Last week, we wrote about the reality of mail-in ballots and voting fraud. This week, because we believe that democracy and a transparent electoral system is important, we are revisiting the subject by examining further claims and effects of increased voter turnout and voting fraud.
On April 8, President Trump tweeted “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”
To give the tweet proper context, this was the day after the Wisconsin Primary Elections, which the Wisconsin Governor attempted to postpone due to COVID-19 concerns, but was blocked by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the state’s legislature, both held by a Republican majority. The national conversation began to shift toward mail-in ballots, a safer alternative during the current pandemic.
Trump’s tweets highlight two important factors in the discussion surrounding mail-in ballots and voter turnout: 1) The claim of “tremendous potential for voting fraud” and 2) the anticipation of an outcome that “doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”
As we wrote last week, instances of voter fraud in the United States are extremely limited. In virtually all significant claims of voting fraud, the discrepancy is resolved by addressing issues in voter registration data. For example, in the 2000 election, it was alleged that over 5,000 fraudulent votes had been cast in Georgia over the previous 20 years by voters who were deceased. A follow-up report clarified that there was only a single verified instance of a vote being cast by someone who was deceased: Alan J. Mandel. The vote had actually been cast by a qualified and registered voter named Alan J. Mandell (two l’s), and the wrong name had been mistakenly marked off at the polling location.
Several other instances of supposed voter fraud have occurred in the U.S. only to later be resolved by examining voting records and discovering typos, different middle initials, and other simple, innocent mistakes. In a report by the Brennon Center for Justice, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” the authors point out that an individual is more likely to be struck by lightning than they are to enter a ballot box and cast a vote as someone other than themselves.
As we wrote last week, a database maintained by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, contains less than 1,300 instances of proven voter fraud across the entire country. Nevertheless, the threat of voting fraud drives a significant push in legislation year after year, despite having almost no benefit and risking the disenfranchisement of legitimate voters.
It is perhaps this disenfranchisement that offers a perceived benefit to Republican lawmakers who use voter fraud as justification for stricter enforcement of voter requirements at the polls, and the basis of Trump’s second claim — that mail-in voting hurts Republican candidates.
Despite common misconceptions, there has been no measurable edge granted to any political party via mail-in ballots. In states that have transitioned to all-mail voting systems, there has been little evidence of any partisan advantage, and in some cases, such as Nebraska, rural areas that favor Republican candidates are allowed to vote by mail, while urban areas that tend to skew Democratic require in-person voting.
The resistance to a mail-in ballot system seems to be founded on myths perpetuated on the right — but considering a lack of evidence that the GOP would be at any disadvantage under such a system, it’s hard to even speculate to what end these claims serve.
In any scenario, we believe it is every citizen’s right to cast their vote in the safest and most convenient way possible and believe this is achievable in West Virginia. It’s time to allow mail-in ballots, not only during times of crisis like the pandemic we find ourselves in now but for any future election.