POWELL: Too much voting by mail risks integrity of elections

Published on Tuesday, 10 November 2020 16:29
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After warning that the U.S. Postal Service might sabotage the vast increase in voting by mail for last week's national election, leading Democrats in Connecticut are renewing their calls for allowing everyone to vote by mail just for personal convenience, without having to claim illness, infirmity, travel, or religious reasons. A state constitutional amendment would be required for the change.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill says mass voting by mail worked well in Connecticut and should be made permanent. U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy agree.

Maybe mass voting by mail worked well enough in Connecticut for an election in which no major races were close, but there were many mistakes in preparing the extra absentee ballots. While these mistakes were corrected in time, the more handling of ballots - the more intermediaries between voters and the casting of their votes - the more mistakes there will be.

The more opportunity for fraud too. There is a reason elections long have been based on the personal appearance of voters at the polls - election integrity. Identities are easily confirmed, ballots never leave the polling place, and the whole process is transparent.

Not so with voting by mail. As seen in states whose presidential tallies are painfully close, mailed ballots raise issues of timeliness. They require much more work to tabulate. Delaying tabulation, they raise suspicion of tampering and indeed invite tampering and forgery when it is seen how many more votes might change the outcome.

President Trump offered no evidence when he went on national television last Thursday night to accuse the tabulation in Pennsylvania and Georgia of fraud and thereby impugn the whole election. But forgery with late votes does happen. This was notoriously the mechanism by which Lyndon B. Johnson won the Democratic nomination for U.S. senator from Texas in 1948, giving him a path to the presidency.

And while Trump offered no evidence of fraud Thursday night, across the country there were many complaints about what were at least anomalies in vote counting. Some were innocent and quickly corrected. Most have not yet been investigated and so cannot be judged at a distance, but all serious complaints should and likely will be investigated in the usual procedures.

The closer the contest, the more incentive for fraud, and it would be miraculous if there was no fraud anywhere in this election. An election in which margins of victory are comfortable to overwhelming, as they were in Connecticut, and where no one bothers to look for fraud does not vindicate massive voting by mail.

Indeed, election fraud gets easier in heavily populated jurisdictions dominated by one political party, where fraud is harder to detect. Connecticut has several cities that sometimes can't report their votes within 24 hours and that often have suffered political corruption. They always report huge Democratic pluralities.

The virus epidemic may have been good enough reason for the expansion of mail voting this year, but quite apart from election integrity, there remains a strong case for in-person voting: the demonstration of civic duty and community. The phrase "mail it in" long has conveyed indifference to an obligation, even as voting is cause to celebrate and give thanks for democracy and all those who make it work.


Elaboration is needed about Democratic U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro's denunciation of big money in politics the other day, after she had to wage her first vigorous campaign in 30 years against a self-funding Republican multimillionaire.

While she resented her opponent's big money, DeLauro isn't bothered by the tens of millions of dollars donated to the campaign of her party's presidential candidate, Joe Biden, by Wall Street interests, which usually favor the Republican candidate but didn't this year. Nor does DeLauro resent the $100 million spent in support of Biden in Florida, Ohio, and Texas by billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

Sometimes an oppressive establishment can be effectively challenged only with the help of rich angels, as when the eccentric philanthropist Stewart R. Mott financed Eugene McCarthy's insurgent anti-war presidential campaign in 1968.

DeLauro may not grasp these ironies because, after 30 years in Congress, she is part of the establishment now.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Columns, Editorials on Tuesday, 10 November 2020 16:29. Updated: Tuesday, 10 November 2020 16:31.