Vote-by-mail would create chaos and distrust in November
Mandated mail-in voting and other extreme changes to the 2020 election in response to the COVID-19 pandemic could further undermine public confidence in the American electoral system.
Many states, most notably California, are pushing mass mail-in balloting. This move is driven by inflammatory rhetoric from largely left-leaning politicians and activists suggesting that voting in person is so dangerous that people will die from exercising the franchise. This irresponsible rhetoric is likely to be gravely suppressive of the right to vote, as it could scare many citizens from voting in person.
Mail-in voting is a proven and significant threat to election integrity. In 2005, the bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission noted that mail-in ballots “remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.” The commission highlighted the risks of blank ballots mailed to wrong addresses, as well as voter intimidation outside controlled polling places and vote-buying schemes.
One of the main reasons the Carter-Baker Commission identified absentee ballot fraud as “the largest source of potential voter fraud” is simple: It poses fewer risks for a person filling out and mailing a fraudulent ballot. By contrast, a person attempting “impersonation” fraud at a polling site must at least appear to cast the vote and, in consequence, may be found out and detained.
Mass mailing ballots to voters depends on voter registration rolls that are notoriously error-ridden. A Pew Research Center report issued during the Obama administration years noted that “24 million — one of every eight — active voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate,” and more than “1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as active voters.” Judicial Watch has found voter list maintenance issues in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado and California, numbering into the millions of voters.
In Los Angeles County, which Judicial Watch sued in 2017 for noncompliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), registrations have not been scrubbed for more than 20 years. There are 1.5 million inactive voters in the nation’s largest county, almost one fourth of all county registrations. Stated differently, Los Angeles County has more inactive voters than Kansas has actual voters. California also has a ballot harvesting law that will necessarily lead to more fraud and voter intimidation, as activists roam neighborhoods chasing the millions of ballots put into the mails by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the state.
Under a court settlement with Judicial Watch, Los Angeles County agreed to begin to clean up its rolls — but the inactive names are still on voting lists. Incredibly, under the terms of Gov. Newsom’s initial vote-by-mail executive order, ballots would be sent to these inactive voters. These unsecured live ballots — unmonitored by their original owners, who have moved or died — constitute a significant threat to the integrity of California’s elections and to the 2020 presidential race. After I identified this issue in testimony before Congress, Gov. Newsom issued a subsequent order that inactive voters would not be sent ballots. Nevertheless, other states have similar ballot integrity problems. In 2019, we found one in seven counties in the United States have more registered voters than citizens over the age of 18.
Americans have been losing faith in the integrity of our electoral system for years. A recent Gallup poll found that 59 percent of Americans do not have confidence in the honesty of elections, and a majority of Americans have lacked trust in the honesty of elections every year since 2012. Flooding the mails with ballots is an invitation for voter fraud and chaos on Election Day. There is a danger of votes being lost, tampered with and, frankly, not counted by overwhelmed election officials.
Even with the threat of contracting the coronavirus, there is no good reason to move away from the most secure method of voting — in person and in private. If you can shop and protest, after all, you can vote in person.
It is now four months until Election Day, and the number of weekly deaths from the pandemic have plummeted. Insisting on all-mail ballot elections seems less like a response to a health crisis and more like a partisan application of the immortal words of Rahm Emanuel: “Never allow a good crisis to go to waste.”
Tom Fitton is president of Judicial Watch, a conservative nonprofit educational and government-watchdog organization.