Going Postal with Elections Kills Voting Rights

Check out the two post offices that went up in flames during recent rioting in Minneapolis. Those fires will serve as a fitting metaphor for election integrity if we end up conducting all elections through the United States Postal Service.

Self-described progressives are pushing hard for doing just that nationally, along with more ballot harvesting, elimination of signature matching, and other fraud-inducing measures.

That would be a disaster for voter rights, as well as for election integrity. The issue here is not about having an option to vote by mail. Lots of states—and counting—have given that choice for a long time.

The real issue is that the goal is to abolish all in-person voting. This means abolishing everyone’s right to vote by official ballot with guaranteed secrecy at one’s local polling place on election day. Oregonians lost that right when their state went all postal in 1998. Since then, four other states have gone totally postal: Washington, Colorado, Utah, and Hawaii. California is poised to be next. The agenda, clearly, is to make mail-in ballots a permanent requirement in every state, not a choice.

Each state that mandates vote-by-mail represents a local campaign in a broader attempt to federalize the entire electoral process. Those pushing the agenda to centralize national elections know that it can’t be achieved if people are allowed to vote in person, even if they have a mail-in option because local citizens along with local governments control local polling places.

Big government activists have welcomed the shutdowns due to the COVID-19 virus so that they can use it to try to force a national vote-by-mail process for this November. They portray polling places as medically unsafe—unlike street demonstrations or daily visits to government offices or grocery stores—even though they are opened for just one day every two years or so.

Aside from bogus charges of voter suppression, activists for going postal describe in-person voting as old-fashioned and less efficient. Yet all-mail voting can create long delays in processing election returns, sometimes well over a week. And there is nothing “old-fashioned” about privacy rights, especially when intimidation by political correctness runs rampant.

All-Mail Voting Is a Blow to Voter Privacy, Direct Vote Casting, and Community

Aside from blowing the door wide open to opportunities for voter fraud, mandated vote-by-mail begs several questions about voter rights: Should voters have a right to a secret ballot in the privacy of a voting booth rather than in a household where social pressure can hold sway, or where the voter may not even receive the ballot? Should voters have a right to the security of casting their ballot directly into a tallying machine or on-site ballot box? Should voters have a right to local community involvement in the electoral process, or are we all required to throw our ballots into a big pile for bureaucrats to sort out entirely on their own?

You may be surprised to learn that the answer to each of these questions is likely “no.” The U.S. Constitution guarantees none of these things. It may contain several references to voting, but the most it says about election procedures is in section four of Article I, which leaves the “times, places, and manner” of elections up to the states.

Perhaps this means that the state can, if it chooses, make you call out your vote in the public square? After all, secret ballots are a relatively recent development of the 19th century. It also means the state can force you to vote by mail only. So when it comes to voting, you have precious few rights enshrined in the Constitution that would guarantee election integrity. It seems high time to change that. Here are some rights we might think about protecting and enshrining:

The right to a secret ballot. Mail-in voting will spell the death knell of the secret ballot. It’s bad enough that some election judges at polling places disrespect this right. For example, in 2016 my precinct in Fairfax County, Virginia simply strewed some flimsy trifold cardboard “screens” on cafeteria length tables for those who might want a bit of privacy when filling out their ballots. It was easy to look over the heads of the voters at their ballots because officials directed voters to walk through aisles of them as they sat at their ballots. I also witnessed voters sitting together and comparing notes before casting their ballots, with barely a shrug from election judges.

If the secret ballot is to be protected, then privacy must be an absolute requirement at polling stations, not an option. If people want to shout out their votes, they can do so anywhere else. Despite a general erosion of privacy in recent years, the local polling place is still best for guaranteeing it. And real booths need to make a comeback.

The right to direct ballot casting. My polling place currently uses an electronic reader to cast ballots. This allows me to cast my paper ballot directly where I know it will be counted at the precinct level. In-person voting at that level is the best way to assure accurate tabulation, and to build trust that one’s vote is counted. We can be far less sure that our votes are counted if we put our ballot in the mail or an unattended dropbox on the street, rather than in a secured, observed, and local receptacle.

That’s why I hate voting absentee. When I had to do so in 2006, I personally walked my ballot to the Montgomery County Board of Elections in Maryland, believing that would be more secure. When I arrived at the counter, a cheerless bureaucrat took my ballot, immediately placed it on the top of the hutch of her desk, and went back to doing whatever she was doing. She was offended when I asked if there was an official place to put it, forcing me to defend my ballot. I completely lost trust in mail-in voting that day. (By the way, the official absentee envelope was translucent enough that you could easily read my votes through it.)

The right to a citizen-involved rather than bureaucrat-run process. It might seem quaint, but voting in one’s precinct is a community event that should bolster trust. All-mail voting goes hand-in-hand with community breakdown in America. Worse, there’s danger in the vote-by-mail move towards centralization, away from the local control represented by voting in person.

This decentralization is key. On the matter of voter fraud, I’m not going to comment on competing claims about the potential for large-scale fraud and the evidence of fraud in states that have adopted mail-in-only voting. But I will note we’ve just come through an excruciating period of concern about foreign influence on our elections. No less an authority than President Obama said at a press conference in 2016 that presidential  elections in the United States cannot be rigged in part because “they are so decentralized.”

Whether or not Obama believed that decentralization was a good thing, he made an excellent point in referring to localized control. In 2016, there were 178,217 voting precincts in the United States. Of those, 116,990 were still physical polling places where people could cast votes on election day.

In the past, we generally knew election results on the night of the election because each in-person precinct tallied its thousand or so votes (on average per precinct,) had the election judges of both major parties sign off, and then reported the results to their board of elections as soon as possible after the poll closed. This decentralized and ordered system often allowed us to know the results of an election within hours, not the days or weeks that could be required with the chaotic mess of a national election gone postal.

In spite of all this, we’re being told that—for the sake of “fairness”—we must trust our entire electoral process to faceless bureaucrats with no guarantee of privacy, without actually casting a ballot, and without real citizen involvement.

For all of these reasons, all-mail voting clearly amounts to the disenfranchisement of voters. And it smells unconstitutional, too.

About Stella Morabito

Stella Morabito is a senior contributor to The Federalist.

Photo: Getty Images

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