With COVID-19 concerns still lingering, politicians on the left side of the aisle have made a strong push for voting by mail as a way to prevent large crowds from gathering at polling places. Those on the other side of the aisle say this method of voting is highly conducive to fraud.
President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress have been warning about the potential for all sorts of problems related to mail-in voting in this year’s election, which is not to be confused with absentee ballots.
It has been reported that at least 77 percent of eligible voters will have the option of casting a mail-in ballot this November. As of June 2020, five states—Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah—were planning to conduct elections almost entirely by mail.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill on Thursday, June 18, 2020, to require county officials to mail a ballot to every registered voter for the November election, cementing into law the Democratic governor’s earlier order to mail out ballots statewide in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Nevada passed a bill on Sunday, August 2, 2020, to mail ballots to all voters.
The rest of the states can be divided into two categories: those that allow any registered voter to apply for a mail-in ballot, and those that require a reason for not voting in person.
Registered voters in Illinois do not need an excuse to vote absentee. Last month, the state legislature passed a bill that would vastly expand mail-in voting by sending a ballot application to any voter who applied for an official ballot in the 2018 general election, the 2019 municipal elections, or the March 2020 primary.
Pennsylvania’s state government plans to use money from the federal emergency coronavirus aid bill to cover the cost of postage for mail-in voting, which could total several million dollars at 55 cents per ballot. Advocates of the plan claim it will make voting more accessible, safer, and easier during the coronavirus pandemic. Another obvious factor is that Pennsylvania politicians would like to increase voter turnout in their presidential battleground state.
What Trump tweeted on July 31, 2020 instantly ignited a firestorm of protest:
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
Trump campaign spokesperson Hogan Gidley later said in a statement, “The President is just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created with their insistence on all-mail-in voting.”
The National Constitution Center found that many states have the power to delay general election voting due to an emergency, though postponing a presidential election would be unprecedented.
NY Mail-In Chaos
Mail-in voting has resulted in chaos in New York.
As reported on July 31, 2020, a New York June 23 primary election has yet to be decided.
“Like everything else in the world, New York’s June 23 primary election was transformed by COVID-19,” Slate reports. “The scale of mail-in ballots was 17.5 times higher than in the last primary election, and the state’s institutions were not prepared for the deluge of ballots.
“When Jada Yuan of the Washington Post tried to figure out what happened, she found two major problems: the length of time it’s taking to count the votes, and the high number of votes that are getting thrown out,” Slate reports. “In the 12 th District, 19 to 28 percent of ballots were invalidated, according to the preliminary numbers. Compare that with 1.8 and 3 percent for Wisconsin and Georgia, respectively, which also held disastrous elections during the pandemic.”
In a mess that is still being cleaned up in the 12th District of New York, where incumbent Carolyn Maloney still doesn’t know if she won her race, the push for even more mail-in voting doesn’t portend well for the November general election.
This reaction to the coronavirus means 2020 marks the first presidential election in which mail-in voting could play a pivotal role. CBS News This Morning co-host Tony Dokoupil decided to conduct an experiment to test the integrity of mail-in voting.
The reporter set up a fake P.O. box to determine whether ballots were adequately counted. Instead of proving to be 100 percent accurate as was anticipated, the results were a disaster.
Dokoupil sent out 100 mock ballots in the Philadelphia area to simulate genuine mail-in votes, but without the expedited “Election Mail” insignia. After the post office box was set up, 100 more fake ballots were sent out.
After a week, 97 percent of the ballots Dokoupil mailed had been returned, CBS reported.
“Three simulated persons, or 3 percent of voters, were effectively disenfranchised by mail because of the one-week deadline. In a close election, 3% could be pivotal,” CBS stated.
Even four days after mailing the second round of fake ballots, 21 percent of the fake votes had failed to materialize. Almost half of the states allow voters to receive ballots less than half-a-week before the election.
Risks of Mail-In Voting
On August 3, Hans A. von Spakovsky of The Heritage Foundation had the following to say about mail-in voting, in an article for FOX News:
“Despite the coronavirus pandemic, experience shows that we can vote safely in-person as long as election officials implement the safety protocols recommended by health experts in polling places—the same protocols we are all using when we go to the grocery store or pharmacy. . . .
“Even during the coronavirus pandemic that has so disrupted our lives, it would be a mistake to go to an all-mail election. Concerns that Trump has raised about mail-in voting are based on documented problems we have seen with such voting.
“Mail-in ballots are the ballots most vulnerable to being altered, stolen, or forged.
“Mail-in ballots also have a higher rejection rate than votes cast in person.”
The Postal Service has proven that it is not equipped to handle this gargantuan task, Spakovsky notes.
“Then there is the problem of mail-in ballots being miscarried or not delivered by the U.S. Postal Service,” von Spakovsky writes. “States with recent primaries, including Wisconsin and Maryland, have reported voters not receiving their ballots or not getting them in time to be voted and returned.
“In addition, there have been problems with the Postal Service not postmarking ballots, making it impossible for election officials to determine whether the ballots were mailed in time to be counted. . . .
“In the 2016 election, almost 130 million Americans voted. Does anyone really think the Postal Service will be able to suddenly handle 260 million pieces of additional mail—that is, the ballots being mailed out by election officials, and then mailed back by voters?
“Just from a practical standpoint, that is asking for chaos and mass disenfranchisement.”
In addition to disenfranchising voters, the Postal Service’s inability to accommodate all-mail voting will leave election results in doubt, von Spakovsky notes:
“Inevitably, it will take longer to tabulate the results of the election if there is a massive amount of mail-in voting, particularly in close races for the presidency and down-ballot offices.”
Such a delay, von Spakovsky notes, could result in Congress deciding who “gets to act as president,” with Congress already having passed a law allowing the Speaker of the House to serve as president as long as the election results remain in doubt. That would amount to a national disenfranchisement.
Those most at risk of illness from the coronavirus should be allowed to vote by absentee ballot, but making elections all or nearly all mail-in would be a disaster, von Spakovsky says.
“Americans should insist on their right to vote in-person in their polling places in November, where they can be sure their ballots are safely received and counted,” von Spakovsky writes.