Mail-in voter fraud: fact, fiction, the only fraud?

With November quickly arriving and a cure for COVID-19 still some time off, there is heated discussion around the pros and cons of mail-in voting. Is it a highly fraudulent system, or are these unfounded claims?

The University of Chicago News released a story, “Does voting by mail increase the risk of voter fraud?” University of Chicago political scientist Anthony Fowler, who is an expert on elections, voter turnout, and voter fraud may have some answers.

Fowler, an associate professor at the Harris School of Public Policy in Chicago, recognizes benefits, but also potential problems to mail-in voting.

Fowler began by saying no-one should be ‘complacent about fraud or the integrity of our elections.” Fowler continued, “but on the other hand, we shouldn’t let unfounded fears prevent us from administering a fairer and more representative election.”

Fowler said that election officials need to do everything possible to make sure things are as honest as possible, but also educate the public about “these efforts and about the typically low levels of fraud in our elections.”

The Harris School’s initial research shows that “the American public doesn’t like mail voting. In surveys, for example, people say they don’t trust the results of mail elections and they are less likely to vote if that’s their only option.”

Fowler added, “Research also shows that when mail voting is implemented, it appears to actually increase participation.”

“Another benefit of vote-by-mail,” Fowler said, “is that you can take the time to learn all about all the offices and candidates, meaning that you might actually cast a more informed vote than you would at a polling place.”

When asked if mail voting could lead to more fraud, Fowler said “Vote by mail does introduce new risks. In theory, it could be easier for someone to fraudulently vote on behalf of someone else or for someone to tamper with the ballots in a vote-by-mail system.”

“In practice, however, voter fraud is very rare, and the risk of widespread fraud is probably very minimal, even with all-mail elections,” Fowler said. “Nevertheless, as more voters cast their ballots through the mail, we should think about these issues and do what we can, within reason, to identify and mitigate fraud or coercion.”

According to the Heritage Foundation through Whitehouse.gov, mail-in voting is far from the only threat to honest voting.

The Heritage Foundation lists nine different forms of voter fraud which are; impersonation fraud at the polls, false registration, duplicate voting, fraudulent use of absentee ballots, buying votes, illegal “assistance” at the polls, ineligible voting, altering the vote count, and ballot petition fraud.

On Whitehouse.gov, the Heritage Foundation has a comprehensive document of 381 pages with “election fraud cases from across the country, broken down by state, where individuals were either convicted of vote fraud, or where a judge overturned the results of an election.”

In the massive document are; 1,071 proven instances of voter fraud, 938 criminal convictions, 43 civil penalties, 74 diversion programs, eight judicial findings, and eight official findings. The database for these instances are available at heritage.org/voterfraud.

The Heritage Foundation pointed out that not only should people concerned about election results be worried about those voting, but also should worry about voting officials.

In 2016, Daniel Reynolds of Alabama pleaded guilty to three counts of absentee ballot fraud. “Reynolds, the chief campaign volunteer for Commissioner Amos Newsome, participated in falsifying absentee ballots in the Dothan District 2 election between Newsome and his rival Lamesa Danzey in the summer of 2013.”

The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization in Washington, D.C., reported low rates of fraud in vote-by-mail states.

“He (President Donald Trump) has made two accusations about mail-in ballots; the first is that they favor Democrats and the second is that they make it easier to cheat.” The Brookings Institute argued that neither is supported by facts.

“There is no evidence to suggest a systematic bias towards one party or another from mail-in ballots,” the Institute reported. “Nor is there any evidence that there is widespread fraud in the use of mail0in ballots.”

After analyzing the Heritage Foundation’s data, the Brookings Institute found “there is surprisingly little voter fraud and not nearly enough to justify blocking vote-by-mail systems in a pandemic.”

For one example, the state of Colorado enacted vote-by-mail in 2013. From 2005 to 2018, there were 15,955,704 general election votes cast. In that sample, there were 14 total cases of fraud. Eight were cases of duplicate voting or absentee ballot fraud, eight were fraudulent votes attempted by mail. Yes, there is overlap in the sample.

Less than 0.01% of those votes were found fraudulent.


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