots leave the process area, there should be two envelopes; (1) for ballots with tabs removed, (1) envelope with the corresponding removed tabs. Both envelopes should be transported together and be stored together after tabulation. Sequencing is not advised, to maintain secrecy of the voter’s ballot, however all tabs in the envelope and be proved to the corresponding ballot, as processed together.