Recently people have raised concerns about possible mail-in voter fraud during the recent election. Are concerns about mail-in voting legitimate? In this post, I will argue that such concerns are unnecessary.
This is the third post in a series about the elections and whether concerns over their legitimacy are valid concerns.
Other Posts in This Series
In the first post, I discussed why some states on election night appeared to be going red and then turned blue over the next few days. I discussed why the evidence suggests that red and blue shifts like this are a logical result of voting behavior the President encouraged.
They are also the logical result of legal voting options all the states allowed because of COVID concerns. I included links to articles people wrote predicting these exact shifts before the elections. You can read that post here.
In this second post, I discussed the concern that there is widespread voting by non-citizens and that it is swaying the elections in one directions. You can read this post here.
In this post, I want to address the issue of mail-in voting.
Some people have raised concerns over the validity of the elections due to the large number of people voting by mail this year. Are such concerns about mail-in voting legitimate? I believe they are unnecessary and misguided.
In this post, I am not going to argue that voter fraud never happens. Mail-in voter fraud does happen sometimes and is perpetrated by both Republican and Democratic voters and politicians. Election officials and experts certainly acknowledge this.
What I do argue is that voter fraud happens infrequently (compared to the number of overall votes cast) and not enough to swing national presidential elections.
The Evidence Shows This
Consistent research from a wide variety of conservative, liberal, and bipartisan election research groups support this conclusion. The testimony from state election officials also support it.
In fact, Oregon, which has been a pioneer in mail-in ballots, has documented only about a dozen cases of mail-in voter fraud out of more than a million ballots that have been mailed in since 2000.
These documented cases have amounted to 0.0001 percent of the total number of votes cast.
We will return to their findings shortly, but first I want to look at the two types of mail-in ballots and why it is difficult to commit voter fraud with them.
Are Concerns about Voting by Absentee Ballots Legitimate?
The first one is an absentee ballot, which people can apply for if they are unable to vote in the person. By the way, President Trump and many people in his family and administration vote by absentee ballot.
In some states, people must provide a reason for why they are voting by absentee ballot. In other states, anyone can request an absentee ballot for any reason.
Absentee ballot voting has been a common and widespread practice since the late 1800s, and it is common in all 50 states, both red and blue.
Concerns about widespread voter fraud by absentee ballot are not legitimate. There are many safeguards in place to secure such votes. (Photo by Obi Onyeador, courtesy of Unsplash.)
President Trump is Okay with Absentee Ballots
President Trump himself has said that he is not concerned about absentee ballots, which he himself uses. It is universal mail-in voting he is concerned about.
I will address universal mail-in voting shortly. First, however, let’s go ahead and examine some ways people could perpetrate mail-in voter fraud. Let’s also examine why it is hard to pull this off, especially at a national level.
One: Some people are concerned that people can make ballots and send them in.
Why this is unlikely (nigh impossible) to occur: Election ballots are printed on a special paper of a certain style and thickness. The ballots have specific official markings and graphics on it.
Voting officials reject ballots if they are not printed on this specific paper with all the appropriate markings.
In addition, in a presidential race, people don’t just vote for the President. They vote for a variety of officials and legislation in their specific county. Ballots for every county in every state are very different.
Voting officials will not count a ballot that doesn’t have the appropriate officials and legislation on it.
For these reasons, it would be extremely difficult—almost impossible—to forge an official ballot.
Two: Some people argue that anyone can request an absentee ballot, even if they are not a citizen of the United States.
Some people argue that widespread voting by undocumented immigrants occurs. I dedicated an entire post to this topic, which you can read here.
Three: Some people argue that people can steal and/or forge people’s absentee ballots.
Why This is Unlikely to Occur: It is important to note that when people request an absentee ballot, they receive it in the mail. While people could hypothetically steal absentee ballots from people’s mailboxes, it would be difficult to perpetrate widespread voter fraud this way.
Someone trying to do so wouldn’t know who had requested an absentee ballot or when they had requested it.
Or if they did know these things, they would have to spend several days haunting people’s mailboxes to steal the ballot. And they would have to do this without being detected by the people whose ballots they were trying to steal.
Concerns that people forge mail-in ballots are not legitimate. Ballots must be printed on a special kind of paper with special watermarks. (Photo by Brian Patrick Tagalog, courtesy of Unsplash.)
Voters Can Contact Officials if They Do Not Receive Their Ballot
In addition, if people voting absentee do not receive their absentee ballot, they can contact local election officials and request another ballot. Or, they can vote in person.
There are measures in place to make sure that any other ballot cast in their name is invalidated.
You can read about measures like this here, here, and here.
Voting Requires a Lot of Information
Lastly, when people vote through absentee ballot, they must provide the last four digits of their social-security number, their driver’s license, and their signature.
Election officials match the signature on the ballot to the one they have on record. They will not count a ballot that has a signature that does not match the signature on record.
All of these safety measures make it difficult for people to commit voter fraud with absentee ballots.
Could it Happen?
Is it possible that people could pull all this off? Yes, it is possible.
Is it likely? No.
Is it likely that hundreds of thousands of people could do this, which is the number it would require to throw a national election? A resounding no.
Are Concerns about Universal Mail-In Voting Legitimate?
Some people argue that it is not absentee ballots that are the problem but rather universal mail-in voting. With universal mail-in voting, everyone who is registered to vote automatically gets a ballot in the mail. By the way, this practice occurs in typically blue states like Oregon, as well as typically red states like Utah.
Some people argue that universal mail-in voting increases the likelihood that voter-fraud will occur.
Mail-In Voter Fraud is Hard to Pull Off
With universal mail-in voting, only registered voters receive ballots (not everyone in the state). Thus, all the security safeguards in place for absentee ballots, still hold true for universal mail-in voting.
Concerns about mail-in votes with universal voting is not legitimate. They are as secure as absentee ballots, which the President uses. (Photo by Tiffany Tertipes, courtesy of Unsplash.)
Are Concerns about Non-Citizen Mail-In Voting Legitimate?
Some argue that it is easy for non-citizens to register to vote and, therefore, to vote in and sway elections. I have dedicated a whole post to this and other related concerns, which you can read here.
Are Concerns about Deceased People Mail-In Voting Legitimate?
Still others have argued that people (such as spouses or family members) can easily forge the ballots of their deceased loved ones and that a lot of dead people are voting in elections.
There is a significant disincentive for people to do this because of these reasons:
1) It is illegal, and people can face fines or prison time for doing so.
2) Election officials are on the lookout for such forgeries.
3) Election officials regularly update their voter registration list, and regularly remove deceased voters from their list.
Thus, while ballots do sometimes go out to deceased voters (especially if they died right before an election), spousal or family forgery of such ballots is un common.
That is why it is extremely unlikely that the national election could be swayed by widespread forgery of deceased people’s ballots.
The issue is not whether voter fraud sometimes happens with absentee or universal mail-in voting. Almost all, if not all, election officials and election experts acknowledge it sometimes happens and is perpetrated by both Democrats and Republicans. They consistently work to detect these cases.
The question is whether it happens enough—e.g. with hundreds of thousands of votes—to sway national elections. Research consistently show it does not.
In fact, recent research suggests that someone is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud.
How do we know this?
Imagine for a minute that you wanted to investigate the possibility of voter fraud thoroughly and fairly. What would be a good method to gather this evidence?
One good method would be for investigators to talk to people from a wide variety of political backgrounds who were in the best position to detect evidence of widespread voter fraud: namely, election officials and observers.
Recent investigations into whether concerns over mail-in voting are legitimate show mail-in voting is secure. (Photo by Elliott Stallion, courtesy of Unsplash.)
Election officials and observers who oversee the vote-counting usually consist of people from both political parties, public observers, and objective observers from outside the country.
You can read about some of the various election accountability mechanisms here, here, here, and here.
Two Recent Investigations
Two organizations conducted such an investigation of voting officials recently, which you can read about here and here. Despite interviewing a large number of national election officials in 2016 and 2020, no one reported any evidence of significant or widespread voter fraud.
In addition, the Heritage Foundation, , a conservative organization, maintains a database which contains a sampling of convicted voter fraud cases–perpetrated by people in both political parties–dating back to 1979. None of them are instances of widespread, national voter fraud. (This is an analysis of the cases listed on the Heritage Foundation website.)
And in fact, two recent election security agencies in the President’s own government declared this year’s elections one of the most secure in election history.
But What about the President’s Concerns?
At this point in the post, you may be ask, “Well what about the President’s concerns over the elections?”
One of the reasons you likely voted for Trump, if you did so, is because he says what is on his mind.
There may be some advantages for people to say what is on their mind all the time. However, I think you and I can agree on something. People who habitually say what is on their mind often speak before they have carefully considered their opinions.
They also often do so before they have determined whether or not there is evidence to support such opinions.
That Can Be a Problem
Sometimes, acting in this manner is not a big deal. However, when you are the President of the United States and you are talking about election results you don’t like, it IS a big deal.
The President has been saying what is on his mind since the elections. The result of this is that he has made a lot claims that have no consistent or credible evidence to back them up.
His accusations are based in his feelings, rather than fact.
Furthermore, he continues to make these claims even when voting experts in his own administration tell him such accusations aren’t true. He recently fired one such person, which you can read about in the hyperlink in this paragraph.
If you are a Republican and a supporter of President Trump, I would ask you to consider that this is unwise behavior on the part of President Trump, and it significantly harms the reputation and integrity of the U.S.
The U.S. has a long history of respect for the election process. We freely vote for our leaders, and the winners and losers of the elections honor the results. For President Trump to cast aspersions on this process, with no credible evidence to support the claim, is unwise.
That he does so against the advice of election officials from both parties, as well as national security in his, is reckless.
The President’s concerns over mail-in voting are based in feeling, rather than fact. (Photo courtesy of Unsplash.)
Even if you still support the President, I would ask you to consider that you have a responsibility to call your representatives. Consider telling them that the President has the responsibility to honor the election process and to concede.
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 People might vote by absentee ballot because they are in the military or otherwise out of the country or out of town for work. They might be physically unable to vote in person because of a disability, or their work schedule may not permit them to vote in person.
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