Are we happy with mail ballots? I mean, really happy?
I am not — and I am not speaking in support of Donald J. Trump, who probably has done more to undermine faith in elections than anyone since Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.
But that does not mean his complaint about “non-requested’ mail ballots has no merit.
There is going to be some opportunity for fraud in a system that blasts mail ballots to every registered voter, when we know some are dead and some have moved. In the just passed election, we know some ballots were filled out and mailed in by someone other than the person to whom they were addressed.
We also know that number is small and the chance of it affecting the result of an election is infinitesimal.
But, still, it is wrong. And we should do better. Why would you not want to improve the system?
Democrats generally oppose “cleaning up” registration rolls because they claim it is racist and/or suppresses the vote of poor people. I have trouble buying that argument.
This year, the Pennsylvania state supreme court ruled that ballots could not be rejected if signatures didn’t match, which means — why bother checking signatures at all?
If election law doesn’t want signatures checked, why are they requested?
I generally oppose early voting of any kind, and oppose mail ballots other than those requested by a voter, as in Pennsylvania.
Over the past few decades, the solitary specialness of Election Day has evaporated as more and more jurisdictions allow more and more voting to be held in more and more locations on more and more early dates. The main argument in favor of that rollout is that more opportunities to vote increases turnout.
The problem is, the data does not support that. Let’s look at turnout for national elections going back half a century.
Until this year’s hypercritical election notching 66.4%, the last time turnout topped 60% was in the ‘60s.
Despite all the enhanced opportunities to vote since then, the turnout for the last 50 years has remained in the 50s, except for 1996 when it dipped to 49% (that was Bill Clinton vs. Bob Dole and Ross Perot).
We don’t know how much worse the turnout would be without early voting, but I suspect not much.
People who are motivated to vote will vote, whatever the time and place. Those who won’t vote, just won’t.
This year’s turnout was the highest this century, but that still left one-third of voters on the sideline, even as both sides claimed democracy itself was at stake.
If one-third are that disinterested, uninformed or inert, maybe we are better off not hearing from them.
Once upon a time, Election Day meant something. It meant all of America did something in support of democracy on a single day. It created a feeling of national unity, of importance.
Maybe we should try to recapture that, and also try to correct a wobbly election system. I have a five-point program.
Election Day should be Saturday and Sunday. Two days because some people have religious beliefs that would impact Saturday or Sunday.
Voting will be done in person, or by mail only for people requesting mail ballots. Mail ballots will be distributed upon request two weeks before the election and will be counted as soon as they are received, with totals remaining secret until close of polls on Election Day. Deadline for receiving votes is 8 p.m. Election Day. No harvesting of ballots, no hard-to-secure special ballot dropoff boxes. It will all be done by USPS. Why only two weeks out? In case of late-breaking news about a candidate.
No “curing” ballots. Once you have cast your ballot, that’s it. No do-overs.
Voting machines that do not connect to the internet and which produce a paper receipt. If the FBI website gets hacked by teenagers, no internet-connected computer is safe. The paper readout is for verification.
Photo ID is required for voting in polling places. Signatures are required on mail ballots.
I am sick of the argument that requesting photo ID is racist.
To cash a check you need a photo ID, you can’t get on a plane without it. You can’t buy booze, cigarettes, open a bank account, apply for food stamps, rent a car or a hotel room without photo ID.
85% of American adults have drivers licenses. Among the 15% who do not drive, we have many with government-issued ID — everything from college IDs to gun carry permits.
That leaves a tiny percentage without photo ID. If they are disproportionately minority, or elderly, or female, there will be nonprofits galore to help them get it. Also helping will be political parties, governmental agencies and houses of worship.
These five steps will produce elections with fewer questions.