Recently, at an event in North Carolina and on Twitter, President Trump encouraged voters to test the integrity of the election by voting twice. Specifically, President Trump suggested that voters should vote via mail-in ballot and then also go vote at a polling station. He stated that “if the system is as good as they say it is, then they obviously won’t be able to vote (at the poll)”. These comments sparked outrage and concern since voting twice is illegal. Despite Trump’s fears regarding the integrity of voting, support for mail-in voting is necessary because it helps ensures a democratic election, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Laws and History
North Carolina law states that it is a Class 1 felony for a voter to vote twice “with intent to commit a fraud to register or vote at more than one precinct or more than one time…in the same primary election”. Furthermore, double voting is illegal under federal law. Possible consequences of such behavior are being fined up to $10,000, imprisonment for up to 5 years, or both. There is no justification for the President’s comments because they actively encourage illegal behavior.
Voting away from the polls has been around since the civil war. Even back then, as it does now, controversy and unease surrounded the practice. Both Republicans and Democrats feared potential tampering with the results. Voting twice, and voter fraud in general, though, is incredibly rare and difficult.
Integrity of Voting
One would think that such concern about mail-in voting compromising the integrity of the election would have some evidence, but it does not. Research and investigation have shown that there is no evidence supporting the claim that mail-in voting increases electoral fraud. Apparently, the few people who are found guilty of voting twice do it on accident due to confusion. This can include forgetting that they already voted via mail or confusion due to having two residences. Furthermore, voting twice is incredibly difficult to do at all, let alone without getting caught. There are people assigned specifically to monitoring that each voter only casts one ballot. There is also a master list of registered voters, which is updated to reflect who has already voted, which they can reference. In addition, attempting to vote twice is a completely ineffective manner of trying to sway the election. Not only is it very likely that those who try will be caught and punished, the few who may succeed would once again be a very small number incapable of having any effect on the outcome of the election. Of course, the system is not perfect, but there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that there should be any reason to doubt the integrity of the election.
The Importance of Mail-In Voting
Mail-in voting is essential, now more than ever, due to COVID-19. With the election coming up in November and safety measures still in place across the country, many people will prefer to avoid going to a crowded polling center. The option to vote by mail is essential to protect against further, unnecessary spread of COVID-19 due to the election. Mail-in voting is the most secure, inclusive, and accurate option for the 2020 election.
Unfortunately, not only is President Trump casting doubt onto the integrity of mail-in voting, he is refusing to effectively financially support the United States Postal Service, which will be overwhelmed by the influx of mail-in ballots. This is a very undemocratic attempt of the President to skew the election.
What Can Be Done
Attacking the integrity of the election is nothing new for Trump. Following the 2016 election, President Trump ordered an investigation because he claimed that millions of people voted illegally. Of course, no evidence was found supporting this. Since, he has been vocal about his beliefs that mail-in voting strongly favors democrats. Once again, research shows that there is no partisan advantage with mail-in voting. For someone who votes via mail himself, it is ironic for him to criticize its integrity.
In order to counteract Trump’s outrageous claims, it is essential for precautions to be taken. First, public officials must educate voters on how to cast mail-in ballots correctly. This includes how to fill out forms, where to drop them off, and when they must be submitted. Secondly, the polling stations must be organized in a safe manner for those who are unable to vote by mail or prefer not to. Finally, it is important to advocate for the immediate and continued financial support of the United States Postal Service so that mail-in voting can go smoothly. These steps are all necessary to ensure that voting remains a democratic process.