By Leo Vasquez (@LV_HTX)
As the former official Voter Registrar for our county, I was asked by my elder colleagues at a monthly luncheon I recently attended whether they should vote in person or request absentee ballots to vote by mail. After the lunch, I regretted that I did not more emphatically urge them to vote in person. The risks of voting by mail far outweigh the perceived protections it affords. A vote cast by personal appearance not only supports the democratic election process and guarantees your vote will be counted, it also makes it easier for elections administrators to efficiently count your vote. By opting to mail in your ballot, especially in this 2020 election, not only do you risk your vote being rejected for any number of reasons (as highlighted, below), but you unnecessarily add fuel to a potential vote counting crisis.
This mania scaring our citizens into an unnecessary need to vote-by-mail is completely unreasoned. It is perplexing as to why political leaders and so many elections administrators are urging people to vote-by-mail. If not for seeing video clips of these officials actually making the statements, I would think it likely this must-vote-by-mail concept is being spread by foreign bots and trolls. And, putting on my tinfoil hat for a moment, my conspiracy theory is that the foreign influencers are, indeed, fueling the must-vote-by-mail nonsense via social media, essentially giving U.S. citizens the misimpression that they might lose their opportunity to vote if they do not vote by mail and that voting in person is a suicide-by-Coronavirus death sentence. Not since they dreamed up the buy-all-the-toilet-paper scheme have the Russian trolls seen such success. [Now removing my tinfoil hat.]
Even if you have the option of voting absentee by mailing in your ballot, if you care about a smooth election and results being accurately tabulated and quickly announced –meaning you care about maintaining the Democratic Process in the United States– you should make every effort to cast your vote in person. If you are physically able to get yourself to a polling location either during your jurisdiction’s Early Voting period or on Election Day, please make that effort.
Safe & Easy In-Person Voting
Back when the Coronavirus was seemingly running rampant and unchecked early in the year, there may have been some basis for extra caution. Today, by contrast, the virus is very much in check across the country. We know how to treat it. Most new cases are asymptomatic. We know the simple personal measures to take in order to virtually eliminate the chances of possibly catching the virus (i.e., wear a mask, wash your hands, socially distance). And elections administrators will take extra precautionary measures to protect the health of voters at the polls.
In the home of Houston, Texas, the Harris County Clerk (who currently serves as the county’s elections administrator) has taken extraordinary measures to ensure the health safety of voters in our nation’s third-most populous county: Those waiting in lines will be socially distanced. At check-in, there is a big plastic screen between voters and the masked-up poll workers. They give you a little, rubber fingertip cover to use when touching the electronic voting machines. The voting machines are spaced apart from each other. And, they give you a little wet wipe disinfectant packet to wipe down the voting machine. … The voting process is safer than going to a grocery store, the pharmacy, a restaurant, your place of worship, your place of work, or your local peaceful protest!
Leaders across the nation are taking steps to make voting in person easier. In Texas, for example, Governor Abbott has even expanded the Early Voting period to a full eighteen (18) days, October 13ththrough October 30th. Most days in Harris County the polls will be open 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and there will be at least one day during Early Voting where several polling locations will be open 24-hours! The old-school traditionalists among you can, of course, wait until the actual Election Day to cast your vote. All this is to say that a voter will have ample opportunity to vote in person and avoid long lines.
Counting (or Rejecting) the Ballots
Elections administrators and county clerks are not geared up to efficiently and effectively receive, process, and tabulate hundreds of thousands of ballots received by mail. It is a tedious, time-consuming, manual, and often highly-subjective process. If elections administrators strictly follow the letter of the law(s) for accepting mail-in ballots, significant percentages of these mailed-in ballots are sure to be rejected.
Mailed-in and absentee ballots need to be cross-checked against the original, signed voter registration application. A notable number of the signatures on the ballots will be obviously fraudulent and glaring mismatches, so those ballots will slow the review process and should be rejected. Then there is the screening for the dotting of the I’s, the crossing of the T’s, and the checking of the boxes needing checking. Again, per the letter of the law(s), ballots filled-out incorrectly should be rejected. Further complications are compounded by late delivery with timely postmarks, late delivery with no postmark, spoiled/damaged ballots, tampered ballots, etc. Most of these mailed-in ballots will also be rejected. The accumulation of all these rejected ballots will inevitably cause calls for lawsuits across the country.
America’s voting systems are not geared toward receiving vast quantities of ballots submitted by mail. Remember George Bailey calming his account holders and saving his Bailey Building & Loan bank in Frank Capra’s Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life? If all of his account holders (read: registered voters) had all at once demanded their cash (aka, ballot-by-mail), his bank would have collapsed. That is not the way banking works. Sure, there is always cash on hand available for those who need it, as is the case for absentee voting for those special circumstances who need it. But the standard is that U.S. citizens vote by personal appearance either during the ample early voting period or on Election Day.
Albeit for differing reasons, both sides of the aisle should agree on this principle of “Please vote in person if you are physically able.” Republicans sincerely want to minimize the possibilities of fraudulent votes slipping through the system, which is significantly less likely to occur when people are voting in person, but is easier to attempt via the anonymity of mailed-in ballots. Democrats want to avoid giving Republicans a chance to claim malfeasance, which becomes a stronger argument if mail-in percentage results differ substantially from the in-person results. No one should want to increase the chance that their vote will be rejected. Everyone should want to guarantee their vote is counted. And both sides should recognize that the longer the time needed to count sacks of mailed in ballots, the more screaming –and suing– there will be from both sides.
Don’t contribute to the chaos. Help the democratic process. Vote in person.
Leo Vasquez lives in Houston, Texas, is a business strategy advisor and is an advocate for evidence-based practices and good government. You can find him on Twitter at @LV_HTX or visit his website, leovasquez.com for more information.