I am a big fan of absentee voting. During my 20 years in the Navy, I always voted absentee for my home state. This meant applying to the Florida Secretary of State’s office and verifying my residency (driver’s license). Before the internet and when I was underway on submarines, filing to vote absentee had to be completed many months before I deployed. This was never a burden but my civic right and obligation.

Some are now pushing for all mail-in voting due to health risks from the coronavirus. Even though it took Washington state five years to set up a system to handle all mail-in ballots, some states are now trying to implement this before the upcoming November election. According to CDC Director Anthony Fauci in mid-August, there is “no reason Americans shouldn’t be able to vote in person” in November “if carefully done, according to the guidelines” because, according to Fauci, in-person voting is as safe as going to the grocery store.

There is a big difference between absentee voting and “universal mail-in voting” which has been adopted by 10 states including California, Oregon, and Washington (but not Idaho). In universal mail-in voting, a ballot is automatically distributed by mail regardless of whether it was requested or not.

What could go wrong with such a system? First, the time it takes to process mail-in ballots delays election results.

Second, mail-in ballots are most vulnerable to election fraud, forgery and theft, not to mention the opportunity they create to intimidate voters in homes, assisted living centers and nursing homes.

Third, there have been reams of misdelivered ballots by the U.S. Postal Service. The Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service released a report on Wisconsin’s April primary, where 81,000 ballots were delivered after the primary. In Wauwatosa, Wisc., 421 ballots mailed to residents were never delivered. Identical problems occurred in D.C. and Maryland.

Fourth, voter rolls are in notoriously bad shape. The Pew Research Center found nearly 2 million dead Americans were still on active voter registries, one in every eight registrations in the United States was invalid or had major inaccuracies, almost three million Americans were actively registered to vote in multiple states, and about 12 million had old or error-ridden addresses listed on their registrations.

Locally, the most recent IRS data show that 1,996 people moved out of Latah County and 2,197 out of Whitman County in 2018 alone. Roughly 8,000 people have moved out of each county since the 2016 election. How many of those who moved are still on the voter rolls in Moscow? How many of those will still be sent a universal mail-in ballot to Pullman?

If ballots are automatically mailed out, arriving in neighborhoods where voters no longer live, they can be gathered up and used illegally. After all, it has been long known that election fraud is a growing threat to our systems. The New York Post tabloid just ran a long article titled “Confessions of a voter fraud: I was a master at fixing mail-in ballots.” I encourage everyone to read this eye-opening exposé. The whistleblower details how he easily manipulated mail-in ballots for decades.

CBS Chicago has a report in 2016, “Chicago Voters Cast Ballots From Beyond The Grave,” detailing 119 dead people who have voted a total of 229 times in Chicago in the decade prior to the report. The Wall Street Journal’s “Mail-Vote Madness in Pennsylvania” says that if this swing state’s primary debacles are repeated in November, it could draw our entire country into a legal brawl.

According to the Shore News Network, in Paterson, N.J., four Democrats are currently under investigation for absentee ballot fraud. They were discovered because hundreds of mail-in ballots were stuffed into a single mailbox. Had they spread them out across multiple mailboxes, they likely would not have been caught.

Lastly, because required information is not filled out correctly, the rejection rate of absentee ballots is significantly higher than in-person ballots. In the 2020 primary elections, over 500,000 mail-in ballots were rejected.

Absentee voting has its place, but voting in-person drastically minimizes voter fraud. Going to an all mail-in system is pushing the U.S. towards a voting disaster. If you thought the hanging chad fiasco in the 2000 election was painful, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Dale Courtney served 20 years in nuclear engineering aboard submarines and 15 years as a graduate school instructor. He now spends his spare time chasing his grandchildren around the Palouse.

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