The coming apocalypse: “Vote-by-Mail”

Guest Writer

No political issue is more debated than Vote-By-Mail right now.

Donald Trump rails against it every chance he can, even threatening to sabotage the post office. “Mail ballots are corrupt, fraudulent!” “And You will never have a Republican elected in this country again because of mail in voting.”

Democrats have proposed national legislation allowing nationwide mail-in voting during the pandemic.

Despite the political diatribes, long-time evidence suggests that voting by mail has not favored either political party.  According to Michael McDonald, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida, when you have a system of elections with multiple methods of voting, “mail ballots tend to be the most Republican of the group.”

Historically, Whites (Republican leaning) are twice as likely as Blacks or Hispanics to vote by mail. Rural voters and seniors (Republican leaning again) are more likely to vote by mail than urban voters. In Arizona, and large parts of Ohio, more Republicans automatically receive a mail ballot.

Trump surely knows this. But, if he can delegitimize the election results, everything will be in turmoil. And anything can happen.

This year, the Republican advantage may be changing due to the Republican attacks on mail-in votes. Some recent polls suggest that mail-in voters will be 80% Democrat vs. 14% Republican.

Voting by mail does lead to a 10% higher turnout among marginal voters. In 2018, states that offered 100% vote-by-mail, the turnout was 68.3% compared to a national average of 56.7%.

This higher turnout will come in part from voters who do not want to take time off from work to wait in long lines, plus the older and infirm voters who do not want to expose themselves to the continuing coronavirus health crisis. And of course, rural voters who don’t want to drive 30 miles to find a polling place.

Because of Covid-19 — and legislative changes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, California and Hawaii — more than  half of all Americans will vote by mail this fall.

This year, there is potential for 15 million more mail-in votes than there were in 2016. Don’t be surprised if that forecast is accurate — the national divisiveness is sure to bring out a record number of voters this coming election.

The rationale behind this legislation is obvious: why should people — especially seniors who tend to vote Republican — risk their lives standing in line for five hours or more to vote?                   

Many states will be able to handle mail-in ballots just fine. In the 2016 election, 16 states had more than 50% early or mail-in votes: Arizona 75%,  California 58.8%, Florida 68.2%, North Carolina 65.2%, Oregon 100%, Texas 62.7%, Washington 97.7%.

These high vote-by-mail, or early voting states, are evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

But the majority of states, with less experience handling mail-in votes, will be swamped.

Nine states had less than 7% mail-in-votes in 2018. Connecticut: 6.3%, Georgia: 5.5%, Maryland: 4.8%, New Jersey: 6.2%, Oklahoma: 5.5%, Rhode Island: 6.8%, South Carolina: 4%, Texas: 6.5%, and Wisconsin: 5.5%.

Two of those states — Wisconsin and Texas — are critical swing states.

13 other states have little experience with mail-in-votes averaging 2.7% mail-in votes in the past. These include three of the swing states of North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

These states are not prepared to go from 2.7% to 50% mail-in, according to Peter Siris of the non-partisan reformelectionsnow.org.

Rejected and disputed mail-in ballots will be a serious problem. With massive delays in vote counting, a disputed election is a real possibility. Siris posits a Doomsday Scenario, though highly unlikely, in which a close presidential election is corrupted and ultimately derailed and discarded.

Tens of millions of dollars have already been spent on lawyers by both parties preparing for the coming election disputes and lawsuits. It will be a mess. Pennsylvania is already being sued by both Republicans and Democrats since the state is considered a critical battleground for both parties. The stakes have never been higher.

As people vote for the first time, mistakes are bound to happen.,  “As many as one million people across the country could have their ballots rejected,” says Professor McDonald.

Consider what happened to Al Franken in his first senate race in 2008. Incumbent Norm Coleman held a 215-vote lead after the first count. Franken challenged the disqualification of absentee ballots. The votes went back and forth for eight months until the courts resolved the issue. Franken ultimately won, but  Minnesota didn’t have a senator for nine months.

In North Carolina, a House seat was left empty for nine months during the 2018 election after a Republican operative was accused of “ballot harvesting”.

In the 2018 Florida Senate race, Rick Scott defeated Bill Nelson by 10,033 votes. 32,492 absentee votes were disqualified for arriving late, even though more than 10,000 were postmarked before election day. 5,586 votes were rejected because the signature on the envelope did not match that on the ballot. 14,000 votes were damaged.

In New York, recently only 52% of the 100,000 ballots sent out were counted. In the recent primary in New York City, 25% mail-in ballots returned by voters were rejected.

The votes were rejected for a number of reasons. Signatures didn’t match –maybe you signed your name differently twenty years ago … you sealed the envelope with scotch tape instead of licking it … you used a postage-paid envelope which didn’t get date-stamped and got delivered late.

Only 11 states can handle vote-by-mail, according to Peter Siris. in 2018, these states had 20% or more mail-in ballots.

The vote-by-mail initiative is fraught with dangers for the Democrats and democracy in general especially in some key states.

In a close election, or even a semi-close election, there is no possibility these mail-in votes can be counted for months and months without legal disputes.

Thus, The Doomsday Scenario:

November 3, Election day, Ten PM. Major media outlets report that Joe Biden holds a 9% lead in the popular vote and predict that he will win 349 electoral votes.

November 8 – December 3. Lawsuits filed over the counting of mail-in Presidential ballots in 18 states. Lawsuits filed over the counting of 10 senate races and 94 Representative elections.

December 14. Electors in each state meet. Biden wins 242 votes (270 needed to win), Trump gets only 151 votes. 145 votes are still pending recounts and election disputes.

December 18. State legislatures in each of the pending states meet and appoint electors disregarding the popular vote cast. Republican majority legislatures in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, Iowa and Texas (states where Biden has a lead) vote for a slate of electors supporting Trump. Democrats bring lawsuits in Florida, Arizona, Iowa and Texas claiming that Biden won these states.

December 21. The Supreme Court, with a 5-4 Republican majority, rejects the Democratic states and rules the election should go to Congress for final disposition, as per the 12th Amendment.

January 6, 2021. The House meets to elect a President. In accordance with the 12th Amendment, each state has one vote. California with a population of 39,250,017 million has the same vote as North Dakota with a population of 858,469.

Republicans control 26 states compared with 23 for Democrats.

The House of Representatives re-elects Donald Trump.

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