“So, let them send it in and let them go vote.”
That’s what President Trump said about voting by mail, in a North Carolina television interview on September 2. He was responding to a question about the 600,000 absentee ballots that could be mailed in North Carolina for the November election. Voicing skepticism once again over the integrity of mailed ballots, he suggested that people test the system by sending in their absentee ballot and then showing up to vote on Election Day. “…if the system is as good as they say it is, then they obviously won’t be able to vote,” he acknowledged.
Okay, so if people follow his suggestion (an intentional act), they would be breaking the law. Not the first time the President has suggested or engaged in lawbreaking (try googling “has President Trump ever encouraged people to break the law” and see what you get), but distressing nonetheless.
He is wrong when he asserts that voting by mail is subject to fraud. The Washington Post looked at the three states that conduct their elections largely by mail (Colorado, Oregon and Washington) and found only 372 possible instances of double voting or voting for a deceased person out of 14.6 million ballots cast in the 2016 and 2018 general elections. That’s 0.0025 percent.
I am guessing that the President’s double-voting suggestion will be seen as a non-starter, especially since it might tangle up the votes of his own supporters. But it should focus us all on the need to “make a plan to vote” – to figure out whether we will vote by mail, and if so, to take steps early enough to ensure that our ballots get to our homes and can be returned well before the deadlines.
The Coalition on Human Needs has started a Vote for Human Needs campaign to encourage people to register and vote. We’re working with many other non-profit organizations to provide potential voters with the information they need so they can make that plan to vote. That’s especially important during the pandemic. You may have always voted in person, but now things are different. You may feel safer voting by mail, or by returning your ballot to a drop box provided by your election authorities. Your polling place may have changed, and there may be early voting locations; you need to decide if these alternatives are right for you. We’re fortunate to have two great new staffers dedicated to connecting groups with the resources they need to encourage voting in their communities: Rebecca Vucic (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dominique Espinoza (email@example.com). They’ve already compiled many resources here, and are adding more every day. Contact them if you’re with an organization or congregation that can use information about voting.
We are very interested in how people are planning to vote, so please consider filling out this brief survey about your voting plans. Rest assured: we’re not asking who you’ll vote for. We just want to know how best to help people learn the rules and deadlines in their states, so they can exercise their right to vote.
Decades ago, I used to volunteer to drive people to the polls; there were a lot of older people in my community who needed that help. The polling place was an elementary school with two routes in: a shorter walk with some steps, or a walk up a long ramp. Even the frail seniors chose the shorter walk, and struggled to get up those steps because they were determined to vote. Some of them had emigrated from places where a vote was not possible, escaping from the perils of authoritarian states. I can still picture them and still admire them, just as I admire the people in this country who stood on long socially distanced lines during primaries with similar determination. They know voting is our right and our sacred duty. We have to work together to ensure that voting is safe and secure, and that all in our communities have all the information they need to cast their ballots. The President may recklessly threaten to subvert voting. We have to make sure it works.