In an April 28 report, the Gallup Poll published data showing that 64 percent of all Americans favored allowing voters to vote by mail or absentee ballot.
There were differences among key demographic subgroups: 83 percent of Democrats said they favor such a measure, but only 40 percent of Republicans expressed the same sentiment. Among independents, 68 percent supported laws that would allow mail ballots, similar to the level among the aggregate of all Americans.
As the coronavirus loomed over the 2020 election, President Trump repeatedly attacked the concept of vote by mail. Unfortunately for him, that was a losing argument. A Brennan Center poll found that, in response to coronavirus, four out of five Americans believed states should give all voters the option of mail ballots during the November election. The poll tracked a recent Reuters poll that found 72 percent of Americans, including 65 percent of Republicans, wanted a mail ballot option.
This makes sense. Americans did not — and do not — want to put their health in jeopardy by going to crowded polling places. President Trump, however, saw a dark conspiracy afoot. He said voting by mail creates a “tremendous potential for voter fraud” and that it “doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”
Actually, it didn’t work out well for him, though it seemed to have done well for down-ballot Republicans. They gained seats in the U.S. House and will do no worse than 50 seats in the Senate.
The argument, though, misses the real issue, and that is whether the practice serves our democracy. If it promotes more voting, it reflects a positive voice of the people.
Essentially all states already allow vote-by-mail ballots, and it has been carried out with infinitesimal fraud. Five states run their elections almost entirely by mail. In 28 states and the District of Columbia, voters have the right to request a no-excuse absentee ballot.
There is also no evidence that vote-by-mail benefits one party more than another. It’s noteworthy that it is used in all states with Republican governors or legislatures. To bolster this conclusion, conservative publications and groups, such as The Washington Times, National Review and the American Enterprise Institute published pieces favoring mail-in voting.
If the president believes vote by mail is “corrupt,” he has essentially no data to prove it. Politicians of the right have repeatedly claimed that the 2016 and 2018 elections were marred by millions of people voting illegally. However, research reveals that such is essentially untrue.
Voter fraud is virtually nonexistent. The Brennan Center’s seminal report, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” conclusively demonstrated that almost all allegations of fraud turned out to be baseless.
In a June 21 column in The Pilot, the writer made a serious point of voters registered in multiple states. Such registrations may be true, but multiple registrations do not prove fraudulent double voting.
For example, President Trump’s then-strategist, Steve Bannon, was registered to vote in Florida and New York, as reported by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune; Tiffany Trump, Mr. Trump’s youngest daughter, was registered in Pennsylvania and New York, as reported by NBC News; Sean Spicer, his former press secretary, was registered in both Virginia and Rhode Island; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was registered in New York and New Jersey, according to The Washington Post; and Steven Mnuchin, secretary of the Treasury, was registered in both New York and California, as reported by CNN.
They were all registered in multiple states, but there is no report that they voted more than once. The illusory claim that multiple registrations fosters vote fraud is contradicted by President Trump’s family and associates.
In a similar vein, the reports of dead people voting is a phantom argument. First, whenever a person dies, that fact is not usually correlated to the voting rolls. And there is no data to demonstrate voting by ghosts — or anyone who poses as the deceased. The data simply isn’t there, because if it were, right-wing pundits would be waving it like the checkered flag at a NASCAR race.
Finally, much is made of the fact that people continued to be carried on California voting rolls who were not eligible to vote. That is true, because they had moved to another state — or had died. The same is true of the voter rolls of Alabama, Oklahoma, Missouri and a score of other “red” states.
Don Tortorice is a former attorney and professor at the Law School of the College of William and Mary.