Location: US, your choice of state if it matters (as this is a hypothetical situation, answers under any state/federal law are acceptable)

The hypothetical situation: a family member has legally obtained an absentee ballot for an upcoming presidential election, filled the form, and sealed the envelope. The relative asks you if you can send it in the mail, to which you agree. On the way to the Post Office, you then realize you know how the relative voted, don't agree with it, and decide to "lose" the ballot.

What law(s) have you broken?

P.S.: Just to be abundantly clear, this comes from a joke/meme on Facebook. No one should actually do this.

  • The state definitely matters, since practically all relevant US election law is set at the state level. Oct 28, 2020 at 22:58
  • @NateEldredge Thank you for the clarification but that’s totally fine—as this is entirely hypothetical, I’m happy for answers to be wherever people have the most relevant experience. Oct 29, 2020 at 6:29
  • In Oregon it doesn't have to be an absentee ballot; voting by mail is the only method in Oregon, and has been since long before COVID.
    – Someone
    Oct 18, 2022 at 4:04

1 Answer 1


The details would depend on the state in which these hypothetical people live. Each state has election laws covering the handling of ballots. For example in Maryland Section 9-307 - Use of an agent in absentee ballot process provides that:

(a) A qualified applicant may designate a duly authorized agent to pick up and deliver an absentee ballot under this subtitle. (b) Qualifications of agent.- An agent of the voter under this section:
... (3) shall be designated in a writing signed by the voter under penalty of perjury; and

(4) shall execute an affidavit under penalty of perjury that the ballot was:

(i) delivered to the voter who submitted the application;

(ii) marked and placed in an envelope by the voter, or with assistance as allowed by regulation, in the agent's presence;

(iii) returned to the local board by the agent.

A person asked to deliver a ballot would be such an "agent". An agent who failed to make the required affidavit would be in violation of section 9-307. One who made the affidavit and saying that the ballot was properly delivered but did so falsely would be guilty of perjury. Similar laws exist in all US states, as I understand things.

In addition this may be mail theft under 18 U.S. Code § 1708 or under another provision or under USPS regulation, I am not sure.

  • 1
    Are you certain? Under my hypothetical example, the voter has made no written designation per 9-307(b)(3). Does this informal agreement definitely create an “agent”? Oct 29, 2020 at 6:27
  • I think the voter is not supposded to use such an informakl agreement, @GrandOpener but I doubt if anyone would prosecute a well-intentioned voter who did. Or even an informal agent who did as s/he was asked. am informal agent who ditched a ballot -- who knows? No such case has been reported that I know of. Oct 29, 2020 at 14:42

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