Matt Lewis

Why ‘vote by mail’ is bad for democracy

A couple weeks ago I wrote a piece listing 5 reasons early voting is bad.

For reason number four, I included ballot integrity, writing that “absentee voting is typically done by mail, which opens the door for voter fraud …”

Not everyone agreed.

For example, HotAir’s Jazz Shaw responded,

As to number four, ballot integrity, I have to scoff. Matt argues that most early voting is done by mail, “opening the door” to mischief of various sorts. Oregon and Washington vote exclusively by mail and somehow the specter of angry spouses throwing out votes has failed to materialize.

But it isn’t just angry spouses …

As Sunday’s New York Times observed,

There is a bipartisan consensus that voting by mail, whatever its impact, is more easily abused than other forms. In a 2005 report signed by President Jimmy Carter and James A. Baker III, who served as secretary of state under the first President George Bush, the Commission on Federal Election Reform concluded, “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”

There’s more…

Voters in nursing homes can be subjected to subtle pressure, outright intimidation or fraud. The secrecy of their voting is easily compromised. And their ballots can be intercepted both coming and going.

The problem is not limited to the elderly, of course. Absentee ballots also make it much easier to buy and sell votes. In recent years, courts have invalidated mayoral elections in Illinois and Indiana because of fraudulent absentee ballots.

Voting by mail also played a crucial role in the 2000 presidential election in Florida, when the margin between George W. Bush and Al Gore was razor thin and hundreds of absentee ballots were counted in apparent violation of state law.

For those thinking this is some partisan attempt to disenfranchise voters, the Times makes it clear that Republicans are more likely to vote absentee.

Nobody is saying we shouldn’t make allowances for people who cannot vote in person. But absentee voting should be safe and rare. But instead of making it an exception, we are encouraging it. As the Times also notes, “Nationwide, the use of absentee ballots and other forms of voting by mail has more than tripled since 1980 and now accounts for almost 20 percent of all votes.”