The BRAD BLOG has long detailed the dangers of Vote-by-Mail and absentee balloting, describing the practice as "terrible for democracy," for a number of reasons. Among those reasons are the ease by which absentee ballots can be undetectably gamed, bought or sold, used for intimidation ("Show me that you voted this particular way or you will be fired/beaten, etc.") or otherwise lost in the mail, never added to the optically-scanned computer tally, etc., just to name a few.
Usually when we point these matters out, we'll get some amount of push back, most notably from someone from Oregon, where many voters love their all Vote-by-Mail elections (despite all the dangers, as demonstrated once again by the recent stories out of the state where, in one, a man was convicted of fraud after offering $20 for blank, unvoted ballots prior to the 2012 election, and another where an election official was charged with fraud after it was discovered she was filling in unvoted races in favor of Republicans while processing incoming mailed ballots.)
We'll also get push back, in such cases, from partisans (usually Democrats in heavily "blue" jurisdictions, but also, occasionally from Republicans in heavily "red" jurisdictions) who argue that Vote-by-Mail increases turnout, therefore it is good for democracy, despite all of those dangers which they marginalize as being greatly exaggerated.
We most recently saw this dynamic play out in Colorado, where, as we reported in some detail last week, a sweeping election reform bill is moving through the Democratically-controlled legislature and is likely to land on the Democratic Governor's desk very soon. The ambitious bill does a number of very good things, such as allow voter registration up until the day of the election, and offers other reasonable improvements to elections in the state and voters' accessibility to them. On the other hand, the legislation also would send an absentee/Vote-by-Mail ballot to every single registered voter in the state, whether they actually wanted one or not.
In opposing the bill, Colorado Republicans foolishly focused on the possibility of "voter fraud" via the enhanced voter registration provisions in the bill, which --- though it was crafted in part by the state election clerks' association (which has a majority Republican representation) --- was passed in the legislature along party lines.
What the Republicans failed to highlight --- but certainly should have --- in their attempts to try and defeat the bill, is the massive fraud capacity presented by the insane idea of sending a blank, unvoted absentee ballot to every single voter in the state.
The following news out of Los Angeles this week underscores, yet again, how that sort of thing is an absolute recipe for election fraud disaster...
According to a spokeswoman for L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, prosecutors are trying to determine whether backers of one candidate illegally filled out mail-in ballots for dozens of voters in the Armenian enclave in East Hollywood. The May 21 election will decide who succeeds Eric Garcetti, who is running for mayor.
The complaint alleges that O'Farrell campaign workers filled out voters' ballots for their candidate while telling them they were voting for Sam Kbushyan, a candidate of Armenian descent who ran and lost during the primary election.
Kbushyan and many of his former campaign volunteers are now working on behalf of O'Farrell.
The O'Farrell campaign rebuts the allegations, saying it was [opposition candidate John] Choi workers who filled out and took ballots from voters. "These are Choi people who are doing this," O'Farrell spokeswoman Renee Nahum said.
Nahum said the campaign plans to file its own complaint with the district attorney that will include testimony from voters who said they gave their ballots to Choi campaign workers who claimed that they were representing Kbushyan.
Interviews with several voters listed in the Choi complaint suggest improper activity occurred, although it was unclear who was responsible.
Eighty-two-year-old Raffik Hambardzumyan told the Los Angeles Times that an Armenian-speaking woman came to his house and helped him and his wife fill out their vote-by-mail ballots about a week ago. Hambardzumyan, who doesn't speak English, said the woman told them they were voting for Kbushyan.
He was surprised when a reporter told him Kbushyan wasn't on the ballot.
Galust Khachatryan, 65, said he was recently visited by two campaign workers who didn't help him vote but did take his ballot. He said they were the same workers who appeared at his home during the primary campaign on behalf of Kbushyan, but said he didn't know which campaign they were supporting now.
We haven't looked into the details of the above case to tell you which campaign may or may not be telling the truth about who did what. But, in this case, we have both campaigns claiming the other committed absentee ballot fraud. Neither campaign seems to be claiming that it either didn't happen, nor that safeguards were in place to keep it from happening had it not been discovered and reported by the opposing campaign.
As unrestricted Vote-by-Mail elections become more and more pervasive around the country --- particularly as partisans for the Democratic Party see Vote-by-Mail as political advantageous to them --- you can expect to see many more stories like the one above.
While Republicans continue to focus on nearly-non-existent cases of voter impersonation fraud at the polling place which, they disingenuously claim, can only be deterred by polling place Photo ID restrictions (meant only to disproportionately disenfranchise perfectly legal Democratic-leaning voters), the real threat of fraudulent ballots in elections, as long-documented, comes almost entirely from absentee/Vote-by-Mail ballots.
Republicans continue to focus on polling place "voter fraud", not because they actually care about it, but because they see it as a way to restrict Democratic turnout. Democrats focus on expanded Vote-by-Mail (and other ill-considered ideas, such as Internet Voting), not because it increases access to democracy, as they like to claim, but because (as they foolishly see it) it increases their chances of being elected by what they believe will be increased voter turnout by a younger, Democratic-leaning electorate.
In both cases, the political parties are, as expected, playing politics with elections. But for those of us concerned about actual democracy and Election Integrity, rather than party politics, its easy to see what the dangers are, and how to avoid them. Pushing back against the rising tide of Vote-by-Mail elections is one way to do so.
Once again, if you'd like to review just some of the reasons why Vote-by-Mail is a terrible idea for democracy, here is one of our very short, bullet-point lists which speaks to that issue.