Why universal over absentee?

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    Okay so apparently it’s suicidal for one to go the polls on election day to vote. Let’s for arguments sake agree on the that for a minute. What is a democrats justification for demanding universal mail in ballots when when can have absentee instead?(where a voter requests a ballot instead of everyone who has voted in the past 20 yrs-dead or alive-recieves a ballot) Even if the fraud that we are currently witnessing everyday(everyday it seems a new story pops up where ballots were dumped, shredded, sent to wrong addresses, wrong people ect…) is all but theoretical, isn’t that enough to avoid universal mail ins? What is wrong with absentee? What’s is a democrats justification for supporting such a system when we can do absentee ballots? Genuinely confused.

    Reb Eliezer

    A limited number requesting absentee ballots will only vote and not everyone knows to request one.


    So… it looks like somewhere in this conspiracy-laden rant is an actual question that folks on this forum may or may not want an answer to. Having worked as an election lawyer (off and on) for 15 years in one of the states at the center of voting controversy I’m happy to give you some answers and perhaps correct some of the baseless misconceptions you’re carrying around.

    Suicidal to go to the polls on Election Day – Not really. If you’re wearing a mask, have no symptoms of illness, and stay 6-feet distant from others while cleaning your hands before and after touching any paper or machine most folks will be fine. It’s more dangerous for the elderly and immunocompromised, obviously. But if you’re healthy and take common-sense precautions, there’s no reason you can’t go to the polls in person on Election Day.

    Before we begin, we have to agree on a basic assumption… that we support democracy and representative government, and that every citizen should vote and should be able to exercise their right to vote. If you believe like some, that more people voting is bad, then I suggest you find another country where they do not practice democracy.

    Universal mail-in ballots – There are three different things here that you’re talking about: (1) states that mail actual election ballots to the registered addresses of every registered voter in the state; (2) states that mail absentee ballot applications to every voter in the state; and (3) states that require a voter to affirmatively file paperwork to apply for an absentee ballot. I’ll respond in reverse…

    (3) Requiring registered voters to apply for an absentee ballot isn’t, in and of itself, bad. But it does limit the ability of many citizens to vote. The absentee ballot application is usually only available online. We all know frum Yidden who do not have computers. There’s also many elderly who either don’t have computers or don’t have the skills to use them. And as we learned with distance learning, many poor families do not have computers. The only way for them to get an application is to go to the county voting office. In many states, in rural areas, those offices are open one day a month and there is no public transportation to get there. You may think I’m finding a narrow population to justify my point. In my state, I know that narrow population to be at least 300,000 citizens. In a representative democracy that tries to be the world’s beacon of light, should it be SO hard for citizens to exercise their right to vote? So… it’s limiting, but not a bad thing to have.

    (2) Many Republican governors in the primaries sent out absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. Some thought this was terrible and would open things up to fraud. It’s very hard to fraudulently request an absentee ballot. If an identity thief using someone else’s name to get a ballot, there will be two requests under the same name and address, and that will be flagged. Similarly, signatures won’t match and the application will be rejected. If someone is hell-bent on committing voter fraud, they can just as easily take advantage of Option 3 above, which has the same safeguards.

    (1) Nine states and Washington, DC have universal mail-in voting where the county sends every registered voter a ballot to their registered address. This has been done for decades in some states with the result being high voter turnout and almost no discernable fraud. Why does this work? Voter fraud is a high risk, low reward crime. And it’s easy to catch. Where would the fraud come in here… someone swipes a ballot from another person’s mailbox and fills it in? First, each ballot is bar-coded, so names+address cannot be duplicated, nor can fake ballots be printed. Even if someone had the technology to duplicate a ballot, the bar code would not work when the ballot is received. Back to the mailbox… if a person didn’t get their ballot they would know and alert the county, which would then be on the lookout for an extra, fraudulent ballot. What’s the reward for the fraud? A single vote. What’s the risk? 15-20 years in jail for stealing mail and 5-10 years in jail for voter fraud. And if a person or group did this in an organized way and stole many ballots? It’s even easier to catch.

    What about vote harvesting? Taking validly cast ballots, collecting a bunch, and tossing them… you seem to elude to that in your post. Well… same problem. Each ballot is bar-coded so the voter can check online or by calling their county election office to see if their ballot was received. In my state the county sends you an email when it’s received and accepted. If you sent in your ballot but it wasn’t received, you know something is wrong and you can alert the county to fix the problem. And if this happens on a large scale (as it did with Republicans in North Carolina) then it’s very easy to catch because hundreds of ballots are missing, and it’s not hard to find who took them. The people involved in the harvesting were arrested and prosecuted. Now… what about a well-meaning person collecting ballots and delivering them correctly as a bunch to a county office? I think that’s fine, though it should be done with caution.

    Bottom line… there is very little danger of election fraud with universal mail-in voting. This is not 1874. Things are computerized enough to spot problems.

    Fraud we’re witnessing every day – What fraud? Ballots dumped and shredded? You’re getting half stories from your media. I’m still waiting to find out into which river in Wisconsin those “Trump” ballots were thrown. Why? Because it didn’t happen. It’s fiction. What happened was that a box of general mail fell out of a truck and was found on the side of a road. There were some ballot applications in there (there weren’t absentee ballots yet), and there’s no way to know who those people would eventually vote for. This is the point… it was caught! A pile of ballots were shredded? No they weren’t. The story was that a new worker in a clerk’s office moved a pile of ballots to the wrong side of a table. It was caught and fixed. Wrong addresses and wrong people? Yeah… you know about it because it was caught a month before the election and was fixed. With 130,000,000 votes being cast there WILL be problems and mistakes. For the most part, those mistakes are caught and fixed.

    You are working under the assumption that there absolutely is wide-spread voter fraud of some form. There is no evidence for this assumption. None. None at all. In 2017 Trump convened a committee to investigate voter fraud led by Kris Kobach. Why? Because Trump’s ego wouldn’t allow him to accept the idea that while he won the election under the Constitution, he lost the popular vote. And do you remember what Kobach’s report from the committee said? Do you remember it? Should I give you time to go look it up? No… you don’t remember it because there was none. The committee disbanded after a few months because there was nothing to investigate and no findings to publish.

    More recently… Trump’s campaign has lawsuits going in several states to strike large swaths of mail-in ballots of all types (even the ones you like). What happened in those lawsuits? They’re all dismissed. Why? As the TRUMP appointed judge in Pennsylvania said last week, because the plaintiffs presented no allegation of fact (a standard far lower than evidence) to support a claim of voter fraud. The judge (Trump appointed) called it a “fiction.” The plaintiffs couldn’t even tell the court a plausible story without the requirement of evidence. That’s how flimsy this notion of wide-spread voter fraud in the US really is.

    Why would I support universal mail-in voting? While I accept that it is a good system with no evidence of systematic fraud, I don’t think it’s the best. I like the Israeli model better, with universal automatic voter registration. Some states have this. But that’s just my opinion. I think the US, as a country, has to consider ways to move voting into the 21st century. We’re working on a model from the 1870s.

    What ARE problems in the voting system? There is no reason why, in the United States, the richest and most advanced country in the history of the world, the most developed democracy, that people should have to wait in line for eight (8) hours or more to vote. THAT is the problem. I salute the dedication of those folks (and I will be one of them) to stand in line for so long. But it should not have to be this way. It is the result of incompetence and willful neglect across several states and all political parties. There’s also a lot of blame shifting. For example, in my state, the same secretary of state who, on his own, threw 500,000 people off the voter rolls without cause, said that he did not have the authority to allocate resources to get better equipment or more workers in areas with larger populations (he did, there’s a statute). In some counties you have one voting machine per 100 voters and in the next county over you have one machine per 10,000 voters. Do you think that’s right or acceptable?

    I will tell you what ACTUAL voter fraud cases look like. You can research this for yourself on any state election commission minutes database. I watched the hearings. The vast majority of cases involve mistakes. Someone moves right before an election and they’re not sure where to vote. They ask the county clerk and the clerk gives them the wrong information. So they vote in the wrong place. Is that voter fraud? Should that person’s vote be counted? Was there criminal intent? Or my favorite… a poll worker was charged because a 90 year old voter asked him to demonstrate how the touch-screen voting machine works. Not vote for him… not see his vote… just how to push the buttons. That worker was charged with voter fraud. Is it?

    And this is my point. The safety-net is so fine that even these very minor accidents are caught and resolved. So there is little to worry about when it comes to a concept of wide-spread election shenanigans.


    @OrechDin, thanks for a good overview. I think this is definitely not a legal problem, but a political disagreement. Each party tries to change or keep rules to their advantage and there is no fault on either side as long as the means are legal.

    I do think that making voting a little hard is a better idea than requiring everyone to vote as is done in some countries. Why do we need to force an opinion from someone who does not care about expressing it? Do you think this person will make a profound contribution to policy debate? Most likely, he will mark up whatever the visiting party worker tells him. Thus, election becomes in part a simple census of social groups, each voting in a pre-determined way.


    Orech Din: Thanks for one of the best summaries of a complex and controversial topic I’ve seen. There have been “irregularities” at elections forever and given that tens of millions are voting at hundreds of thousands sites administered independently by tens of thousands of local and state election boards, the miniscule numbers of such glitches is really amazing. Obviously, the Trumpkopf’s desparate rants about problems with absentee/universal voting are a diversion, just like his rants about everything from busloads of voters being brought into New Hampshire, Antifa thugs threatening voters in Republican precincts etc. are about as phony as his hair and IQ. The real issue we should be focusing on is the rampant voter suppression going on, much of it in coordination with the RNC, now that they are freed from the restrictions previously imposed under the voting rights act.


    @always – You make a good point. I don’t think COMPELLING people to vote is the answer, but make it easier for those who want to vote, and are eligible, to actually cast their vote. Some people are more motivated than others. Some people will crawl through broken glass to vote for their candidate. Others have a preference and will vote, but if it doesn’t take away too much of their time. I think everyone should have the opportunity to be heard.

    I agree that much of the problem is political. The sad thing is that one party has said publicly that they want fewer people to vote because it’s better for them. I think, in a democracy, you should try to sway the public to your point of view, not deny the ability of your opponents to exercise their rights. I guess I’m an idealist…

    Amil Zola

    I live in a vote by mail state. I sometimes miss voting in a 100+ year old Grange Hall and walking to the wood stove to warm after voting. I certainly don’t miss driving rural roads in foul weather so I could transport those without without transportation to the Grange. (I typically took election day off so that I could manage multiple trips.)


    While I CAN vote by mail, there’s something about the ritual of going out on Election Day and casting a ballot in person that always gets me. Maybe we’re just a ritual-centric people. In fact, this years I’m flying back from Eretz Yisrael to vote in person and volunteer to work at the polls. Of course, I fly to Eretz Yisrael to vote in the elections here. The joys of dual citizenship.


    “Someone moves right before an election and they’re not sure where to vote. They ask the county clerk and the clerk gives them the wrong information. So they vote in the wrong place.”

    That happened to me once! Some think that I should have gone to prison for that. 🙁


    @OrechDin. I am also an idealist, we are just framing is differently. Your ideal seems to be that everyone has a vote. My ideal is that only knowledgeable people with good character make important decisions. I appreciate that both ideas are important.

    Practically speaking, a politician can either morph/present his ideas to appeal to more people, or to motivate more people who like his ideas to vote. I think currently the first path is easy to abuse – politicians can compute which marginal voters they can appeal to with bribes (I’ll pay for your college or social security, Southern Strategy) or with falsehoods. I think it is healthy when politicians have to motivate masses of voters. We should not use government money to help them mailing ballot applications. Parties can work on that on their own. We are also giving party operatives two months to go knock on the doors and “help” people fill out ballots.

    PS Theoretically speaking, we can establish a system that achieves both – you vote and pass an unbiased test, mixture of IQ, math, and civics. Only computer knows whether you passed the test and your vote counted. Maybe, you can have a quote – each state gets one smart senator from top 10% of the vote and one stupid from the rest. Senators were supposed to be that layer elected by elite – elected by the educated legislature. We can surely use technology now to achieve the same goal.

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