Monday, May 25, 2020

Why Is Señor Trumpanzee So Scared Of Vote-by-Mail?


Donna Edwards

Sunday morning Donna Edwards' column in the Washington Post must have triggered Señor Trumpanzee. At 7:00 AM he was attacking vote-by-mail again.

Donna wrote that he had just done something that she hadn't done in 20 years and that tens of millions of Americans plan on doing this year as well-- she voted by mail. She lives in Maryland, where that's easy. Trump and his Republican enablers want to make it as hard as they can so as few people vote-- in the midst of the pandemic-- as possible.

Donna didn't have to even request the ballot she filled out. "It was sent to me courtesy of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R)," she wrote, "who decided after postponing the primary election because of the pandemic that every registered voter would receive a ballot in the mail. Filling in the ballot was quick and easy, the instructions were clear and I did it in my pajamas over a cup of coffee. When I finished, I sealed the postage-paid envelope and signed a statement saying I understood that if I violated the state elections law, I would face a $1,000 fine, two years in prison or both."

So, what is all the fuss? President Trump is making outrageous and unfounded claims of “tremendous” voter fraud with vote by mail, while some Republicans and the conservative media are parroting the same. Trump’s recent threats to withhold federal funding from Michigan in light of its secretary of state’s move to expand vote by mail comes as Texas Republicans make a hard charge in federal court to stop efforts there.

Is the president, fearful of his reelection prospects, willing to abuse the prerogatives of his office and force citizens to endanger their health in order to vote? Sadly, the answer is “yes.”

Indeed, Trump said the quiet part out loud a few weeks ago when he admitted his real fear about early voting and vote by mail: “You’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” Trouble is, like so many claims by this president, there is simply no evidence to support it.

It is worth noting that Democrats also have concerns about universal vote by mail and its impact on turnout among their base voters-- but those concerns are about participation, not fraud. However, a recent analysis of 2016 voters found little demographic difference in use of mail ballots, except with age-- older voters are more likely to vote by mail than younger voters. And, contrary to oft-repeated political wisdom, black voters are slightly more open to voting by mail than white voters.

Here’s a fact for the president: More than one-quarter of voters cast their ballots by mail in the 2018 election, and that number is likely to increase in the novel coronavirus era. As evidence, the April primary in Wisconsin, in the midst of the pandemic, saw the voter turnout among the highest in 40 years, with more than 70 percent of votes coming from absentee ballots. Another fact: A recent survey by Pew Research Center found that 70 percent of Americans believe that anyone who wants to vote by mail should be allowed to do so.

Simply put, Americans want to be able to vote by mail in November. Voters may be afraid of coronavirus, but they are not afraid to vote by mail. We should be making it easier and not more difficult. Contrary to Trump’s assertions, voting by mail neither increases voter fraud nor gives Democrats an unfair advantage. It is one of the least partisan, most popular activities in our democracy. As to Democrats’ fears, this is not a partisan issue. Research by the Democracy and Polarization Lab at Stanford University found that voting by mail does not increase party share or turnout by party and only increases overall turnout “modestly," although that last finding may change with the looming pandemic.

With so much at stake, both parties must figure out how to continue voter contact and to make work vote by mail, drop-box balloting, in-person voting and every method they can conceive for voters to exercise their franchise safely and securely. While politics takes a backseat to medical professionals, this moment might provide the time needed to play catch-up for the massive job ahead in November-- recruiting poll workers, printing, mailing and counting ballots. The challenge for Democrats and Republicans in the age of coronavirus is to teach and encourage those who are accustomed to voting in person to vote by mail, while still preserving a safe option for voting in person.

Come November, we will see the patriots who stand with voters vs. the partisans who stand in the way. Sadly, Republicans missed an important opportunity by failing to support adequate funding for elections in the recent coronavirus funding packages-- only $400 million was allocated to states to shore up their voting infrastructure, far less than the estimated $2 billion that’s needed. The next package should make up that difference so that states have sufficient resources to conduct a successful November election, including full funding for the U.S. Postal Service to meet its responsibility to deliver ballots safely.

Since I expect to still be concerned about the coronavirus in the fall, I look forward to voting by mail then. The only thing I missed about going to the polls in person was my coveted “I voted” sticker, so election officials should figure that out, too.
What Campaign? by Nancy Ohanian

There are already 5 states that conduct all elections entirely by mail: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah. None have reported the vote fraud that Trump and his allies keep screeching about. Three other states allow counties to decide on whether or not they want vote by mail elections: California, Nebraska and North Dakota. The bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures explored pros and cons:
Generally, states begin with providing all-mail elections only in certain circumstances, and then add additional opportunities as citizens become familiar with procedures. Oregon’s vote-by-mail timeline includes four times that the legislature acted prior to the 1998 citizens’ vote that made Oregon the first all-mail election state. See below for state-by-state statutes.

For detailed information on state laws related to voting by mail please see our resource on Voting Outside the Polling Place.

  Possible Advantages

Voter convenience and satisfaction-- Citizens can vote at home and take all the time they need to study the issues. Voters often express enthusiasm for all-mail elections.
Financial savings-- Jurisdictions may save money because they no longer need to staff traditional polling places with poll workers and equip each polling place with voting machines. A 2016 study of Colorado from the Pew Charitable Trusts found that costs decreased an average of 40 percent in five election administration categories across 46 of Colorado’s 64 counties (those with available cost data). However, the study examines a number of reforms that Colorado enacted in 2013, with all-mail elections being the most significant. Others included instituting same day registration and shortening the time length for residency in the state for voting purposes.
Turnout-- Some reports indicate that because of convenience, voter turnout increases. These reports assert that turnout increases by single digits for presidential elections and more in smaller elections. See this 2013 report on all-mail ballot elections in Washington and this 2018 report on all-mail ballot elections in Utah. Effects on turnout can be more pronounced for low propensity voters, those that are registered but do not vote as frequently.

Possible Disadvantages

Tradition--The civic experience of voting with neighbors at a local school, church, or other polling place no longer exists.
Disparate effect on some populations-- Mail delivery is not uniform across the nation. Native Americans on reservations may in particular have difficulty with all-mail elections. Many do not have street addresses, and their P.O. boxes may be shared. Literacy can be an issue for some voters, as well. Election materials are often written at a college level. (Literacy can be a problem for voters at traditional polling place locations too.) One way to mitigate this is to examine how voter centers are distributed throughout counties to best serve the population.
Security-- During all-mail elections (and absentee voting), coercion by family members or others might occur.
Financial considerations-- All-mail elections greatly increase printing costs for an election. Additionally, jurisdictions must have appropriate equipment to read paper ballots at a central location, and changing from electronic equipment to equipment that can scan paper ballots can be expensive.
Slow vote counting-- All-mail elections may slow down the vote counting process, especially if a state's policy is to allow ballots postmarked by Election Day to be received and counted in the days and weeks after the election.

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At 5:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Republicans don't want anyone to vote but themselves. That way they can stay in power and tell the rest of us what to do - or else.


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