The problems with mail-in voting: Not just fraud

Changing over to mail-in voting fewer than 90 days before a highly charged election is not just logistically impossible. It's reckless.


If you wanted to undermine faith in America's electoral system, you couldn't do better than rush to national mail-in voting.

One in four Americans is worried their ballot won't be accurately counted this year, and four in 10 worry mail-in voting could yield less reliable results, according to a new Axios-SurveyMonkey poll.

Cynicism could be the deadliest fallout from mail-in voting.

Remember, the goal of previous foreign election interference campaigns was not simply to favor one candidate over the other – it was to sow chaos and cast doubt on the electoral system itself.

By insisting on mail-in voting, Democrats are doing more to achieve that goal than the $46,000 the Russians spent on Facebook ads in 2016.

The concerns 40% of Americans have about using the mail box as a ballot box are not misplaced, though many of their ballots will be.

Don't take my word for it. Charles Stewart III, director of MIT's Election Data and Science Lab, told the Cook Political Report, "Voting by mail is twice as involved administratively than voting in person."

Wait, there's more: "If problems arise in mail voting, it's twice as hard to correct them than it is in person. And first-time voters are more likely to have their ballots rejected," Stewart said.

He estimates 1.4 million mail-in ballots in the 2016 election – 4% of all mail-in ballots cast – went uncounted. It's even worse in this cycle's primaries. Understaffed election offices have a hard time handling the increased demand, and voters inexperienced with mail-in ballots have a hard time casting them properly.

Democrats propose solving the problem of rejected ballots by eliminating signature verification and postmark requirements. That's akin to solving the crime problem by making crime legal. Signatures and postmarks are necessary for determining that duly registered voters cast their ballots before polls close – in other words, for ensuring the integrity of the election.

Yes, several states have successfully gone to universal mail-in voting, but it took them years to prepare and perfect the system. We are now 80 days away from Election Day; early voting begins far sooner in many states. Local election boards have already trained poll workers.

Changing over to mail-in voting fewer than 90 days before a highly charged election is not just logistically impossible. It's reckless.

Consider the not unlikely scenario where millions of mail-in ballots in battleground states remain uncounted when polls close on Nov. 3. That means we could not have results of the presidential race for days or weeks. Remember Bush vs. Gore Florida in 2000?

Imagine both candidates declaring victory. Lawyers on both sides challenge mail-in ballots in battleground states amid reports, some true some not, of batches of new ballots appearing in sundry locations as if from nowhere. Mirroring the chaos in the courts, armed gangs demanding President Trump concede wreak havoc in the streets.

Far-fetched? Not really. Expect store owners in Chicago and elsewhere to board up their windows in anticipation of Election Day. That's how far we have come.

Leaders have called on Americans to sacrifice their personal well-being, even their lives, to defend our way of life throughout our nation's history. For years, NeverTrumpers have been insisting Donald Trump is a fascist and an existential threat to democracy. But it's too much for them to ask the millions who braved the China virus to march for George Floyd to now march to the polls to stop a man we are to believe is worse than Hitler.

Everyone agrees no American should have to choose between voting and living (though others have risked their lives to defend the right to vote). We can have a serious discussion about how to ensure everyone can safely vote and have their vote counted. But assuming a priori that universal mail-in voting is the only way to do that – and denigrating anyone who disagrees – is not a good-faith discussion.

The pandemic has taken away church, school, jobs and visible smiles. Should mail-in voting become part of the "new normal," you can add faith in our election system – America's secular religion – to the casualty list.

Copyright © 2020 Curtis Ellis, All rights reserved.