Republicans falsely claim that voting by mail is fraud

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Congressional Democrats want states to implement voting by mail to protect the 2020 elections during the coronavirus pandemic.

With the 2020 elections already being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, congressional Democrats are pushing to allow all American voters the option of casting their votes by mail.

Donald Trump and his supporters are responding by pushing a baseless conspiracy theory that this is "voter fraud."

On Tuesday morning, Trump retweeted a comment by conservative actor James Woods that said, "Voter fraud by Democrats is the second most dangerous thing to happen to America since this virus."

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Woods was himself sharing content from right-wing activist Tom Fitton that "leftists" are using the "pretext" of the COVID-19 crisis to push an "unsecure, 'vote by mail' free for all" to steal the 2020 elections.

Fitton's claim had also been shared by another Republican politician, Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, on Monday evening.

Republican Rep. Greg Murphy of North Carolina accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of wanting to "make national voting open for fraud n the midst of a national crisis," while several of his GOP colleagues complained that Democrats wanted to "federalize" elections.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), co-author of a Senate bill to expand mail-in voting, said last week, "No one should have to put their health at risk to vote.”

But conservatives — who have for years pushed the myth that voter fraud is a widespread problem — claim that mail-in ballots could make it easier for liberals to rig the election.

In reality, voter fraud in the United States is almost nonexistent. While some studies have found that vote-by-mail balloting may result in a few more cases of voter fraud, it remains very rare.

Amber McReynolds, CEO of the nonprofit National Vote at Home Institute, said in an email that fraud was not a major problem with mail-in balloting because "the system with things like signature verification helps to detect and prevent fraud."

After the 2016 election, Oregon and Washington — states that have already adopted voting by mail — examined the number of suspected voter fraud cases in the general election. Washington found 74 cases out of 3.36 million votes cast, a rate of about 0.002%. Oregon found just 54 cases and the same 0.002% rate.

In a 2016 Washington Monthly opinion piece, former Oregon Secretary of State Phil Keisling noted why universal voting by mail should be adopted nationally.

"Universal vote by mail has also proven to be at least as secure from fraud—and arguably more so—as traditional voting at polls," he wrote, noting that while some fraud has occurred, "the odds are about the same as your dying next month in a plane crash, caused by a flaming meteorite."

Voting by mail, he added, is much less susceptible to wholesale fraud because it is so decentralized. "Mail-based voting systems today are far less risky than most polling place elections, precisely because they distribute ballots (and electoral risk) in such a decentralized way," Keisling wrote.

"To have any reasonable chance of success, an organized effort to defraud a mail-based system and its safeguards must involve hundreds (if not thousands) of separate acts, all of them individual felonies, that must both occur and go undetected to have any chance of success," he added.

Gerry Langeler, the director of communications and research for the National Vote at Home Institute, noted that there are risks inherent in any system:

Those who raise the specter of mailed-out ballot fraud do not want to compare the theoretical coercion risk to well-documented traditional polling place 'issues' of voting machines that change ballots, voting machines missing power cords in 'select' precincts, poll workers who 'forgot' the keys, people being told their ID did not qualify when it did, or long lines where voters give up and go home. These are far more impactful than the possible coercion risk of mailed-out ballots.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.