New report argues perils of mail-in voting go beyond fraud

The report warns that sweeping national change to voting would be costly and dangerous

A new report from a conservative group on the potential problems with large-scale mail-in voting argues that a recent push from states to send ballots to all registered voters for November's election would not only expose them to possible fraud but could likely result in a significant waste of taxpayer dollars.

The report, by the Honest Elections Project, cites problems that have already arisen in a number of states showing that including inactive voters – including those who have changed addresses or died – would result in money being spent on ballots that would never reach their intended recipients.

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“At the very least, mailing ballots to every registration on file – knowing that a significant number of registrations are erroneous or outdated – is a significant waste of scarce resources,” the report says, noting that a recent estimate from Clark County, Nevada predicted it would cost at least $323,000 to mail ballots to inactive registrants.

When ballots were sent to inactive voters in Nevada’s May primary, ballots were found piled up in post office trays, outside apartment complexes, and on community bulletin boards in and around Las Vegas. One report said ballots were even found in a trash can.

“Taxpayers’ dollars are literally being thrown away because of ill-conceived vote-by-mail schemes,” the Honest Elections Project report says.

In addition to the waste of money, the group warns that fraud is a real concern, citing past examples of how mailed ballots have been used improperly, such as voting on behalf of dead people or submitting votes in multiple states in the same election.

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Earlier this year up to 800 ballots were disqualified in Paterson, N.J., after hundreds of ballots were found in the mail bundled together, despite a state law forbidding anyone from handling or sending more than three mail-in ballots together. Several individuals – including a councilman-elect – are now facing criminal charges for alleged election fraud.

This was the first time New Jersey had done an all mail-in election, and the Honest Election Project warns that any state attempting an all new system with November’s presidential election is putting itself at risk for complications, fraudulent or otherwise. While some states already have mail-in voting, Washington State Secretary of State Kim Wyman told The New York Times in April that while her state has security measures in place to prevent and punish voter fraud, hers is a system that has been developed over the course of a years-long process.

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Wyman said it was unlikely that national mail-in voting would be feasible this November.

“You can’t just flip a switch and go from real low absentee ballots to 100 percent vote-by-mail,” she told the Times.

Democrats are accusing Republicans of attempting to suppress votes by requiring in-person voting during a pandemic, claiming that such a move would force voters to choose between exercising their rights and protecting their health.

The Honest Elections Project suggests that this does not have to be an either/or situation if proper measures are taken. This would include expanding absentee voting for vulnerable populations, sending applications for mail-in ballots which would at least require individuals to provide personal information to confirm their identities prior to receiving ballots, and social distancing measures for in-person voting.

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The Project's director Jason Snead said that recent incidents support the findings of a commission from 15 years ago that warned of the problems posed by mail-in voting.

“In 2005 former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker co-chaired a commission on election reform that found serious problems and risks with mail-in voting. Today in 2020, four people - including a sitting city councilman and a councilman-elect - face criminal charges for trying to rig an all-mail election in Paterson, New Jersey," Snead said in a statement.

He added: "Automatically mailing ballots, weakening election safeguards, and trying to impose a national mail-in election on an entire country in four months is a recipe for disaster. We need to ensure it is easy and safe to vote this November, but not at the expense of the credibility of our democracy."