To get an inkling of our looming November nightmare, recall the crooked 2018 election in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district.
In the Republican primary Mark Harris defeated incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger while garnering 96 percent of Bladen County’s mail-in vote. That astonishing total was the reddest of flags. Nevertheless, the Board of Elections did nothing because no one complained to it. Indeed, election boards across the country rarely scrutinize results.
This helps explain the oft repeated claim that voter fraud is vanishingly rare in America. It is because few people are looking for it; no cops, no crimes.
When a GOP operative conducted another illegal ballot harvesting scheme during the general election, people noticed and the Board overturned the result.
As our fiercely divided nation prepares for a pandemic election that will include vast numbers of mail-in ballots rest assured people will be paying attention. The early returns suggest they will have plenty to complain about.
We are already seeing voter fraud investigations in Arizona, West Virginia and New Jersey. And note that Texas, which is one of the few states that has tried to monitor its elections, has convicted dozens of people of election crimes since 2018.
The larger problem is the general ineffectiveness of governments. Liberal media outlets like to assert that Colorado, Utah and other states that conduct elections almost entirely by mail prove that the approach works. It does if you have years, rather than a few months during a pandemic, to get the proper systems in place.
Thanks, in part, to Stacey Abrams false claim that Georgia’s 2108 governor’s race was stolen from her because, among other things, inactive voters were dropped from the rolls, many states have failed to follow a federal law that requires them to update their registrations. This helps explain why as many as one-sixth of the 1.3 million ballots recently sent out by Nevada’s largest county went to outdated addresses and perhaps a half a million ballot applications recently sent out by Virginia had incorrect information.
While opening the door to fraud, such mistakes illuminate the larger problems with mail-in votes. As the Wall Street Journal reported, in 2016 “roughly 1% of submitted absentee ballots were rejected. About half of the time, the voter’s signature was missing or didn’t match the John Hancock on file. Another quarter of these ballots arrived after the deadline. All in all, 319,000 votes were thrown out. Black and Hispanic mail voters in Florida had rejection rates in 2018 that were twice as high: 2% and 2.1%, compared with 0.9% for whites.”
Recall that George W. Bush won Florida, and hence the presidency by just 537 votes in the 2000 presidential election. A few contested votes can make a big difference.
In addition, many communities are ill equipped to handle huge numbers of mail-in ballots. New York City took more than six week to declare winners in two June 23 primaries, the New York Times reported, because of “major delays in counting a deluge of 400,000 mail-in ballots.”
And, of course, we’re depending on the Post Office to deliver ballots in a timely manner. When CBS News in Philadelphia sent itself mock ballots, three percent had not arrived a week later. NPR reports that 65,000 mail-in votes have been rejected in primary elections this year because they arrived late.
As with COVID-19, there is no quick fix. November’s election will almost certainly generate millions of contested ballots. At a time when neither side is willing to admit it lost fair and square the consequences are predictable and unimaginable.