Editorial: Should we allow mail-in voting?

Editorial Board • May 26, 2020 at 9:00 PM

Underpinning our constitutional republic is the election process, which determines who will lead us. The legitimacy of that process must be beyond dispute, but in recent national elections that has not been the case for quite sometime. It seems the loser always cries foul. Heck, sometimes even the winner cries foul, though that is a recent, puzzling phenomenon.

But now we stand in the middle of a pandemic that has some calling for a November election that allows mail-in voting for a greater degree of health and safety. Others are already preparing judicial challenges to that idea on the premise that it opens the process up to a wide range of fraudulent practices.

Here’s the sticking point — both camps are right in some aspects.

Mail-in voting would certainly be safer from a health standpoint. But in-person voting that follows CDC-recommended guidelines will be difficult at best. Not impossible, but certainly difficult. And even with protections in place, will likely voters stay away simply out of fear? Those advocating for voting by mail say voters shouldn’t be faced with a choice between protecting their health and exercising the most important right in a democracy. It’s a legitimate concern.

Those opposing mail-in voting also have legitimate concerns such as theft and forgery. Then again, theft and forgery happen in every election, not to mention the regular phenomenon of dead voters casting ballots.

But let’s just be frank here: Our election process has never been 100% secure and likely never will be. As long as the unscrupulous walk among us, there will be those looking for — and finding — ways to cheat the system. Whether it’s altering a mail-in ballot or “assisting the impoverished” with a ride to the polls (always a favorite, devious tactic in rural and poor areas), those looking to wrongly manipulate the system will find a way.

But how often is there enough voter fraud volume to materially change the outcome of an election? To say it’s rare would give “rare” a longer time period than it deserves in this case. Cases of proven voter fraud are well-documented. Cases of alleged voter fraud number in the thousands. Contrived fear of voter fraud runs rampant every election year.

But cases of voter fraud that actually impact an election outcome are rare.

There is a legitimate case to be made both for and against mail-in voting, no matter the environment. The current pandemic complicates matters but points us to a broader conversation about the legitimacy of various voting methods.

What say you? Are you OK with going to the polls in person, or would you prefer a mail-in ballot? We welcome your thoughts at letters@timesnews.net.

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