Over the past four years, one of Donald Trump’s miscellaneous obsessions has been eliminating voter fraud. To the uninitiated, this sounds completely reasonable. Voter fraud is essentially cheating, which subverts democracy. However, it is important to know that fraud in American elections almost never occurs, yet Trump implies that it is an issue of the utmost severity.
So, why try to fix something that barely exists? Trump insists that his loss of the popular vote in the 2016 election was due to millions of illegal votes cast by undocumented immigrants, votes under dead people’s names, and other forms of cheating. In the upcoming election this November, he believes that mail-in ballots will provide a major platform for fraudulent activity. However, claims like these are contradicted in a study by the Brennan Center, which found that voter fraud only occurs in 0.0003 to 0.0025 percent of nationwide elections. Voters should feel no concern with their mail-in ballots in regards to cheating in the election.
Though the statistics show that voter fraud through mail-in ballots is quite minimal, Trump and other Republican authorities continue to fixate on the idea that voting by mail is some secretive liberal plot to ensure Democratic victory. The hypocrisy in this argument is off the charts. Among the small percentage of voting fraud incidents in American democracy, the most notable recent case was committed by a Republican campaign. Let’s go back two years, to the congressional race of 2018. In North Carolina, an investigation found that an employed operative of Republican Mark Harris’ campaign had illegally collected absentee ballots from voters. Fraudulent activity was suspected when 61 percent of absentee ballots favored Harris, while Republicans only made up 19 percent of absentee voters. Trump dwells on mail-in ballots leading to Democratic voting fraud, but the reality is that he should be more concerned with the integrity within his own Republican party.
This contradiction raises questions about the legitimacy and true motives of these fraud allegations. Trump’s dislike for mail-in ballots could easily be seen as a voter suppression tactic, and even a constitutional rights violation. Generally, minority communities occupy a small percentage of votes in American elections. This can be due to various reasons, including the lack of accessibility to voting resources, information, and locations. However, in the midst of the pandemic, many states like California are widely distributing mail-in ballots for this election, and it could be worrisome for Trump because this increased accessibility might mean disadvantaged communities will vote in higher numbers to push him out of office. By discouraging these voters from casting their ballots by mail, Trump is mainly discouraging low-income communities of color from voting at all.
Not only is there no evidence that mail-in voting is fraudulent, but this method is what will maintain the wellbeing of our country during this time, because voting in person comes with some risk. We still have a global pandemic going on, so voters should take into account what level of exposure they are comfortable with when deciding how to vote. Casting ballots through mail is a great option to prevent the overall spread of COVID-19.
It is absolutely clear that voter fraud through mail-in ballots is unproven and has no reason to be a threat in this election. In fact, it is quite possibly what will save our communities from further spread of COVID-19. If anything, this whole debate over mail-in voting is a distraction. It is crucial that we don’t let our leaders divert our attention from what is really at stake, which is the integrity of our democracy.