As election night has approached, voting by mail has been a topic of discussion amongst Democrats and Republicans. Especially with COVID-19, more absentee ballots are expected to be sent out in the 2020 election than in past elections.
Voting by mail policies vary depending on the state one resides in. According to the Florida Department of State website, to vote by mail in Florida, applicants must contact their county’s supervisor of elections no later than 5 pm 10 days before the election and must return their absentee ballots by 7 pm on election day.
The controversy regarding voting by mail lies in its perceived reliability. According to PBS.org, President Donald Trump, despite having voted by mail himself in the past, has alleged that “mail ballots are corrupt” and “in many cases” forged. Various government officials, however, have asserted such rhetoric to be false.
In an interview for PBS.org, Welsey Wilcox, the Supervisor of Elections for Marion Country in Florida, advocated for the reliability of voting by mail. After mail in ballots are received, they are authenticated based on signatures and put through a database that confirms that the voter has not yet had their vote counted for the election. If, say, the voter on the ballot voted in person, the mail in ballot would be nulled. This assures that votes aren’t counted twice. This practice, along with others, are put in place to assure votes are reliable.
Concerns on the bipartisan effects of voting by mail have also been expressed. However, a study by Stanford University in California, Washington and Utah found that voting by mail, on average, doesn’t affect voter turnout among Republicans or Democrats. In fact, it was found that it increased overall voter turnout.
Still, the threat of fraudulent ballots can be a concern. According to NPR.org, voting by mail has been found to increase instances of fraud, however, this effect is “miniscule” in terms of the millions of reliable voters. Voting by mail isn’t a new practice, in 2016 alone, 1 in 5 votes were cast via mail.
Voting by mail has been practiced in the U.S. for years with little impact on the elections. If there is anything for voters to be concerned with, it is when the results of the election will be received.
As a result of the higher rate of absentee voting, FiveThirtyEight has reported that the results of the election might be delayed to after election night. States that report their in-person votes might initially lean Republican on election night but might shift towards Democrats after mailed in ballots are voted, and vice versa.
Regardless, absentee ballots should not be viewed as a major cause for concern. They have been used in the pass with accurate results and, only in rare instances, have they swayed elections on a major scale, those of which were on a local level.
Tatiana Gonzalez // News Editor