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Monday, April 20, 2020

Do Mail-In Votes Add Up?

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The results might not be what you think

We’re going to begin hearing a lot more about how conducting our elections by U.S. mail is a necessity now. Take U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, for example. She says, “The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the obstacles many already face when voting,” and the American people “deserve a comprehensive solution to ensure that voting is safe and accessible.”

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar echoed that refrain, saying, “Americans shouldn’t have to choose between their health and casting a ballot.” And just last week, Gov. John Bel Edwards parroted, “Nobody should have to choose between exercising their right to vote and potentially endangering themselves or others.”

This seems to be a familiar theme (or talking point) now. Joining in the fray is also former first lady Michelle Obama who, along with the organization she co-chairs, When We All Vote, says, “Americans should never have to choose between making their voices heard and keeping themselves and their families safe.”

But five states already conduct their elections entirely by mail: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington. And in three other states – California, Nebraska and North Dakota – the counties have the option of conducting their elections entirely by mail.

Most states – 28 in all, plus Washington, D.C. – allow voters to request and submit absentee ballots without explaining their reasoning, whatsoever. You can get an absentee ballot “just because” in those states.

But 18 states require excuses (so to speak), such as disability, religious observance, being required to work during polling hours, or being out of town before a voter can qualify to receive an absentee ballot.

So, you see, it’s really those 18 states that require excuses for getting an absentee ballot that are being targeted with legislation in Congress to ensure “no excuse” mail-in absentee voting, and at least 20 days of early voting in EVERY state.

President Trump says such legislation is dangerous because, as he puts it, “people cheat,” and the mail-in ballots are “fraudulent in many cases.” And he’s absolutely right.

Just this year, Washington State election officials threw out almost 50,000 votes due to irregularities in the mail-in ballots that were filled out. In the 2016 general election, nearly 40,000 mail-in ballots were also rejected due to irregularities. In fact, Washington State has one of the highest number of uncounted ballots in the country.

And last year, as you may recall, in North Carolina, there was an illegal absenteeballot scheme in a congressional race involving ballot harvesting, tampering with absentee ballots, and a leak of early voting results. There was simply no way to know who actually won that race, so the entire election, including the primary, had to be re-done.

While there are lots of examples of voter fraud or ballot irregularities, what many folks won’t tell you is that millions of Americans will never actually receive a ballot that is mailed to them – and that is according to a study conducted by MIT.

Either it gets lost in the mail or people don’t get them in time to return them. In more urban areas, and especially among students, you have many young people who move apartments or dorm rooms frequently, and also may never see a ballot that is mailed to them.

It’s estimated that 22% of mail-in votes go astray and never get counted. So, if the current legislation in Congress passes, for example, and mail-in voting reaches 80% across the country, then 25 million ballots will be lost – overwhelmingly those of young and minority voters – and overwhelmingly Democrat, by the way.

And that’s not to mention the vote tampering (so to speak) by spouses who can persuade the other to sign their ballot and hand it over to them to vote fraudulently, or a voter who will sell their absentee ballot for a beer, or to the highest bidder.

With all this talk of mail-in ballots, there’s an advertising campaign being rolled out this year, targeting members of Congress, and its slogan is, “It should be easy to vote, hard to cheat.”

The bottom line is that the perception of voter fraud drives honest citizens out of the democratic process and sows seeds of distrust in our government. When citizens believe their legitimate votes will be outweighed by fraudulent ones, we all become disenfranchised.

And until proponents of mail-in ballots can make it “hard to cheat,” does making it easier to vote really matter?

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in 318 Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.

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