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Americans voted in person during the 1918 pandemic — as they should in 2020

Americans voted in person during the 1918 pandemic — as they should in 2020
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In November 1918, the United States was fighting in World War I abroad while battling the Spanish Flu pandemic at home, yet Americans still went to the polls for the important midterm election that year.

If millions of Americans safely voted in-person during a much deadlier pandemic while the nation was at war, why can’t Americans cast in-person ballots in the 2020 election?

There are many reasons why in-person voting is vastly superior to mail-in voting. First and foremost, when a ballot is cast in-person, it is practically assured that the vote will be counted. The same cannot be said for mail-in voting.

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In 2020 primary elections, mail-in voting has proven to be unreliable. This applies to absentee as well as so-called unsolicited or universal ballots.

According to Hans von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission, “Mail-in ballots are the ballots most vulnerable to being altered, stolen, or forged. Just look at the current investigation going on in Paterson, New Jersey, over a recent municipal election conducted entirely by mail. Four Paterson residents have already been charged with criminal election fraud, including a councilman and councilman-elect. Evidence is surfacing of everything from voters reporting that they never received their absentee ballots (even though they are recorded as having voted) to accusations that one of the campaigns may have submitted fraudulent ballots.”

Unfortunately, this is par for the course when it comes to mail-in ballots.

As if the shenanigans that recently occurred in Patterson (and several other locations) were not enough to instill trepidation over the legitimacy of mail-in voting, the rejection rate for mail-in ballots should also cause great concern.

In New York, where mail-in voting was used during the June 23 primary election, one in five ballots were not counted due to technical errors. That means 20 percent of voters were disenfranchised, which is totally unacceptable.

The same rate of rejection also occurred in the Patterson election, which goes to show how untrustworthy mail-in voting actually is.

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When it comes to mail-in voting, which is being pushed hard by Democrats, there also is the problem of guaranteeing that the ballots will be delivered and returned by the undependable U.S. Postal Service.

As von Spakovsky notes, “States with recent primaries, including Wisconsin and Maryland, have reported voters not receiving their ballots or not getting them in time to be voted and returned. In addition, there have been problems with the Postal Service not postmarking ballots, making it impossible for election officials to determine whether the ballots were mailed in time to be counted. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission says that in the last four federal elections, 2.7 million mail-in ballots were misdelivered and 1.3 million were rejected by election officials.”

The inability of the U.S. Postal Service to deliver and return mail-in ballots alone should cause Americans to think twice about voting by mail in 2020.

In 1918, the idea of voting by mail was not even considered. And, as history shows, that noteworthy election was completed without a hitch.

As historian Sarah Pruitt explains, “Despite the risks involved, there appears to have been little public discussion about simply postponing the election that year … with their troops fighting overseas, Americans’ spirit of civic pride was running high, and voting was seen as a necessary act of patriotism.”

During those trying times, Americans bravely performed their most-prized civic duty by going to the polls on Election Day.

In 2020, we are also fighting hardships. But that does not mean that the vast majority of voters cannot and should not participate in one of the most consequential elections in recent history.

For more than 230 years, Americans have voted overwhelmingly in-person. This is a primary reason that the United States has never had to deal with the nightmare of an illegitimate presidential election.

Unfortunately, the unprecedented scope of mail-in voting that is being pushed by some Democrats under the guise of COVID-19 health concerns could cause the 2020 election to be the first in American history whose legitimacy could be questioned. The consequences of that scenario do not bode well for the future of the republic.

Chris Talgo (ctalgo@heartland.orgis an editor at The Heartland Institute.