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Mail-in Voting: Fact and Fiction BY CHIKAMSO CHIJIOKE

September 7 2020

With Election Day right around the corner, and COVID cases still rampant in many parts of the country, many are concerned about staying safe at the ballot box. Mail-in voting (also known as absentee voting) has emerged as a way for voters to exercise their rights and keep themselves safe. The process goes as follows: someone who is eligible to vote will request and receive a ballot. The voter can then mail the ballot back, or drop it off at a polling place. Some states require an excuse as to why you will not be voting in person, and others do not. However, many people have been opposed to this method of voting, bringing up various claims of its lack of effectiveness and security. Let’s dispel some of the biggest myths about mail-in voting once and for all.

Myth: Voting by mail will lead to widespread fraud

Fact: It is first important to point out that voting by mail is not a new phenomenon. Absentee voting has been around since the Civil War, and has been used in many elections throughout history. Voter fraud is very rare in and of itself, and the notion that mail in voting will make it easier for fraud to occur is not supported by evidence. According to the Heritage Foundation, out of the 250 million mail in-ballots cast across the country in the last 20 years, only 143 have led to convictions of election fraud. That’s a rate of about 0.0006% - A mere 7-8 cases per year. While this database does not capture all cases and certainly does not capture reported instances that are not investigated or prosecuted - it would be impossible to do so - it does demonstrate that fraud is not prominent or exacerbated by mail-in voting.

Myth: The Democratic Party is pushing for mail-in voting to impact the results of the election in their favor.

Fact: Donald Trump has purported that mail-in voting will lead to a victory for his opponent Joe Biden. This claim presumably comes due to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that says 47% of Joe Biden supporters say they plan to vote by mail. However numerous studies have shown that a mail in election does not give either party an inherent advantage over the other.

Myth: Voting by mail has led to millions of ballots going "missing."

Fact: While this claim has some validity to it, it is also intentionally misleading, painting the picture that ballots are getting lost in the mail or disregarded completely. “Missing” ballots are those that are not returned, have errors, or are returned too late. Many news sites magnify this issue by reporting that thousands (not millions) of mail-in and absentee ballots have gone missing, but these instances really account for only about 1% of mail-in ballots in most states - a likely insignificant number. However, in a close election, this could become a problem. Furthermore, Charles Stewart, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies election administration, told NPR that he believes those who use mail-in voting for the first time — especially young, Black and Latino voters — are more likely to have their ballots rejected because of errors.

With the rising health concerns associated with COVID-19, mail-in voting is likely to be utilized by more vulnerable populations than ever before. Overall, there seems to be a net positive to mail voting. It helps people who otherwise would not have the time or resources to vote, to do so. This ensures our democracy is upheld and the citizens' voices are heard. That being said, it is important to question our voting systems in order to make sure that we are protecting the most fundamental element of our democracy. Just make sure you have your facts right when you do it!

Go to vote.org for more information on all things election-related.

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Credits:

Created with an image by Tiffany Tertipes - "Election mail envelopes with face masks"