I would like to preface this article by saying that I am discussing mail-in voting from a politically neutral standpoint. In the 2020 election, mail-in voting is an issue that has taken on a life of its own, and both sides have discounted the concerns of the other. As a college student who is unable to make it home for election day, I have been voting by mail for a few years. Whatever your stance may be politically, I ask you to read this article with an open mind so that we may engage in a meaningful discussion about the pros and cons of mail-in voting. I fear that Americans are no longer engaging with those they oppose and instead are repeating the position of their preferred political party. If we stay on this course, I am afraid that the United States will fracture beyond repair.

Mail-in voting is not new. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, an independent government agency, reported that 23.6% of Americans voted by mail in the 2016 Presidential election. There were six states that reported that over 50% of the votes cast in their states were absentee ballots. At the time, there were two primary ways voters could participate in the election via mail: absentee ballots and vote by mail. Who qualified to participate in either of these options varied from state to state. 

Why sound the alarm bells now? I suspect that the doubt that the Trump administration is sowing in the public has little to do with fraud and a lot to do with who is participating in mail-in voting. Republicans and Democrats have generally had different responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, I am not here to debate whether the economy or public safety is more important in ensuring the welfare of Americans. What I can comment on is the general sentiment that Democrats are more willing to shut down the economy in order to protect the public welfare, while Republicans prioritize the economy above all else. I predict that Democrats would prefer to vote via mail as a safety precaution in this election. Mail-in voting could and probably will determine the outcome of the election.

In a Sept. 18 press briefing, President Trump commented on mail-in voting saying, “there are going to be… tremendous numbers of missing ballots. … You could be talking about large percentages of these ballots are going to be missing. There’s going to be fraud.” Is there any validity to his concerns? That depends on the type of voter fraud. President Trump believes that foreign countries are going to print millions of mail-in ballots. This concern is not based in fact. First of all, ballots are incredibly difficult to replicate. The entire layout and marking of a choice can vary from town to town. Additionally, the envelopes the ballots are mailed in have unique barcodes specific to the voter. If a particular voter already cast their ballot and a foreign country was attempting to replicate the ballot, then election officials would be made aware that someone had “voted” twice. Lastly, the signature on the ballot is verified against the voter’s signature in the database by election officials. This entire process varies from state to state, but in general this is a complicated process that just wouldn’t be reasonable or worthwhile for a foreign government to put their time and energy into. There are much easier ways to attack the United States.

I am more concerned with how many mail-in ballots were rejected during the primaries. 534,000 ballots were rejected due to “voter error” and late ballots. Considering that the 2016 election was decided by 80,000 votes, this is cause for concern. Individuals may not be familiar, especially if they have not voted before, with all of the rules that come with voting. If a ballot is rejected, there may not be enough time to correct the mistakes. Not to mention the changing rules about mail-in ballots that are currently in flux. Someone could have already voted and done so correctly, but if their state’s rules change then suddenly their vote is no longer counted. 

Mail-in voting is not the problem. It is politicians interfering in the bedrock of our democracy for their own political gain. If mail-in ballot fraud is such a pressing issue, why did we not address it in the 2016 election? Why are we trying to “fix” a problem that was never a concern weeks before the election? Because it was never an issue in the first place.