Many states have statutory requirements detailing what election officials must include in the mailings that go out to voters who have requested absentee/mail ballots or who will receive mail ballots automatically. Seventeen states and the Virgin Islands require that absentee voters be provided with a secrecy sleeve. A secrecy sleeve—sometimes known as a privacy sleeve, inner envelope or identification envelope—is a paper document intended to protect voters’ privacy by separating their identity and signature from their ballot. After completing an absentee/mail ballot, a voter places it inside the secrecy sleeve, which then goes inside the return envelope.
Other states or jurisdictions may choose to use secrecy sleeves. In Maryland, for example, local election boards can choose whether to include them (MD Code, Election Law, § 9-310), and Colorado’s ballot mailings include an instruction sheet that can double as a secrecy sleeve if the voter so chooses.
The additional paper can increase the cost of ballot mailings, however. And secrecy sleeves may be unnecessary if the election jurisdiction has a different process to ensure a voter’s privacy when ballots are opened.
The states in the table below are those that require providing a secrecy sleeve to absentee voters.