For 32-year-old Andy Rose, voting has never been more convenient. Rose is from Arkansas, but he moved to Seattle six years ago. Now, when he’s ready to vote, he simply fills out a ballot that is mailed to him. Rose has never even had to take it to a drop-off box or mail it back—because his wife does it for him.
“I actually appreciate mail-in voting,” he said. “It’s a lot easier.”
But Rose said he can think of a dozen scenarios of how the process could go wrong—such as the U.S. Postal Service failing to deliver the ballot, in-home pressure on how to fill it out, or receiving a ballot that is meant for someone else. Perhaps worst of all: “Let’s say one of my housemates didn’t vote the way I wanted her to, so I dropped it off in the trash.”
Rose, who leans Republican, admitted he’s never heard of any of these scenarios happening to anyone he knows, but they are why he is skeptical of the Democratic-led effort to take mail-in voting national ahead of November’s presidential election.
“How do you standardize this by November, in a five-month period when they can’t even mail out a stimulus check to only living people?” he asked.
Mail-in voting has become a divisive topic as election officials have sought to safely hold elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. Congressional Democrats, citing concerns over a potential resurgence of the coronavirus, are pushing for mail-in voting in all 50 states.
Republicans are not convinced. President Donald Trump and his allies have launched an all-out war on the effort, citing potential fraud and threatening punitive action against states that move to all mail-in voting.
“The United States cannot have all Mail In Ballots,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. “It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history.”
Last week, the president threatened to withhold federal funding from the battleground states of Michigan and Nebraska over the issue. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson plans to mail absentee-ballot applications to the state’s 7 million voters for its Aug. 4 primary and the November election. Nebraska is sending ballots to voters for its June primary. It is unclear what funding the White House would withhold, but both states have requested financial aid from the Election Assistance Commission.
“The president’s right to look at this,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during a recent press briefing. “We want a free and fair election, and that’s a fair concern.”
The Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the California Republican Party are suing California after Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a plan to switch to mail-in ballots for November’s general election. Newsom wants to automatically mail ballots to every registered voter. The state would still allow limited in-person voting.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called the move “the latest direct assault on the integrity of our elections.”
Blue states are not the only ones seeking to ramp up voting by mail. Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican, plans to mail instructions to every registered voter on how to apply for absentee ballots online. Ohio and Georgia’s Republican secretaries of state are also weighing plans to send absentee ballot applications or information to voters. In acknowledgment of security concerns, Kentucky and other states are creating fraud task forces.
The pervasiveness of voter fraud is the subject of intense debate, but recent, documented examples do exist. In 2018, state officials ordered a do-over in a North Carolina congressional election after a GOP operative requested, collected, and marked more than 1,200 absentee ballots.
Voting experts say there is less opportunity for bad actors when elections are supervised by officials in person. But in-person elections can have their own problems.
On May 21, U.S. Attorney William McSwain unveiled the conviction of a former Philadelphia election official, Domenick DeMuro, who pleaded guilty to stuffing ballot boxes for Democrats in local elections while serving as the municipal judge of elections. In exchange for bribes, DeMuro would stand in a booth and vote “over and over, as fast as he could, while he thought the coast was clear,” McSwain said.
Mark Hemingway, a senior writer at RealClearInvestigations, recently came under fire from voting rights organizations after writing an article pointing out that voters did not return nearly 1 in 5 of all absentee ballots between 2012 and 2018. But he did not present evidence of fraud.
“I don’t believe there is widespread voter fraud in this country,” Hemingway told me. “But it doesn’t have to be widespread to affect a close election.”