Every citizen who meets statutory qualifications has the right to vote, and to have their ballot counted. Just as importantly, each voter has the right to not have their vote canceled by an illegitimate ballot, and all citizens have the right to expect that elections are decided only by legitimate voters and votes.
There’s great insistence on one side of the political divide for “voting by mail” in the upcoming presidential election, which will include voting for thousands of state and local officials as well. Election conduct is the responsibility of the states, and here in Maine, the secretary of state (chosen by the legislature) is responsible for enforcing state election law and delegates responsibility for election conduct to individual municipalities.
Each of these typically employs a town clerk to oversee the election, and they often serve as registrar of voters as well. This includes voter registration, maintenance of voting rolls, and implementation of the actual voting process, including managing polling locations and absentee voting.
Our election conduct overall suffers from a number of systemic vulnerabilities, even without considering the proposed “vote by mail” methodology.
Voter registration and voter roll maintenance are notoriously inaccurate, out of date and susceptible to compromise.
- No uniform process for state or national level reconciliation of municipal voter rolls.
- Students/party members/other non-officials permitted to conduct registration drives and submit unverified registration cards for voter roll inclusion.
- Deaths, moves, and other vital information changes are not systematically incorporated in rolls.
- Not all those qualified to vote register, and many who are registered do not know where they are registered.
- College students come and go, register locally, but are not systematically removed upon departure. They can easily be double registered in their place of permanent residence.
- Cognizant officials tend towards gracious lenience in applying registration law.
Election conduct at the local level is similarly susceptible to compromise.
- Local poll workers are volunteers and usually kindly, welcoming seniors who are, at the very least, lenient in enforcing legal protocols. They believe it is wrong to limit who can vote. They see their involvement largely as a social event renewing old acquaintances and welcoming new ones.
- No formal picture ID is required to vote.
- Election Day voting at official polls does allow, however, for enforcement of two typical provisions of election law: preventing electioneering at polling locations and allowing voter challenges by approved members of the public. Voting by mail would preclude both of these vital safeguards of election integrity.
Traditional absentee/early voting is reasonably well controlled.
- There’s a formal process for early voting. In my town, voting is conducted in Town Clerk’s Office; an official verifies registration and identity before handing over a ballot, which must be submitted at the same office visit.
- Requesting an absentee ballot requires formal mail-in or online application, or speaking in person with town personnel who verify identity and registration status. Ballot must be return mailed by an established deadline prior to Election Day.
I can imagine supporters of vote by mail saying that, if there are all these complications associated with voting on state and local offices, and even for members of Congress at the federal level, than the vote by mail should be for president only. What good would that do? If voters still have to follow the long established procedures for every other office up for a vote, why can’t they do the same for the presidential election? Just how badly do they want to burden local election officials? Why would we want two separate and distinct methodologies for the voting itself and the subsequent counting process?
Ballot chain of custody is vital to election integrity.
Two other material issues argue against voting by mail. First is the sanctity of “chain of custody” that must be preserved if elections are to accurately reflect the will of the people. There are enough challenges in the existing system. If instead universal voting by mail is used, guaranteeing “chain of custody” for ballots will be impossible, and dangerously so. Ballot mailers will be assembled and then turned over to the USPS, where all the unknowns of the postal delivery system will come into play. Lost mailers, misdelivered mailers, stolen mailers, fraudulently created and delivered mailers, unknown credentials of voters of returned ballots, and more similar pitfalls than you can possibly imagine. In other words, chaos.
Have you ever seen the nightmare of mailboxes in rural free delivery areas, and on the other hand, in compact urban areas? There is no dependable, consistent way of ensuring anything even remotely close to a trustworthy chain of custody.
Secret ballots are fundamental to election conduct in our democracy.
One more thing. One side of the political spectrum likes to claim that all claims of election fraud are bogus. Their proof is that there are only a minuscule amount of ballot fraud charges that have actually been proven in court.
There’s a simple reason for this. Fundamental to the American system of elections is the concept of secret ballots. The ballot you receive does not include any provision for you to indicate your name and address, and intentionally so. So once the ballot(s) are turned in, whether in person at the polls, by early voting, absentee voting or in the proposed “vote by mail” methodology, the ballots have no identity of record. If clear evidence of major failures of ballot distribution, voting, and submission were uncovered, there would be no way to correct the initial vote tallies to mitigate the fraud. The deed would be done, and that would be the end of it.
All this, and we haven’t even discussed the handling of ballots for those who are out of town when ballots arrive and/or are due to be returned, whether for a short or extended period. They could be on extended travel, education overseas, military service; undergoing long-term health care or numerous other reasons. Normally, we would expect such individuals to mind their own best interests and apply for an absentee ballot using established procedures.
But under universal voting by mail, ballots would be prepared and eventually mailed out to every registered party at their address of record. This alone opens up major opportunities for fraud, errors in the chain of custody whether intentional or not, and who knows how many other modes of ballot and election compromise.
Murphy’s Laws of Election Conduct apply most fully to “voting by mail.” If there’s a 50% chance that something will go wrong, nine out of 10 times it will. If there are vulnerabilities in the system that can be taken advantage of by mischievous behavior, those intent on rigging the election will do just that. Nothing mobilizes armies of lawyers more than the lust for political power.
The opportunities, possibilities and modalities for election mischief, racketeering and downright criminal conspiracy are unimaginable and limitless. Deciding that we will sign up for this as the new “fair, just and socially correct” way of conducting elections will be tantamount to destroying whatever election integrity we once had and trusted.
Those who demand universal “voting by mail” want widespread misconduct and their own lawyers to determine election outcomes instead of legitimate voters. If the left insists on universal voting by mail, electoral dysfunction is surely what they’ll reap, with consequent tragic circumstances for our democratic process.