Congress Blog

Any mail-in voting efforts must be fair to both sides

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to support both greater ballot access and election integrity. Stopping voter fraud and making sure every qualified voter who wants to vote is able to vote is not an either-or proposal.

The key to sending $1.6 billion to the states to enable them to administer elections should hinge on moving these issues from a hyper partisan fight to settling on sound policy that allows for both easier mail-in voting and protecting the health of voters who want to vote in-person. It needs to be built on a couple of foundational pillars.

First, almost all Americans strongly agree on at least some common ground. A very small percentage of Americans would support bringing back a poll tax so that only those who owned property could vote to enable the government to protect their property from others. A very small percentage of Americans would believe it was a good idea during the presidential election of 2000 to leave ballots unattended out on a table all day at a polling place in Wisconsin enabling anyone who wandered by to fill out and drop in one or more ballots. If you support the poll tax, or unattended ballots determining our next president then stop reading, you are not the target audience.

Second, while conservatives need to acknowledge some legitimate concerns about barriers to voting, advocates of more options for voting at home need to stop condescendingly lecturing everyone with, "that's stupid, there is no evidence for voting fraud." They also shouldn't say that the vote at home option in light of coronavirus doesn't need the voter ID requirements that are used in virtually every other democracy in the world and supported by two-thirds of Americans.

The first point was easy, but the second one requires more focus.

First, the quickest way for a liberal mail-in vote advocate to hit a wall with two-thirds of Americans, who all support a voter ID being required to vote, is to claim that "studies prove there is virtually no evidence that voter fraud occurs." This argument doesn't fly because:

University studies cannot be trusted because of their overwhelming liberal bias. In fact, 92 percent of professors who register to vote by party register as a Democrat, and only 8 percent as a Republican according to this data.

When one university study indicated hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants voted in a presidential race, the professor was attacked by other liberal professors who have not collected any data of their own.

When a citizen group like dares to form a 501c3 they are immediately attacked as racist for even asking the question about illegal voting. Subsequently, the IRS under Lois Lerner spent years preventing them from even being recognized.

When Project Veritas filmed poll workers in New Hampshire urging a non-resident to vote illegally on hidden camera, the video wasn't even considered to be an example of investigative journalism. Instead, the video was attacked by lazy journalists on cable news who now simply interview each other all day on TV without gathering information.

When Republican vote observers showed up in Philadelphia for a presidential election to take the normal steps of making sure the machines started at 0 votes, a judge issued a last-minute order refusing to allow them entry. It's kind of hard to find voter fraud when you are not allowed to see any evidence.

We need a plan to ensure the ability of voters to cast votes hinges on an acknowledgment of the balance between enabling access and stopping fraud.

Hopefully COVID-19 will not prove as much of a challenge in the fall, but in case it does we want to be prepared to make it both safer to vote in-person and enable people to vote from home. That might entail funding to provide masks, or National Guard support to wipe down machines and take the place of poll workers.

A separate debate can be had on the liberal wish list of things like same day voter registration, eliminating voter ID laws and removing other options so that people can only vote from home. They've also put forth the option of mailing ballots to the entire registry of even those on the voter list who are suspect because they have not voted in years or no longer live at an old address which would provide a ballot to anyone who wanted to mail it in.

Each state can prepare for a temporary vote at home procedure to be enacted if coronavirus, a natural disaster, or other unforeseen obstacles threaten to keep millions of voters home and unable to participate in our Democracy.

To avoid past fraudulent efforts to harvest ballots by someone going door-to-door or collecting a batch at a nursing home, the states can provide a number of security measures such as perhaps the option of submitting a photo online or in the mail. If they do not have access to a copier or smartphone, then they could submit a signature that matches records and attest they were able to vote by sealing their ballot without being observed. When a political operative collects and then turns in hundreds or even thousands of ballots at once, it is legitimate to be concerned the voter was being watched or coached with the operative in the room when they voted.

A proposal along these lines removes the potential partisan objections from those who legitimately worry about voter fraud, thus removing the cover for anyone trying to stop voting from home because their true ulterior motive is to discourage certain segments of the population from voting.

Proof that this can work for both sides was seen in the recent Wisconsin primary. Waukesha, the most Republican County in Wisconsin, boasted the highest percentage of mail-in votes despite a heated mayor's race while the Biden-Sanders primary took place next door in Democratic Milwaukee, which will host the DNC Convention.

Finally, the partisan concerns of President Trump and other Republicans regarding the home voting push are valid only if it becomes a tool to enact an entire wish list or the measure contains insufficient steps taken for voter integrity.

John Pudner is Executive Director of Take Back Our Republic.