Updated: Apr 24, 2021
Mail-In Voting: A response to COVID-19, Progress, or Part of an Agenda?
This November we will have an election like no other. Of course, you could say that about most of the recent U.S. Presidential elections. What makes this election different than other elections? Besides the hatred that is directed towards the incumbent, the push towards Mail-In Voting and the political battle over it will make this topic more polarizing than the issue of Abortion this election season.
My purpose is to educate and provide some perspective on how we vote in the USA. I will begin with a history of Absentee balloting leading to where we are today, provide some different points of view on the subject, and then provide you with the reasons for my opinion on Mail-In voting.
When this country was founded in 1776, the founders designed the government to be ruled by those who are elected to serve. The Chief Executive would be the President elected through the Electoral College by electors who would cast their vote based on the results of the state’s popular election.
This idea to not have the President elected directly by a popular vote was meant to protect the rights of the minority by geography.
By requiring a certain number of electoral votes (now 270) to win the Presidential election, the founders ensured that the states could stay united no matter their differences.
There have been several changes in relation to voting. The most monumental and necessary changes were found in the 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments to the Constitution which guaranteed the right to vote to all citizens over 21. Another change in regard to voting came with the 17th Amendment. Prior to 1914, U.S. senators were elected by state legislatures in order to represent their state. Now Senators are elected by the popular vote of their state.
It was in 1845 that the Federal Government established the first Tuesday following the first Monday of November as an Election Day. Before that, there was a period of time for Early Voting to allow for the voter to find a time to vote. There has always been a need to balance between giving citizens the opportunity to vote and opening the door to voter fraud.
It is just wrong for the state, local, and federal governments to ignore disenfranchisement and fraud; neither should be tolerated.
“Early voting returned to elections through the military.”, says Michael P McDonald of the University of Florida. “During the Civil War, soldiers voted absentee by mailing ballots to family members for them to cast by proxy. Later, these practices were formalized through state laws during the early 1900s that allowed ballots to be mailed directly to election officials, and also gradually extended the same privileges to civilians. These laws required voters to have a state-approved excuse for voting an absentee ballot, such as travel or illness. Source
There are only a handful of states that still ask for the reason for voting by Absentee Ballot and very few states require a Notary or other witness’s acknowledgment of the voter for the ballot being mailed in. Until May 2020, Oklahoma was one of those states still requiring a Notary Public or other witnesses' signature attesting to the identity of the voter. In response to a case by the League of Women Voters brought before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the court invalidated the requirement of a Notary signature on the absentee ballot due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Did the court make the right decision? Oklahoma State Representative Mark Lepak (R-Claremore) doesn’t think so.
“Protecting the integrity of our voting process is just as important as our right to vote, and the people of Oklahoma said so when the passed SQ746 by a huge margin-- it went into effect in 2011. "
"That question requires that voters confirm they are who they say they are when they vote in person, via the presentation of their voter registration card, a photo ID, or a couple more alternative methods. So how do we do that on absentee ballots, especially with all the news in recent years about the hacking of election processes, but in the past, the outright fraud that existed for decades in Oklahoma? (An article from 1983 provides but one example.) The argument that we don’t have much vote fraud in Oklahoma doesn’t hold water, in my view, precisely because we have the notary requirement in place. And how much sense does it make that Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly decided that they want to confirm their identification when voting in person, but not when voting absentee?”
“Oklahoma has a great election system that has seen very low levels of fraud in recent years, because of things like voter identification, the notary requirement, no online voting, and paper ballots that can be retained until after all challenges to elections are exhausted. You can’t hack an election (remember all the allegations of foreign interference?) with 1) paper back-up to the point you get the wrong result, and 2) we have fairly good certainty that the ballots cast are by actual registered voters. And, back on the notary requirement for absentee ballots, I do not regard it as a significant barrier to voting anyway, COVID issues aside. Step back and consider: people have three days of early in-person voting prior to an election as well as the absentee process that opens up weeks ahead. Notaries are easily accessible in many places, for no fee—if you have a bank, you have access to a notary.” Source
Clearly, the way people vote is changing as seen in the chart above, but are the changes making the vote more democratic or more Democratic? Brazil makes voting compulsory for everyone between the ages of 18 and 70. Even Brazilians living outside of Brazil have to change their voting location to the local consulate or justify why they were unable to vote. Brazil has an 85% participation rate, but which is more valuable to the United States, having more participation in elections or having elections that are safe from fraud and outside interference? I think we need to have both.
𝗜 𝗮𝗺 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘃𝗼𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗧𝗼𝗼 𝗘𝗮𝘀𝘆 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗼𝗻𝘀::
★ 𝗧𝗼𝗼 𝗲𝗮𝘀𝘆 becomes a less meaningful personality contest, like texting your vote for an American Idol contestant.
★★ 𝗧𝗼𝗼 𝗲𝗮𝘀𝘆 can mean, “What’s in it for me?” instead of “Who is best to lead our country?”.
★★★𝗧𝗼𝗼 𝗲𝗮𝘀𝘆 can lead to foreign powers interfering and corrupting our elections by tampering with votes or fraud by domestic political operatives.
I created a poll on LinkedIn to capture my own data on people's views on Mail-In Voting, whether people would rather mail in their vote, vote in person or vote online. Here are the results of my poll:
While my poll isn't scientific, it does show that attitudes towards voting in person vs mailing in your vote are about equal in popular opinion. My poll does not ask about political views or party affiliations so I wonder if there are any correlations between voting preference and association with a particular point of view.
Mainstream media and both political parties have raised the issue of mail-in voting to a national news story. Even now the US Postal Service is in the news over its financial difficulties and how that will affect its important role in the election. This is an issue that can affect the future of elections in this country.
It may be time to reconsider how voting is done after 2020, but the integrity of the system is critical. Whatever new standards or platforms are created, the following must be maintained:
Only U.S. Citizens should vote in any vote held in the United States for political office.
Only living, pre-registered U.S. voters should be allowed to vote in elections.
Mailed in votes must be postmarked by Election Day just like Tax returns.
Purging of Voter Registrations as part of the Death Certificate process.
Any online voting must require two-step verification.
Vote counts should be transparent and without controversy.
Personally, I have been voting in person for years. I believe it is like giving blood to the country by doing my patriotic duty alongside others who feel differently politically. I happily stood in line with neighbors who were excited about voting for the first African-American President because they were as free as I was to vote as they pleased.
If you are a US Citizen and registered to vote, I encourage you to get out and vote. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that "There is no reason in-person voting shouldn't be safe with masks and proper distancing". There is no better place to stand together as Americans, than standing in line to vote.