This is in response to the Aug. 13 letter by Frank Eathorne, chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party regarding absentee and mail-in ballots and the supposed dangers of voter fraud …
This is in response to the Aug. 13 letter by Frank Eathorne, chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party regarding absentee and mail-in ballots and the supposed dangers of voter fraud — particularly in states that rely primarily on mail-in voting.
Mail-in ballots, regardless of type, always have basic required safeguards, including identifying information and signatures that are verified with voter rolls. Suspicious ballots are flagged for further review. Most often questionable information on a ballot is due to error. Overt fraud is distinctly uncommon and most of the time such cases are noted and stopped.
Despite claims made by right wing sources, widespread voter fraud is rare. The Heritage Foundation — an ultraconservative think tank that promotes more restrictive voting laws — maintains a database, supposedly to combat fraud. They recently claimed that they have documented 1,285 cases of voter fraud of all types since 2016, with 107 cases linked to the practice of “ballot harvesting.”
In 2017, the Trump administration set up a voter fraud commission in an attempt to prove that the only reason why he lost the popular vote was because of illegal voting. Using Heritage Foundation data, they found so little fraud that the commission was disbanded.
Also using Heritage Foundation data, the Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organization, studied five states that used vote by mail systems prior to the current pandemic. They are Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Data was collected over various lengths of time depending on the state (median = eight years). The expectation was that states using mail-in voting would have more cases of fraud than other states. Out of 50 million votes cast (numbers are rounded slightly), the total number of fraudulent votes of any type was 44, with mail-in fraud at 29 cases. These numbers are inconsequential and the expected outcome was not confirmed.
Almost all cases of voter fraud are done by individuals. For example, someone may vote twice in different states because they own property in both. Only rarely are there focused schemes to fraudulently change the outcome of an election. The most infamous occurred in North Carolina during the 2018 election, where a Republican 9th Congressional District candidate named Mark Harris had a team that illegally “harvested” absentee ballots and fraudulently completed them to benefit the candidate. They were caught and convicted. Even though the candidate most likely won the election anyway, the North Carolina State Board of Elections overturned the result and ordered a new election.
Ballot collection, also referred to as ballot “harvesting,” is the practice where ballots from individuals are collected by third parties and deposited at polling places or in the mail. It is legal in most states unless it violates a specific state law. There are various restrictions that address who and how many ballots can be collected, whether such parties must be relatives, etc. Both political parties make use of this practice. In California, Democrats used it to successfully flip several congressional seats, much to the consternation of the GOP. While the Republicans complained, they also acknowledged its effectiveness and made plans to use it in future elections. There was no significant documented fraud; the votes were legal.
Mr. Eathorne’s contention of widespread voter fraud from mail-in ballots is not borne out by the facts. Mail-in ballots are safe, accurate and fair. Every citizen has a constitutionally protected right to vote in every election. Mail-in ballots should be an easily available method of voting for people who cannot get to a polling place on election day.
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