By: Sarah Brill  | 

Mail-In Ballots: A Convenience, Not a Hindrance

The concept of voting by mail started during the American Civil War when soldiers would submit absentee ballots in order to vote in the election. There were many more voting restrictions in the 1800s, but nonetheless, the option became available during that time. Since then, voting by mail, with the most popular option being absentee ballots, have been widely used. But according to Constitution Accountability, “over the last few months, President Trump has gone on several tirades against the use of mail-in ballots, tweeting that mail-in ballots would lead to ‘substantial[] fraud[]’ and result in a “[r]igged [e]lection.” This misinformation led Twitter to flag the tweet and deem it as misleading content. In response to this, the BBC stated that the President has repeatedly suggested that voting by mail could lead to widespread voter fraud despite there being no evidence to back his claims. 

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization, has been studying voter fraud to advocate for the creation of more laws surrounding the election and voting. Their data in 2018 concluded that five states participated in vote-by-mail from the years 2000-2019 (dates varying based on state): Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Of those five states, there were 97 total reported incidents of mail-in fraud in four presidential election periods. The total number per year evens out to less than one case of voter fraud by-mail in these states. The study concluded, “What has been uncovered in these five vote-by-mail states is on the individual level and not on an organized level. For instance, Janice Waters of Marysville, Washington, was found guilty of voting a ballot for her son who was a convicted felon and thus not eligible to vote. Jane Kay Balogh, also from Washington, was convicted of registering her dog Duncan to vote at her address and filling out an absentee ballot for him.” 

Amber McReynolds, a former Colorado election official and now the CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, and Charles Stewart, director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, stated in an article for The Hill in April that over the past “20 years more than 250 million ballots have been cast by mail nationwide … 143 resulted in criminal convictions.” If these numbers were to be averaged, the fraud rate would be 0.00006%.

The reality is that voter fraud is nearly non-existent when it comes to mail-in-ballots so there is no reason why not to mail-in your ballot. 

But how secure is mailing-in-ballots anyway? According to Reuters, “Ballots aren’t counted if they aren’t printed on the proper type of paper and don’t include specific technical markings. States also require voters to sign the outside of their envelope, which they match to a signature on file. Some 29 states and the District of Columbia allow voters to track their ballots to ensure they are received, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Fourteen states and D.C. also allow voters to return their ballots by hand if they don’t trust the mail.” 

From a logistical standpoint, the physical act of creating a fake ballot is near impossible and detecting that ballot as a fake is almost a guarantee. Aside from that, the most prominent cases of voter fraud are not caused by the individual themselves, but rather by the campaigns. Reuters reported that, “The most prominent cases of mail fraud have involved campaigns, not voters. North Carolina invalidated the results of a 2018 congressional election after state officials found that a Republican campaign operative had orchestrated a ballot fraud scheme.”

The Republican party and the Trump administration are acting like mail-in ballots are a foreign concept. It should also be noted that all states allow some form of mail-in voting, although the specifics vary by state. Absentee ballots, for example, are widely used by college students attending school outside of the state they are registered to vote in. The president himself has used the voting by mail system. According to Snopes, “Trump has used the absentee voting system in at least three elections: Trump voted by mail during New York’s mayoral election in 2017, cast an absentee ballot during the state’s midterm election the following year, and again used a vote-by-mail ballot in Florida’s primary election in 2020.” In an MSNBC interview, a reporter asked Trump “You voted by mail in Florida's election last month, didn't you?” To which Trump replied “Sure. I can vote by mail.” When asked to reconcile with that, Trump responded “Because I am allowed to.” 

Additionally, in the 2018 midterm elections, when there was no active pandemic, nearly 25% of all votes were cast by mail. In fact, Miles Parks for NPR writes that the “GOP support [of voting by mail]  jumps to almost 70% in states where a sizable amount of the population already votes by mail. This seems to indicate that as voters become familiar with how mail voting works, they become more likely to support it. The opposition to mail voting is anchored by Republicans in states that don't offer wide access to mail voting already.”

The reality is that the majority of states, whether run by a Democrat or Republican governor, have the opportunity as of June 4, 2020, to vote by mail. 46 states offer mail-in ballots and out of those, 22 are run by Republican governors. 

If either of the presidential candidates are worried that mail-in-ballots will affect turnout, there is no cause for concern. States like Colorado and Oregon, who have already implemented mail-in-ballots, experience a higher percentage of voter turnout when compared to states who hadn’t had the opportunity to implement a mail-in ballot system. 

Voting by mail is a necessity during these times. Without it, the elderly population and the immunocompromised would be incapable of voting during this election. Additionally, with the lack of polling stations, and wait times at open stations being longer than usual, people who have been forced to work virtually will have no time to stand in line all day to cast their votes. It is only reasonable that they too should have their voices heard in this election by voting by mail. Voting by mail will not contribute to the winning or losing of any particular party. It is just a vote cast in the mail. There is no favor, no fraud, only the vote that ends up being counted. 

Sarah Brill is the co-president of the YU College Democrats.

Photo Caption: A voter mails in a ballot
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