Mail-In Ballots May Arrive Late, Americans Abroad Fear

State election officials, as well as legal and technology experts and some nonprofit groups that promote voting, argued that the electronic transmission of ballots raised security and privacy concerns, and that changing the rules so close to the election would place an undue burden on election officials and confuse voters. Earlier this year, several federal agencies issued guidance classifying electronic ballot return as high risk.

J. Remy Green, one of the lawyers who brought the case, said electronic voting via the internet or apps should not be conflated with the electronic transmission of ballots, which is more troublesome to hack since it involves individual email accounts and fax transmissions, and that the security risk was outweighed by the benefit to voters overseas. The Defense Department even provides a free email-to-fax service for returning overseas ballots.

George Sorrells, an information technology professional living outside Zurich, and his wife, Julie Sorrells, tracked their ballots to Wisconsin, only to discover that his had arrived but hers had not. When Mr. Sorrells investigated, he realized he had forgotten to sign his wife’s ballot as a witness and she would have to mail a new one from Switzerland.

With the election approaching, they sent the second ballot by FedEx. Mr. Sorrells, who spent almost $80 in total returning their ballots, said it was worth it to ensure they arrived. But he said in some ways he would have felt more secure if there were an email option.

“I paid all that extra money to track the stupid thing,” he said, “and then I still wound up for almost two weeks thinking, ‘OK, did this thing actually make it there or not?’”

Dana Rawls, a Georgia voter who works in communications in Adelaide, Australia, said she had voted from the country without issue since 2006, “but this year has been an absolute nightmare.”

After Georgia’s primary election in June, Ms. Rawls was dismayed to learn that the local election office never received her completed ballot. She was determined her vote would be counted in November.

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