Trump is wrong about the dangers of absentee ballots

Washington Post,  April 9, 2020

To begin with, election fraud has been rare in this country for decades. Impersonation fraud, where one person shows up at the polling place claiming to be a voter who died or moved, is practically nonexistent, yet it has formed the excuse for some Republican-led states to pass strict voter-identification laws that many Democrats believe are motivated by a desire to deter their likely voters.

Given that record, it is easy to think that the new Republican warnings about mail-in voting are similarly vacuous. But the picture is more complicated. Ballots cast outside the watchful eye of election officials can be stolen, altered, sold or destroyed — crimes often committed not by voters, but against them. Think of the 2018 race in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, in which the evidence that a Republican operative had arranged to destroy and alter absentee ballots was so overwhelming that the state’s bipartisan election board unanimously required the election to be held again.

According to the well-constructed News21database, absentee-ballot ballot fraud made up 24.2 percent of all reported prosecutions of election crimes between 2000 and 2012. But the total number of cases was just 491 — during a period in which literally billions of votes were cast. While certain pockets of the country have seen their share of absentee-ballot scandals, problems are extremely rare in the five states that rely primarily on vote-by-mail, including the heavily Republican state of Utah.

By Richard L. Hasen

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