Too Big to Mail

Robert Brooks Contributor
Too Big to Mail
Read Time: approx. 2:31

This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on August 5, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up.

Too Big to Mail: The state of Nevada has approved a plan to send absentee ballots to all active voters this November, a major expansion of mail-in voting in the battleground state Ellie Kaufman and Marshall Cohen report for CNN. “Over the weekend, the Democratic-controlled Nevada state legislature passed a sweeping election bill along party lines. Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, signed the legislation Monday afternoon. That makes Nevada the eighth state, along with the District of Columbia, to adopt universal vote-by-mail for the presidential election in November, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.” Let’s take a look at what both sides are saying about voting by mail:

On the Left: From a policy standpoint, House Democrats passed a bill in May that would mandate all voters be sent a ballot in case of emergency. The proposed legislation would also require universal “no-excuse” absentee voting, online and same-day voter registration, and expanded early voting, among other changes. From a commentary standpoint, The New York Times Editorial Board writes that, “… in the midst of a raging pandemic, voting by mail is the surest path to a more inclusive, more accurate and more secure election.” The NYT Ed-Board concedes that over the primary season “there were multiple high-profile examples of mail voting gone wrong” and that “Mr. Trump and his allies have exploited these bungles to the hilt, claiming that they reveal how dangerous it is to vote by mail,” but that readers should “ignore them.” The NYT Ed-Board says, “Voting by mail — or absentee voting, which Mr. Trump pretends is something different even though it isn’t — has risks like any other method, but overall it is safe and accurate. So safe and accurate, in fact, that in five states most or all voters use it, and in three other states more than half do. In those states, elections go off without a hitch.” The NYT Ed Board says that “The American people need to be able to vote in the November election, and they need to be able to trust the outcome of that vote.” In order for that to happen, we need to “aggressively counter misinformation about mail voting, which continues to be spread not just by President Trump, but also by top members of his administration.” We need to “educate voters…in clear and simple terms, when and how to request an absentee ballot and how to fill one out, sign it and send it back. This will make the process more secure and also reduce the number of ballots rejected because they weren’t properly filled out or signed. When ballots are rejected, states must give voters a fair opportunity to fix any errors.” And finally “officials need to ensure that in-person voting is safe and available for those who either do not receive a mail ballot or are not comfortable voting that way.”

On the RightThe Wall Street Journal Editorial-Board says “the push for all-mail voting is relentlessly focused on ballot access, which is important. But ensuring ballot integrity is crucial for public confidence in election outcomes and, ultimately, for democratic legitimacy.” Back in 2016, “a quarter of votes were carried by the post… But roughly 1% of submitted absentee ballots were rejected. All in all, 319,000 votes were thrown out.” In 2018, “Black and Hispanic mail voters in Florida had rejection rates that were twice as high: 2% and 2.1%, compared with 0.9% for whites. In several counties the minority rejection rates passed 3% or 4%. Among first-time voters, 3.1% of ballots were thrown out.” Meanwhile, “Ballot harvesting isn’t widespread, but laws in 13 states are ‘silent on the issue,’ the NCSL says. That includes Wisconsin, where the Elections Commission told voters in March that ballots may be returned by ‘a family member or another person.’ Technically, that covers anybody at the door in a Biden shirt or a Trump hat.” Now, with all of that said, the WSJ Ed-Board says, “imagine it’s Nov. 4, 2020. Swarms of people have voted by mail for the first time, many of them incorrectly. State election officials are struggling to keep up with the deluge. The presidential race is tight, with Donald Trump or Joe Biden (pick your poison) leading nationally by 500,000, similar to the popular vote in 2000. But something like a million mail-in ballots have been thrown out. The Electoral College comes down to Ohio and Wisconsin, where the contenders are separated by several thousand votes. Mr. Biden files a lawsuit pointing to higher rates of ballot rejection in areas with more black voters. Mr. Trump accuses Democratic activists in Wisconsin of mass ballot harvesting.” In conclusion, the WSJ Ed Board says that “At best, mass mail voting is a roll of the dice, calculated against the grim reality of the pandemic. For ballot security and democratic legitimacy, it’s hard to beat going to the polls on Election Day.”

Flag This: Both sides have really strong feelings about mail-in voting so as always we’ll do our best to simply point out observations and then let you decide how you feel about the topic. One subplot to this debate is the difference between absentee ballots and mail-in ballots. This is because President Donald Trump frequently says there’s a difference between absentee voting, which he once called “good” in a tweet, and mail-in voting, which he has called “inaccurate and fraudulent,” as Bloomberg points out. Although Trump has criticized mail-in ballots, he has deemed absentee ballots to be “fine” because “a person has to go through a process to get and use them.” However, according to POLITICO, voting rights experts say there is no difference between mail-in voting and absentee voting. The absentee vs. mail in debate is tangentially related to Trump and the Republican party’s history and current stance towards mail-in voting, which is confusing. For example, President Donald Trump sat down last week for an interview with Axios’ Jonathan Swan in which the two discussed the topic. Swan confronted Trump, saying “The Republican party has an extremely well-funded vote-by-mail program.” Holding up a piece of paper, Swan added, “Your campaign puts out emails telling people to vote by mail. Your daughter-in-law Lara Trump did robocalls in California saying it’s safe and secure [to vote-by-mail]. The Republican won! That was an all-mail-in race!” Trump pointed to “many court cases where we’re trying to end it” and invoked World War I and World War II to say people didn’t do mail-in voting then. “We’ve had mail-in voting since the Civil War,” Swan said. Furthermore, yesterday Trump appeared to backtrack on his opposition to mail-in voting and encouraged it in the sunshine state. “Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “Florida’s Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail! #MAGA”. At the same time, despite the mixed messaging, the dubious track record of mail-in voting during the primary season is also concerning. We know the NYT Ed-Board is telling us to “ignore it” but even they admit there were “multiple high-profile examples of mail voting gone wrong” as mentioned above. “In Wisconsin, thousands of absentee ballots were requested and never received. In New Jersey, 10 percent of mail ballots were thrown out for arriving too late or for being otherwise deficient. In Pennsylvania, tens of thousands of absentee votes were either not cast or not counted, especially among voters who requested their absentee ballots closer to the election.” A separate New York Times article published on Monday titled, “Why the Botched N.Y.C. Primary Has Become the November Nightmare” is also unnerving. Author Jesse McKinley says that “Nearly six weeks later, two congressional races remain undecided, and officials are trading blame over the mishandling of tens of thousands of mail-in ballots.” The recent hiccups are like telling someone who is planning to skydive out of a plane for the first time that their parachute won’t malfunction, even though it didn’t eject properly during the four test runs.

Flag Poll: Those are our observations, but what about yours? Do you support mail-in voting? Click here to vote and be sure to tell us why or why not.