With concerns being raised about the US elections being held in the middle of a pandemic, US President Donald Trump has been pushing a narrative against mail-in ballots and voting, which is devoid of facts.
Trump has, time and again, misleadingly claimed that voting by mail is a recipe for “massive cheating.”
These statement are not just factually inaccurate but they also lack evidential support.
WHAT HAS TRUMP SAID?
On Thursday, 17 September, Trump posted a series of tweets, which have been labeled by Twitter with additional information on voting by mail, in which he once again suggested that election results will not be “accurately determined” because of the “massive amount of unsolicited ballots” terming it an “election disaster.”
In another tweet he wrote that “Unsolicited Ballot States should give it up” adding that “Solicited ballots (absentee) are okay.”
These are the latest in the series of tweets on mail-in voting and ballots that Trump has been posting. So, to understand what is the factual fallacy in the tweets, let’s first see what are mail-in ballots and what is mail-in voting.
WHAT IS MAIL-IN VOTING AND IS IT SAFE?
Mail-in voting, in simple terms, means authorities send ballots to a voter based on their request which is then sent back to the authorities post voting. This system of voting has been around since the Civil War, when the Union and Confederate soldiers were allowed to cast ballots from their battlefield units and have them be counted back home.
IS THE PROCESS SAFE?
- There is no evidence which corroborates the allegation that states which send mail-in ballots to voters automatically have issues with accuracy.
- California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has said that vote by mail is proven to be “successful, secure, convenient” and one of the “safest” options due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reported ABC News.
- Responding to Trump, Ellen Weintraub, commissioner of the Federal Election Commission, also said that there will be no “mayhem in the 5 jurisdictions that have decided to provide their voters with mail-in ballots this year.”
- The New York Times (NYT) reported that five states, including the Republican bastion Utah in the US, conduct all elections almost entirely by mail and report very little fraud.
- According to another report in NYT, nine states and Washington DC automatically send out ballots, but out of these states, only Nevada is a true battleground. In the rest, results will be called within minutes of polling because they are either pro Republican or pro-Democrat. It further reported that states, where more time is required to count the ballots, are the “no-excuse absentee” ballot states, which means if someone wants to vote by mail then they need to request for their ballot.
BUT ARE THERE ANY STUDIES WHICH SUPPORT THIS?
And to further strengthen this, there are reports which show that the process is safe. Of course, there have been cases of fraudulent voting but they are very rare. For instance, there were isolated cases of ballot fraud in the 2018 North Carolina primary, reported BBC.
Oregon has been holding postal elections since 2000 and has only seen 14 fraudulent votes attempted by mail.
In 2012, according to an investigation into all kinds of voter fraud, including absentee fraud, News21 journalism project made an observation which proved that the voter fraud is rare in the US, reported Vox.
The project shows 2,068 alleged cases of election fraud since 2000, a time when more than 620 million votes were cast in the general elections alone, the report added.
Another study in 2016 made a similar observation. Then a study conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice in 2017 reports that the rate of voting fraud in the US is between 0.00004 percent and 0.0009 percent.
In fact, Trump charged a panel to look into election corruption, which too found no real evidence, and was then disbanded in 2018.
Clearly, Trump’s argument doesn’t rely on hard facts but rhetoric. Data, studies and even experts have proven why the process is considered safe and why Trump’s accusation is misplaced.
FUN FACT: Trump voted using vote by mail during Florida’s primary election in March.