Alan Zendell, September 23, 2020
To date, the best example of mail-in ballot fraud the Trump campaign has come up with was nine ballots allegedly found in a waste basket in Pennsylvania in 2016. That’s nine out of more than six million. There are two ways to look at that. One is that those ballots represent less than 0.0015% of the total, and while there is always a vanishingly small chance that the margin of victory could be that small in one state, it has never come close to happening. Even in the contested 2000 election in Florida, which was decided by the Supreme Court, George W. Bush’s margin of victory over Al Gore in that state was more than 500 votes.
A more pragmatic way to look at it is that it is impossible to reduce the number of invalid ballots to zero. Everyone involved in statistics or quality control understands that targeting a zero error rate is the surest way to bring productvity to a permanent halt. The argument that mail-in ballots will make it impossible to have a fair election is entirely specious, one of a large number of attempts to create chaos and undermine voter confidence. It’s the sort of thing we’d expect a hostile foreign power that wanted to weaken our country by sowing dissension to do. The only reason an American president would resort to such a tactic is that he prioritizes his own power and ambition above the security of the nation.
States have used mail-in ballots to some degree ever since we’ve had elections. It’s regularly done in Donald Trump’s business world as well, where people even allow others to cast their votes for them by proxy. Is voting by mail safe and reliable? Let’s look at some facts.
Last Spring, when COVID-19 concerns forced most states to examine how to conduct elections safely, Federal Elections Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said, “There’s simply no basis for the conspiracy theory that voting by mail causes fraud. None.” She further noted that the percentage of Republicans and Democrats who prefer to vote by mail are almost exactly the same.
Since 2010, California has processed more than 33 million mail-in ballots with no evidence of voter fraud or difficulty in counting votes. Seven states have been mailing ballots to every registered voter for years with no significant reported problems. And yesterday, former Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich said that in all the years his state has used mail-in voting there were no negative outcomes.
Our intelligence services have warned us since 2016 that potentially hostile nations are attempting to manipulate American elections using the internet, through social media and overt attempts to hack state election systems. Russia, China, Iran, Ukraine, and North Korea have frequently been cited for such actions, and those efforts have been intensified in 2020. Banks and major retailers have had their databases hacked repeatedly, because no computer system can be made 100% percent secure.
But mail-in voting does not depend on the internet. Once voters have paper ballots in hand they cannot be hacked by external bad actors. From that point of view, mail-in voting is as secure as voting in person. The only identified impediment to mail-in ballots has been the president’s own public statements that he has deliberately degraded the postal service’s ability to deliver ballots on time.
More Americans are likely to cast votes for president in November than at any time in our history. Allegations and hyperbole about mail-in voting are entirely without substance, designed solely to undermine confidence in the election. There is no reason to be concerned that your vote won’t be counted if you don’t vote in person. If you choose to vote by mail you need only do two things to assure that your vote matters.
First, request or download your ballot, depending on the rules in your state, at the earliest date your state allows. My state, Maryland, has already notified every registered voter who requested a ballot that it is available to be downloaded, and it can be returned as early as next week. My wife and I have already printed and marked ours.
Second, and most important, if possible, bring your completed ballot to a secure drop box at a location designated by your local board of elections. Most states are placing them at locations that are easily accessible to the great majority of voters. Depositing your ballot directly in a secure drop box bypasses the postal service and any possible delays. The earlier you vote, the easier it will be for your state to know the result of the election on November 3rd. If you follow those steps, no one can keep you from voting, no one can steal your vote, and it can’t be hacked.