One laudable side effect of the COVID-19 panic is a nationwide effort to promote “vote by mail” as a universal alternative to standing in line at polling places. One reason that effort is laudable is that it would likely decrease vote fraud.
Yes, I said “decrease.” And Republicans were saying the same thing until recently.
In 2017, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp mailed out nearly 400,000 voter address confirmation notices. Voters who didn’t respond within 30 days were declared “inactive” and risked being dropped from the rolls entirely if they didn’t become “active” again within four years.
In 2019, a conservative public interest law firm, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, sued on behalf of three plaintiffs to force that state’s election commission to purge from the rolls voters who had not, you guessed it, responded by mail to address inquiries delivered by mail.
To put it a different way, in both of those cases (and in others), and until just weeks ago, Republicans argued that mail is not just a reliable, but an indispensable, way to ensure that voters are who they say they are and live where they say they live.
But now, all of a sudden, John Fund of National Review wants us to know that “Mail-In Ballots Are a Recipe for Confusion, Coercion, and Fraud … So, naturally, Democrats are pushing to have them sent to every voter — or ‘voter.’”
What changed? It’s simple. Republicans and Democrats both seem to believe that when more people vote, Democrats win. Are they right? Who knows? But by their fruit you will recognize their true belief:
Previous Republican claims that mail is a trustworthy and verifiable voter identification mechanism were made for the specific purpose of reducing the number of people (especially people of color) who are allowed to vote.
Current Democratic claims that mail is a trustworthy and verifiable voting mechanism are made for the specific purpose of making it easier for people who are allowed to vote to, um, VOTE.
It seems to me that Republicans had it right the first time. Sending something — whether it’s an address confirmation or an actual ballot — to a registered voter’s registered address is a much more reliable way of identifying that voter than just trusting whoever shows up at a polling place vaguely resembling a bad photo.
It’s the 21st century, folks. Let’s update our voting technology to at least the 19th.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north-central Florida.