What’s The Big Deal with Mail in Voting?

When I heard that Trump was rampaging again on Twitter, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Beginning April 8th of this year, Trump began a series of tweets claiming that mass mail-in voting was a bad idea [1]. Many of my close friends even commented on the matter saying that it was Trump attempting to gain more power. As I looked closer into the matter for myself, I realized that despite Trump’s unprofessional way of communicating them, there are many issues with mass mail-in voting.

         First, it’s important to clarify what mail-in voting is. For those who are first-time voters or have never voted, there are several options to participate in the national election. You can go in person, request an absentee ballot or vote by mail, considering the current situation with COVID-19. Specific voting options will vary from state to state. In 2016, nearly 24 percent of all votes were absentee ballots [2]. Absentee ballots are given when someone cannot attend voting on election day and instead, opt to vote early by mail.  

     If so many people have done voting by mail before, what’s the big deal? Well, to start, many argue that our mailing system simply couldn’t handle that many ballots in the mail [3]. To have every person who’d be voting to vote exclusively by mail; would be much more than the 24 percent we saw in 2016. Creating a system that could handle that large of an influx in mail would take serious time and money that we don’t have right now [3]. While some claim that the Postal Service could in fact handle such a large influx, one might look to Ohio, where they couldn’t even deliver all the ballots on time for the primaries [4]. The votes the Postal Service didn’t deliver on time couldn’t legally be counted [4]. If the Postal Service could not handle the volume of mail-in ballots for one state’s primaries, how can we trust them to handle the volume required for a national election?

         Worse, some states that are key players in the election, seem to have trouble counting votes and keeping it clean and fair. New Jersey has had issues with false votes created through mail-in voting in their municipal election [5]. Thankfully, it was caught, but who’s to say they won’t slip through the cracks next time? Can the government really provide the security necessary to avoid fraud through mail-in ballots if voting was done exclusively by mail? How much could possible voter fraud sway an election?

 There are also concerning logistical matters. Voting by mail could cause a delay in the results of the Presidential election which would create a nightmare for the federal government. New York state didn’t have their votes counted until six weeks after their primaries [6]. Of those absentee ballots, 28% of them were rejected in Brooklyn [6]. That’s a huge proportion of a population to dismiss. Up until 2012, both parties agreed that mail-in voting made our elections more susceptible to fraud [7]. 

         In the past year, we have seen the need and importance for minority voices to be heard more in our political process. Unfortunately, mail-in voting discriminates greatly against people of color, younger voters, and first-time voters [8]. During Georgia’s midterm election in 2018, a study was done that found 3% of the votes mailed in were not counted [8]. Of that 3 percent, most were minorities and first-time voters [8]. It was also discovered by a political scientist in Florida, that black voter absentee ballots were twice as likely to be rejected as a white man’s in Florida’s 2018 midterm election [9].

         In conclusion, if you can go vote in person this year, I would strongly encourage you to do so. Wear a mask and socially distance yourself from others. Show up early to avoid large crowds. Although it is true we haven’t seen a mass level of fraud in the past, having a national election by mail could create an opportunity for that to happen. It was agreed well before “mail-in voting” became a subject of debate between political parties, that mail-in votes are easier to exploit. Furthermore, minorities are disproportionately rejected in mail-in systems. Beyond that, to assume that the postal service can handle such a large influx of votes and deliver and count them on time, I remain skeptical. If voting by mail is the only option for you, get your vote in as early as possible to help reduce the volume of votes traveling by mail closer to the election. Triple check all instructions before filling out your ballot. At the end of the day, make sure that you vote. You deserve to count.

1)  https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/rigged-fraud-scam-cheat-trump-against-vote-by-mail-1044177/

2)  https://www.eac.gov/news/2017/06/29/newly-released-2016-election-administration-and-voting-survey-provides-snapshot

3) https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/todaysdebate/2020/06/15/election-2020-widespread-voting-mail-poses-risks-editorials-debates/3195947001/

4)  https://patch.com/us/across-america/can-postal-service-handle-national-mail-election


6)  https://www.wsj.com/articles/an-autopsy-of-new-yorks-mail-vote-mess-11596841128

7) https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/05/28/trumps-concern-about-mail-in-ballots-is-completely-legitimate/

8)  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/05/21/heres-problem-with-mail-in-ballots-they-might-not-be-counted/

9)  https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/white-person-black-person-vote-mail-same-state-whose-ballot-n1234126

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Jared Godfrey

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