Most of those who cast their ballot through the mail will do so because they are concerned about the contagiousness of COVID-19, but some bedridden and chronically ill voters have been casting their ballots remotely for years.
All voters nationwide can cast their ballots this year without going to a polling place. Previously, some states required medical documentation to qualify voters for mail-in voting. These requirements have been lifted due to COVID-19.
The United States Postal Service has been handling and sorting mail-in ballots for several years. In 2018, the organization set up a system that made acquiring and sorting ballots quicker and more efficient by implementing sorting machines.
The new ballot sorting process made it possible for high volumes of ballots to be accurately filed and sorted in a short amount of time. The ability to do this would be perfect for this year’s election cycle, but new changes made the process a lot more difficult to execute.
In May, President Donald Trump replaced the sitting Postmaster General Megan Brennen with Republican National Convention fundraising Chair Louis DeJoy. Then, the budget cuts rolled in.
DeJoy cut funding for USPS employee benefits and managerial positions, but his most dangerous decision was to remove the ballot sorting machines from postal offices across the nation.
Now, final election results could be delayed over a week until all mail-in ballots are properly sorted and counted. A waiting period like this is dangerous for a few reasons.
Ballots counted on election night may not be able to tell us the true winner, rising suspense could result in riots after the winner is announced and postal service employees will have to work overtime (now unpaid because of DeJoy’s budget cuts.)
Despite its shortcomings, the delay in election results does not imply any possibility of voter fraud or election interference from external organizations. Rather, it is a peak example of Trump’s control over the election’s outcome.
His power to appoint campaign donors like DeJoy to high administrative positions without any need for approval clearly gives him the ability to alter the way this election runs. DeJoy’s removal of sorting machines months before the election cycle contributes to the belief that Trump appointed DeJoy to increase his chance of winning the election.
Still, a mail-in ballot carries the same weight as a ballot cast at a polling place. Voters should know that their vote will be sorted and counted, regardless of the amount of time it takes to do so.
Trump knows that Republicans are more likely to cast a ballot in person this year than Democrats are. He needs to look no further than the audiences at his own rallies to realize that Republicans are less concerned about the spread of the virus. His supporters gather in large crowds and often refuse to wear masks.
He knows that his supporters will always show up to the polls. Democrats who are more careful about stopping the spread of the virus may not.
For this reason, Trump benefits greatly from telling U.S. citizens that voter fraud is common among mail-in ballots across the country. If he can convince more moderate voters to refrain from voting this year, he is much more likely to win the election.
Trump’s administration has filed several lawsuits regarding the possibility of mail-in voter fraud. In each case, Trump’s lawyers have been unable to provide the courts with proof that mail-in voter fraud has occurred. They cannot find a single example of individuals or organizations abusing the mail-in voting system.
Here’s what this means for voters this year: each vote still matters. Trump can slow the process down, but he can only directly influence votes by claiming the mail-in voting system is fraudulent. The only way to combat this is by educating one another and most importantly, casting a ballot.