Widespread voting by mail poses risks of disenfranchising voters, delaying election results
I represent Republicans suing in California to prevent millions of ballots being sent to inactive voters: Opposing view
Absentee ballots allow voters who are unable to go to the polls on Election Day to vote, and many voters have understandably chosen them during the COVID-19 pandemic. But election experts on the right and left acknowledge universal voting by mail poses a significant risk of disenfranchising voters through fraud, mistakes, delays and other problems.
Democrats want ballots to be sent automatically to every voter, including inactive voters. I represent Republicans suing in California to prevent millions of ballots being sent to inactive voters, who likely moved, died or never were eligible. The state relies on counties to purge the voter rolls as required by federal law but doesn’t enforce this obligation, resulting in millions of ineligible voters on the books.
Democrats would flood the postal system with unused ballots and open the door for bad actors to manipulate the election. Nevada estimates that 90% of ballots mailed to inactive voters will be returned as undeliverable. From 2012 to 2018, there were 28 million ballots mailed but never returned. Voters who desire to vote by mail can easily request a mail ballot. Indeed, each state has a lawful absentee process, and of the few states that have universal mail-in voting, none sends ballots to inactive voters.
Expanding vote-by-mail systems takes an immense amount of equipment, time, staff and funding, yet House Democrats want to impose universal vote-by-mail mandates on every state this fall. It has taken Washington state nearly a decade to navigate the complications of expanding vote by mail to every voter. Waving a wand from D.C. cannot change existing nationwide election infrastructure in a matter of months — nor should it.
Widespread voting by mail also risks severely delayed election results. Processing mail ballots is time consuming, particularly in states that have low levels of voting by mail. Due to the large number of mail ballots, California counted votes for over a month after the Democratic primary this spring. California legislators now want ballots to be counted even if received 17 days after the election!
Finally, mail voting is less secure than in-person voting. Voters, particularly in vulnerable populations such as the poor or the elderly, can be coerced to yield their ballots because there is no ballot secrecy. Voters’ ballots can be lost, delayed or thrown out by election officials without the voter knowing. Ballot harvesters can spread COVID-19 while also pressuring or manipulating voters.
All Americans deserve an election system that is easy to access, secure and final. Instead, many states offer bloated rolls that include millions of ineligible voters; tabulation of ballots that takes weeks instead of hours; and with ballot harvesting, substantially increase the risk that ballots are coerced from voters, misdirected or completed fraudulently.
Until states bring their election systems up to date and make them secure, automatic vote by mail will continue to pose significant risks of election fraud, delay and lack of finality.
Harmeet Dhillon is an elections lawyer based in San Francisco.
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