The Truth About Vote by Mail
By Andrea Hailey
In times like these, we're more aware than ever that the future of our democracy - in addition to our very lives - depends on who we choose to lead us. That's why this November's election is so important; it's our opportunity to keep who we like, and replace who we don't.
Fortunately, some state officials have recently taken significant steps to make voting safer and more accessible, by allowing their residents to vote by mail. Prior to this pandemic, over 50 percent of states allowed their residents to vote by mail as an open option. But now, with the pandemic raging in full force across America, many policymakers have chosen to expand voters' options to participate in this year's elections from the safety of their homes.
Sadly, partisan bickering has cast a shadow of doubt over the legitimacy of voting by mail as an alternative to voting in person. For this reason, I want to reassure you that voting by mail is a secure and established part of our American electoral system that has long been supported by Republicans and Democrats alike.
For those who remain unconvinced, however, here are some compelling facts to substantiate this claim:
- In the last two federal elections, roughly one in every four Americans cast a mail-in ballot. Most politicians, on both sides of the aisle, regularly vote by mail.
- Despite the staggering number of mail-in votes that have been cast - more than 250 million since the year 2000 - the fraud rate for voting by mail has remained at essentially zero, barely registering at 0.0000001 percent.
- Every state in America currently offers accommodations to voters who cannot make it to the polls, by allowing some, if not all, to vote by mail. Never before has this type of accommodation been considered "controversial."
- Harsh penalties serve as effective deterrents for anyone seeking to commit voter fraud. At the federal level, criminal and civil penalties of up to 5 years in prison, and $10,000 in fines can be levied for each act of fraud. Penalties vary at the state level, but can be equally, if not more, severe.
- Post-election audits are effective means of identifying irregularities or misconduct in a jurisdiction's vote. Since audits can only be meaningfully carried out when there is a voter-verified paper record of each vote, mail-in ballots (which are paper-based), are perfectly suited for effective audits.
- If there are concerns that an eligible voter’s mail ballot could be lost or uncounted, in-person polling sites are effective mechanisms to correct problems, provide essential services, and ensure that every eligible voter can cast a valid ballot.No system that relies on mail balloting can operate without accessible in-person voting sites, both for those who cannot or will not vote by mail, and as a fail-safe to the unexpected problems that may arise.
In these uncertain times, voting needs to be as safe, secure, and easy as possible. At Vote.org, we believe that no American should have to put their health at risk to vote. That's why we strongly encourage election officials at the federal, state, and local levels to adopt policy changes that would allow any voter to safely cast a ballot this November by expanding everyone and anyone's opportunity to vote by mail.