It’s election day in Colorado. Today we’ll choose a U.S. Senate candidate to defeat the ineffective and offensive Cory Gardner in November. And we’ll do it mostly with mail-in ballots.
Voting by mail has been the norm in Colorado for some time. It used to be that everyone had the option to vote by mail rather than go to the polls on election day. Since 2013, every registered voter has received a mail-in ballot, though we still have the option of voting in person on election day or for a period of time before election day. If you choose to use the mail-in ballot, you don’t even have to buy a stamp. There are ballot boxes located throughout the city where you can securely deposit your completed ballot. Mine sits right outside my local rec center, a place I pass by several times a week. It’s easy to slide my ballot through the slot as I head in for my weekly exercise class. Of course, that was pre-coronavirus. There are no exercise classes happening now, but the ballot box is still in place and still convenient whether I choose to drive, bike, or run to cast my vote.
So how does the election commission ensure that voters don’t cast two votes? Easy. It’s called ballot tracing. Every paper ballot comes with a unique code. When you’ve filled out your ballot, you retain the code and you can check to see when your ballot has been received. If you return your mail ballot AND show up to vote on election day, poll workers can see that you’ve already cast a ballot. If you somehow manage to vote twice, neither vote will be counted. And yet, people do sometimes try to cheat. A former GOP chairman tried to steal his soon-to-be ex-wife’s vote in the 2016 presidential election. He was caught and prosecuted.
When I worked as a reporter in a small town, a city official committed voter fraud by casting votes for dead people and by “helping” disabled and elderly voters fill out their ballots. This was in Mississippi where it isn’t easy to get an absentee ballot and where you have to have your application for that ballot notarized or officially witnessed. (Pro tip: it helps to have a few notary publics on your fraud team.) But here’s the thing, she was caught. And prosecuted. And sentenced to jail. Committing voter fraud might seem easy, but getting away with it is tough.
Still, some people will try. There have been instances where voters cast ballots in two counties or even two states. Occasionally a person may try to cast another person’s ballot, particularly if that person has recently died or moved. This happens regardless of how votes are cast and these people aren’t getting away with voter fraud. They go to court. They serve jail time or they are put on probation or they pay fines. It’s not easy to get away with voter fraud as long as your state has precautions in place to spot it. Colorado does. Every state should.
People shouting about the dangers of mail-in ballot fraud are lying to the public about the risks. The issue most politicians have with a mail-in system is that it allows more people to vote more easily. People in rural communities can vote. People in poorer communities can vote. People who work double shifts can vote. People who care for aging parents or sick children can vote. There are too many politicians who want to make it harder for these people to vote. Why? Because these people don’t usually vote for them.
Our elections are vulnerable, but the threat isn’t mail-in ballots. It’s widespread propaganda and interference by hostile foreign governments. It’s corrupt politicians that limit voting access. It’s gerrymandering and computer hackers and any voting system without a paper trail. All of these threats exist. And come November, it will be these sorts of threats that could undermine our election, not mail-in ballots.
Colorado is proof that mail-in ballots work. They make voting easier, more convenient, and safer. We don’t have to stand in line during a pandemic to make our voices heard. We aren’t shut out just because a few voting machines fail. We don’t have to venture out in a snowstorm unless we really want to. We don’t even have to buy a stamp or go to the post office to turn in our ballots. Voting here is easy, convenient, and safe. The rest of the nation should get on board. Politicians who try to tell you otherwise are lying because they benefit from the flawed systems that are currently in place.
Voting is a fundamental American right. Anything or anyone that imperils or impedes our right to vote ought to be, in the parlance of today’s young people, cancelled.