Mailing It In: Debunking Absentee Ballot Bunk

Let’s talk about masks first. Are you old enough to remember when Donald Trump and a wall of Republicans constantly politicized the idea of wearing a mask? It wasn’t long ago. Their lie that masks shouldn’t matter was as barefaced as their noses.

Wearing a mask is something we can all do to promote our own safety and the safety of others. The overwhelming majority of Americans know this. But Donald Trump doesn’t like to wear masks or see other people wearing masks. Maybe it’s because the mask is a mirror, reflecting his failures in confronting the coronavirus.

Question: What do masks have to do with voting?

Answer: The mail-in ballot is shaping up to be the new mask.

Like a mask, the paper ballot will keep you safer and protect other people as well. Remember the long lines and unnecessary risk voters faced during the primaries? Safety dictates that voters who qualify should take advantage of mail-in paper ballots.

Trump doesn’t want us to think about mail-in ballots. Just the fact that we need them is more evidence of Trump’s incompetence against the coronavirus, and reminds us all of its large cost paid in American lives. This fiasco is why we will still be hiding from COVID-19 nearly a year after it arrived here.

Trump’s fear of the paper ballot is also a testament to his egomania. It’s part of his continuous efforts to disenfranchise or suppress voters that don’t like him. So he tweets about “rigged” elections and voter fraud.

Most likely, reality celebrity Trump is staging a November temper tantrum if he loses, to spite our well-tested democratic process. Reportedly, his own handlers are horrified that this tour de force performance will discourage only his own followers who routinely vote by mail. The rest of us either know he’s lying or we’ve stopped listening to him at all.

Every analysis of mail-in ballots finds that the amount of error is infinitesimal. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, found about 1300 instances of proven fraud in elections in the past 20 years, in a review of 250,000,000 mailed ballots. Absentee balloting is in every state, at least for some voters. Ballots that arrive by mail are scrutinized to make sure the signature matches the one on file, and then they are compared to local identifiers like drivers’ licenses. They’re not hackable, and they can easily be recounted.

Contrary to Trump’s misinformation, voting by mail doesn’t even help Democrats win. A Stanford University study in 2020 found that vote-by-mail doesn’t help either party in vote share or turnout, though it does increase overall turnout slightly. The one thing that will help Democrats win is the large number of people who don’t like Trump. If they vote. Please vote.

Don’t be confused by the terms “mail-in” and “absentee”. The absentee ballot did come about because some voters couldn’t be in town to place their ballots in person. Military personnel, for example, have voted by mail since the Civil War. There are some jurisdictions that make a distinction between “absentee” and other forms of mail-in ballots when voters apply for them, but the setup of ballots and the methods to process them are exactly the same. Making a false distinction based on terminology enables Trump to confuse an issue that has been settled for more than a century.

Trump himself voted by mail in 2018 and 2020, “explaining” that it’s too hard for him to get to Florida to vote. He’d prefer you forget that he has visited his own Florida properties more than 100 times since becoming President. He has two golf courses there.

Vice President Pence and his wife voted by mail using the address of the Governor’s mansion in Indiana, where they haven’t lived since 2016. Aides Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Kayleigh McEnany have voted by mail or at least tried and failed. It’s not a surprise that Jared Kushner promised to make his vote happen but couldn’t get it done. Ivanka’s 2017 ballot arrived too late. Many other Trump advisors support his falsehoods about voting with their silent approval, but not their behavior. Nearly a dozen in his inner circle are known to vote absentee. Voting by mail is easy, safe, and convenient.

Here’s proof that states are satisfied with the safety of paper ballots: nearly all states make it possible and simple. Some states send ballots to all registered voters. Only a handful of states currently require a reason to vote absentee beyond a fear of the coronavirus. That might change in the months ahead as hotspots arise across the country. For the primaries, nearly a dozen states relaxed their requirements for a reason to use a paper ballot.

States are gearing up to process more paper ballots, and they will gain other benefits if you vote from home. For example, poll workers tend to be older and more susceptible to the virus. Keeping polling stations emptier keeps elderly workers safe and protects the voters who decide they still want to vote in person. When you vote from home, you’re protecting somebody’s grandmother.

Voting-by-mail is like buying from an online retailer. Once you have your ballot, weeks before Election Day, you could even look up the candidates and find out their policies, something you can’t really do when you’re already in a voting booth and there’s a long line behind you. That’s a little like reading the product description.

The newspaper you read — which might also be in paper form — probably provides endorsements, including why they’ve made the choices they did. They won’t give star-based reviews like Amazon does, but you’ll learn a lot about what’s important to people in your community. When you’re ready to commit, you can fill the ballot out at your leisure, like putting it in your cart. You’ll feel better about your vote for, say, local councilman, if you make your choice based on the candidate’s record and not just their ad’s theme song or the photo of their dog. It’s probably not their real dog anyway.

What can you do?

  • First, check to make sure that you’re registered to vote. You can check on that online. If not, get registered. There are deadlines in most places.

This is all as easy to do as signing up for a new streaming service. Go to IWillVote.com and sort through the requirements for your own state. And then be a patriot in the age of coronavirus. Vote from the comfort of your couch.

Originally published at https://bidenwarroom.org on July 29, 2020.

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Biden War Room

Independent Grassroots organization dedicated to electing @JoeBiden as the 46th President of the United States. Inquiries: Press@BidenWarRoom.org