To Protect Democracy, We Must Secure It: Mail-in Voting and Election Integrity A woman votes at James Island Charter High School on Election Day on November 3, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. (Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
By James K. Jeanblanc and Ralph J. Galliano | Thursday, 08 April 2021 06:24 AM
What’s the big earthquake of the 2020 presidential election?
No, it’s not who won or who lost. It’s that 60 million or more Americans — nearly half the voters — believe the 2020 presidential election wasn’t fairly conducted.
This belief comes from widespread claims of serious election irregularities, including the claim that the winner did not actually win. None of these claims has been proven or disproven. The courts have avoided trial on the merits, dismissing lawsuits on procedural grounds, thus allowing these claims to remain as a question on the new president’s legitimacy to govern.
What matters in gauging the fairness of an election is not the result, but rather the integrity in how the election was conducted. Election integrity is essential to public acceptance of the outcome. It’s impossible without first having in place meaningful safeguards to ensure that only the votes of eligible voters, voting only once, are the votes that are counted and accurately reported.
Lax safeguards deny elections their integrity. The election outcome is made vulnerable. A door is opened for claims of election irregularities, allowing these claims to have plausibility. And, because the deadline to take office often is short, there is little time, beyond vote counting, for a full review on how the election was conducted (as the handling of blanket mail-out ballots in the 2020 presidential election has shown). So having meaningful safeguards in place is essential to efficiently conducted elections, to having rapidly declared results, and to the maintaining of public faith in our democratic institutions.
Our historic system of in-person voting on one single day — Election Day — has served us well, typically through use of paper ballots. At the precinct level, staffed by trained workers, each voter is verified as an eligible voter. He then receives a paper ballot, votes that ballot, and directly places it over for counting, all conducted in-person at the precinct level and under the oversight of the precinct workers.
For the 2020 presidential election, several States implemented a new and supposedly "more democratic" system of voting in lieu of voting in-person at the polls on Election Day. This was the en masse mailing of unsolicited ballots to addresses intended for eligible voters. (This is to be contrasted from our secure historic absentee-voting system, which also uses the mail system, but has election integrity under which the voter must request the ballot be sent directly to him and he, in turn, votes it, signs it, mails it back, and in which each ballot and signature, upon receipt, is verified as authentic and kept in official custody to be counted.)
Events, however, have demonstrated the huge chain-of-custody problem this en masse mailing system presents, allowing opportunity for loss of ballots, for addition of illegally-voted ballots, and the actuality of an overwhelmed voter-authentication process, where every one of the many ballots each must have its signature on the return envelope matched with the voter’s signature on file. Yet, another issue was this shift from a democracy, where the voting citizens all come together and vote on Election Day as one, voicing the Will of the People. Mail-in voting recasts our democracy away from its historic focus of the people voting together at the same time.
Despite the many claims of election irregularities, the proponents of en masse mail-in voting dismiss these claims as frivolous, asserting the 2020 presidential election was a fair election. They express no doubt and intend to continue this so-called "fair" voting process for future elections. Still, the mail-in system has left the aftermath of this election in controversy and confusion, the likely aftermath of the next closely fought election under this voting system damaging the winner’s stature to lead and public confidence in government.
Mail-in voting should not be the allowed system governing American’s democracy future.
In this regard, Congress should be urged to enact legislation (or instead, adopt an amendment to the Constitution) to require all elections to federal office be conducted on Election Day via the system employing paper ballots at a precinct polling place where every voter shows his or her photo identity as a U.S. citizen eligible to vote. Computerized vote counting must be only using systems certified as reliable and impregnable, to avoid outside vote-tampering.
Only in this way can American democracy be protected and the sanctity of one-man, one-vote assure election integrity.
James K. Jeanblanc is the author of the FreedomTax and has a half-century of income tax experience involving tax legislation, tax regulation, IRS ruling, tax planning, and tax controversy matters. Ralph J. Galliano is the director of the Selous Foundation in Washington DC.