As the 2020 US Presidential Election nears, the legitimacy of universal mail-in voting is a hotly contested topic. Much of the debate surrounds whether or not there is a significant distinction between absentee ballots and universal mail-in ballots. The biggest difference? An absentee ballot must be requested by a registered voter. While many states do not require a reason for the request, some do require an explanation as to why the voter is unable to get to the polls. Either way, a registered voter has to request a ballot and have their identity authenticated before a ballot is sent.
However, in a universal vote-by-mail scenario, ballots are sent directly to every registered voter on a state’s inaccurate records. Everyone on that list, whether they have moved away, died, or lost their eligibility to vote receives a ballot. This is not an issue with the physical polling place, as ID is required. Issues with ballots being delivered to those who requested them, return ballots never being received, and ballot harvesting are sure to cause enough stir to throw any election results into question. Many top Democrats insist that issues are quite uncommon and are therefore not a big concern.
Yet every week more stories surrounding mail-in ballot fraud are popping up in the news cycle. Last week, three trays of mail were found in a ditch near Greenville, Wisconsin and it was reported that there were ballots found among this mail. On October 1st, Wisconsin’s director of Election Commissions, Meagan Wolfe, reported that no Wisconsin ballots were found, but she was also unsure about ballots from other states. No comment was given regarding the sudden about-face in the story. While headlines have been quick to quote her in that “that mail did not include any Wisconsin ballots,” the fact that she was unsure about ballots from other states is alarming. One would assume that any undelivered mail found in a ditch would be cause for concern, but coverage of the story has been terminated by many major news sources that are quick to dismiss flaws in both mail-in ballots and the U.S. Postal Service in general.
Any mistake in any point of the mailing process could lead to your vote being uncounted. Your ballot may not arrive on time. A ballot with incorrect information on it could be sent to you, making the ballot void and requiring you to obtain a new ballot. Your ballot could be lost on the return trip, or may be declared invalid. About one in five of the ballots sent in during the New York primaries in late June were thrown out, and the confusion resulted in a wait of over a month for the results to be announced. If a disaster on that scale can occur in a single city’s primaries, how can Americans possibly expect results until weeks after election day. Furthermore, how can the election results be trusted when they finally do come in.
Even if every single valid vote sent in was counted, there’s another reason that people may not see this election as a “fair” one. With millions of people now voting outside of the polling place that never had before, ballot harvesting becomes an increasingly large concern. Allegations of ballot harvesting were made in Minneapolis itself on September 29th in connection with a Minnesota Congresswoman. While no verdict has been reached, the Minneapolis Police Department is currently investigating these claims. By Minnesota law, any one person can collect three ballots, but with ballot boxes posted outdoors, it wouldn’t be difficult to circumvent the law.
The many issues brought up regarding the validity of vote-by-mail ballots seems like an issue that should be causing more concern among all voters, regardless of party affiliation.