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Mail-in ballot problems have America headed for a catastrophic election crisis

Mail-in ballot problems have America headed for a catastrophic election crisis
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The United States is now just three weeks away from Election Day, and despite reports from pollsters predicting a blowout victory by Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline Overnight Defense: Trump campaign's use of military helicopter raises ethics concerns | Air Force jets intercept aircraft over Trump rally | Senators introduce bill to expand visa screenings MORE, no one really knows how things will turn out on November 3.

But one thing seems certain: America is heading for a chaotic, potentially disastrous post-election period, one that will almost certainly feature allegations of voter fraud, a mountain of rejected ballots and serious questions about the fairness of the electoral process — exactly the opposite of what this country needs after months of a brutal pandemic, economic lockdowns and violent riots. 

The expected uncertainty about the election’s outcome stems from states’ decision to permit widespread mail-in balloting, a move that opens the door to fraud and abuse and may result in millions of ballots being thrown out by state and national election officials.

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Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, only a handful of states allowed all registered voters to choose to vote via a mail-in ballot. But following the outbreak, nearly every state loosened absentee ballot rules, making it easier than ever to vote from home, where it is much harder for officials to verify a voter’s identity. 

Just five states – Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas – do not allow voters to cast their ballots from home on the basis of fears over the coronavirus. Every other state has determined that voters should be able to cast their ballots without going to a polling place.

Some states have even decided to send mail-in ballots to people who have not requested one. In nine states and the District of Columbia, every single active registered voter will automatically receive a ballot this year, which means literally tens of millions of ballots will or have already been sent to people who may or may not ever use them, making fraud easier than ever.

Further, 26 states permit voters to designate someone else to drop their ballot off, a practice commonly called “ballot harvesting.” 

Ballot harvesting is very disconcerting, because in most places, there is no way for voters to know that the ballot they have given to a third party has actually made its way to election officials, rather than, for example, being thrown in a ditch or burned. Further, ballot harvesting allows dishonest third parties to tamper with ballots before turning them in.

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In a 2018 North Carolina congressional race, fraud linked to ballot harvesting tainted the results of an election that was ultimately overturned

Then there’s the problem of ballots being rejected by government officials because the voters who filled them out failed to provide all of the necessary information, the wrong ink was used on the form or the signature on the ballot or ballot return envelope doesn’t match the signature states have in their voter registration files.

During the 2020 primaries in New York City, more than 20 percent of all mail-in ballots were thrown out by election officials because they contained errors or incomplete information. 

In Pennsylvania, 37,000 ballots were tossed prior to and following the 2020 primary deadlines, and according to an analysis by NPR, more than 550,000 ballots across the country were rejected over the same period.

If half of all ballots cast in the 2020 general election are through the mail – a reasonable estimate considering that one-quarter of all ballots cast in 2016 were via the mail – and the rejection rate is in line with what has been occurring in many 2020 primary races (a mail-in ballot rejection rate of 10 – 20 percent), then 5 – 10 percent of all ballots cast in 2020 could end up being rejected, severely undermining the perceived validity of the election. 

Further, regardless of whether voter fraud and ballot rejections actually affect the outcome of key political races, the perception will almost certainly be that the 2020 election is tainted. Losing candidates across the country – Republicans and Democrats alike – will soon blame mail-in voting and fraud for their losses, and they will not necessarily be wrong to do so. The laws in many states have opened the door to uncertainty, wild speculation and second-guessing on a scale the United States has never experienced before.

America is already deeply divided. An election mired in controversy will only deepen the divide and make it harder than ever for old political, cultural and societal wounds to heal. The American people must demand more from their elected officials, or else this country will never be at peace.

Justin Haskins (Jhaskins@heartland.orgis editor-in-chief of StoppingSocialism.com and the editorial director of The Heartland Institute.