The U.S. presidential elections are looming and the Coronavirus pandemic has made in-person voting problematic. As a result, many states (both majority democrat and majority republican) have opted to increase their scope of mail-in voting. The mail-in voting system allows voters to fill in their ballots at home and deposit their votes at their nearest drop off box. This would be a safe, socially distanced way for people to vote.
However, over the course of the year, we have seen a barrage of tweets and public statements from President Trump condemning mail-in voting for a number of different reasons. Trump’s tendency to voice controversial opinions via social media and public appearances is not unique to mail-in voting. However, in light of the current context, where a significant proportion of the U.S. population may be unwilling to expose themselves to the risks associated with in-person voting, it seems important to review some of his claims and properly fact-check them.
Mail-In Ballots will lead to massive electoral fraud and a rigged 2020 Election. Look at all of the cases and examples that are out there right now, with the Patterson, N.J., being the most recent example. Republicans, in particular, cannot let this happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2020
The above tweet shows just one of the many times the President has hinted that mail-in ballots are more vulnerable to fraud. While he takes his typical stance of sentiment over science when it comes to evidencing his claims, his issue lies with the notion that states may be sending out ballots on a universal basis, regardless of whether the recipients are eligible or not. He implies that, as a result, illegal immigrants and other ineligibles may be sneaking their illegitimate ballots among the rest. The Trump campaign said that it opposes these universal systems, but supports traditional absentee mail-in voting, in which voters must request ballots under their own volition.
As it happens, no states are sending out universal ballots. Some states are mailing ballots to all registered voters (some 51 million), while others are simply mailing ballot applications. It seems that Trump’s distinction between absentee and universal voting is a fiction.
Furthermore, it is an established fact that mail-in voting is statistically very safe. Richard Briffault, a professor and elections expert at Columbia Law School, has definitively stated that while voting by mail is marginally more vulnerable to fraud than voting in person, both methods are trustworthy, and there exists no statistically significant evidence of fraud for either method. Mail-in voting and voting in person have exactly the same verification process, making them virtually as secure as one another.
To make Trump’s statements all the more bewildering, mail-in voting is not unique to the current election. In fact, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Utah and Hawaii already use mail-ballots as the primary method of voting. None of these states have had any scandals concerning the legitimacy of their voting results.
Security of Drop-off Boxes
According to standard mail-in voting procedure, voters complete their ballots at home and then deposit their ballots at a fortified drop-off box usually in a public location near them. Trump has criticized ballot drop-off boxes for a number of different reasons. Let us examine the following tweet which summarizes the president’s concerns:
So now the Democrats are using Mail Drop Boxes, which are a voter security disaster. Among other things, they make it possible for a person to vote multiple times. Also, who controls them, are they placed in Republican or Democrat areas? They are not Covid sanitized. A big fraud!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2020
Twitter placed a warning label over this very tweet, noting that it “violated the Twitter rules about civic and election integrity.” Despite this, it is important to break this tweet down and truly acknowledge how unsubstantiated his claims are, for the sake of objectivity.
Let us begin with the president’s point about the drop boxes potentially posing a COVID-related risk. Coming from a man who publicly disparages mask-wearing and disregards social distancing, this alleged concern for the cleanliness of drop boxes rings hollow
Any physical voting system will inevitably have drawbacks when it comes to COVID. However, when you consider the long queues at polling stations and small voting booths being used over and over again by the same people, drop-off boxes seem to be the most hygienic option.
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Secondly, the Trump calls the boxes a “voter security disaster.” It appears that he is suggesting that they are vulnerable to tampering, but this is unclear. At any rate, mail drop boxes are fortified security boxes. Short of some kind of explosive device, it’s almost impossible to get inside them without the key.
Now for the meat – the president claims that mail drop boxes somehow make it possible for a person to vote multiple times. The president neglects to mention exactly how this happens but is clearly concerned about its possibility.
Let’s compare this statement to the following:
NORTH CAROLINA: To make sure your Ballot COUNTS, sign & send it in EARLY. When Polls open, go to your Polling Place to see if it was COUNTED. IF NOT, VOTE! Your signed Ballot will not count because your vote has been posted. Don’t let them illegally take your vote away from you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 12, 2020
Let that sink in. Here we have the President of the United States using his personal Twitter account to encourage his supporters to vote twice. This is just the latest in a series of tweets and public statements that Trump has made encouraging his supporters to do this. In some states, this constitutes a felony, while it is illegal everywhere. As unlikely as it is that any of his supporters would or could follow these instructions, it is worrying that a public figure with this much influence is openly encouraging dishonest voting behavior.
Trump Claims That Mail-in Voting Is a Target for Corruption.
RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2020
Typical to Trump’s tweets, this one is in all-caps, conveying the sense that he is literally shouting while typing. One can almost hear him.
Despite how convinced Trump seems to be on this point, the evidence stacks up to the contrary. The safeguards used to protect voter security are immense. Most states print bar codes on their mail ballots, with a different bar code for each voter. Further, the voter must sign various documents as well as their ballot, which state officials will compare and verify with examples of the individual’s signature on record.
Official election authorities work hard to make ballots incredibly difficult to replicate. Furthermore, they have to be signature verified. Clearly, producing a significant number of viable counterfeit ballots would be a mammoth, nigh-on impossible task, making the president’s dire predictions totally unrealistic, nothing more than fearmongering.
Trump’s Twitter is full of claims of this sort. Over 100 separate tweets and public statements from the president have disparaged and condemned mail voting. The contradictions and hypocrisies within these tweets are overwhelming, and I have touched on only a few of them. One thing that seems for sure, however, is that Trump is totally against the practice of mail-in voting.
Nope. In a bizarre twist of events, the Trump campaign has actually spent $650,000 on Facebook ads encouraging his supporters to request absentee ballots. I.e., to vote by mail!
What’s more, the President himself votes by mail, as well as 16 members of his inner circle.
According to the New York Times, the reason for Mr. Trump’s contradicting messages concerning mail voting could be to instill doubt in the legitimacy of the practice and provide an excuse for his losing the election, should he need one.
There we have it. President Trump is with one hand publicly condemning the practice of mail-in voting and encouraging his voters to vote by mail with the other. Here we have a man who will say anything to advance his own agenda, with a flagrant disregard for the usual moral standards that should be expected from a person in his position.
The hope is that individuals take their own initiative and look behind the President’s statements to the masked truth. In an age where influence is everything, it’s a tragedy that even one voter should believe in these fallacious and dangerous statements.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com contributors are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: President Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Featured Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons