Washington, US | XINHUA | At a time when a large chunk of the U.S. electorate is expected to vote by mail, there is a major fight in Washington over whether mail-in voting will impact the elections. But it remains unknown whether mail-in ballots help or hurt Democrats, Republicans or no one.
In the lead-up to the tightest U.S. elections in recent memory, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing for as many voters as possible to cast their ballots via mail, in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. But U.S. President Donald Trump believes a massive uptick in mail-in voting could leave the elections open to fraud, and often reiterates his concerns.
Recent presidential primaries have seen massive problems with mail-in voting, resulting in half a million mail-in ballots being tossed out. New York’s June 23 primaries saw more than 100,000 mail-in ballots rejected, mainly due to the postal service’s inability to handle such a large uptick in volume, as well as forms not being filled out correctly. Other elections, such as Patterson, New Jersey’s completely mail-in election in May, was wrought with fraud, according to the county’s election board.
Some believe that could impact Democrats, as nearly half of Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s supporters will vote by mail. That is nearly twice as many as the 23 percent of Trump’s supporters who say they’ll vote for the president by mail, according to a recent survey from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape project.
Ford O’Connell, adjunct professor at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, told Xinhua that the Democrats’ push for mail in ballots will end up backfiring and hurting their own candidate.
Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College, told Xinhua that this could be an issue in battleground states.
At a rally earlier this month, Trump charged Democrats with trying to “rig the election,” reiterating his argument that mail-in voting leaves the process open to widespread fraud.
He said that the only way he would not beat Biden “is if they screw around with the ballots, which they will do in my opinion.”
The president often points to the fiasco in Patterson, New Jersey — an all mail-in election during Gov. Phil Murphy’s draconian lockdown — as evidence that fraud can easily occur.
Mail-in votes — separate from absentee ballots in which one requests a mailed ballot — are automatically mailed to recipients using their last known address. But in some cases, the intended recipient may no longer reside at the address on file. The current resident could theoretically use that ballot to vote twice, and Trump believes Democrats will take advantage of this, although he has never explained why Democrats would commit fraud and Republicans would not. Mail-in voting differs from in-person voting, where people show up, show their ID cards to officials, and usually tap in their choice on an electronic machine.
Trump’s attitude toward mail-in voting mirrors that of many other Republicans, 76 percent of whom said mail-in voting would lead to fraud, as opposed to 27 percent of Democrats, according to a Gallup poll in May.
MAIL-IN VOTING HARMLESS?
Despite the battle in Washington over mail-in voting, some data suggests that mail-in voting will have no impact at all.
In states that conduct voting by mail, there is a slight uptick in voter turnout, according to researchers who combed through more than 40 million state-level voting records, as well as three decades of nationwide data. The findings were published in Science Advances, an academic journal.
The data suggests that one form of voting does not favor one political group over another, according to political scientist Michael Barber of Brigham Young University.
Indeed, some experts believe that the elections should go smoothly, despite an expected uptick in mail-in votes.
Clay Ramsay, a senior research associate at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, told Xinhua the pandemic has pushed states to set up online systems for checking one’s registration and registering there if needed, which is more voter-friendly.