RNLA Co-Chair: Universal VBM Problematic for 2020 Election

On Monday, RNLA’s Co-Chair Harmeet Dhillon published an op-ed in USA TODAY about the risks that widespread vote-by-mail poses in the upcoming election. Currently, she is representing Republicans in California suing to prevent absentee ballots from being sent to inactive voters. Absentee voting plays an important role in the electoral process for those who are unable to vote in person. However, Democrats are pushing for universal vote-by-mail despite the warnings of election experts on both sides of the aisle.

So far, 16 primary elections have taken place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these states have experienced widespread problems resulting from the rapid expansion of vote-by-mail. The problems ranged from ballots getting lost in the mail to printing the wrong information on the ballots. Washington has spent the last decade implementing their universal vote-by-mail program. Washington election officials told Crosscut.com in April that it was likely already too late for states to transition to a predominantly vote-by-mail system for the 2020 Election.

States have also recently experienced difficulties counting the increased number of mail-in ballots cast due to the pandemic. Georgia is still counting ballots from last week’s primary with over 150,000 left to be counted before the deadline for certifying results.

Security is also a major concern with widespread vote-by-mail. This can be especially of concern for disabled voters. A recent article explained how blind voters become severely disadvantaged, and even disenfranchised, in a universal vote-by-mail system.

As Dhillon notes, "election experts on the right and left acknowledge universal voting by mail poses a significant risk of disenfranchising voters through fraud, mistakes, delays and other problems."  

  • Liberal Prof. Rick Hasen, famously skeptical of voter fraud, has acknowledged: "when voter fraud does occur or when voter coercion does occur, it tends to occur with absentee ballots."  
  • Moderate David Becker wrote in March: "Because mail ballots aren’t checked for errors by scanners at polling places — voters unaccustomed to the process are naturally more likely to make mistakes — elections could see a significant increase in uncountable (or uncounted) votes. And because states usually require that the signature on the mail ballot match the voter’s signature on file, ballots could be rejected in record numbers."  
  • Conservative Prof. Michael Morley warned: "allowing third-party ballot harvesting is particularly dangerous given the nature of COVID-19. Completely asymptomatic people may carry and be able to transmit the virus. Encouraging people to go door-to-door to collect absentee ballots, particularly from older or infirm voters, creates a tremendous unnecessary risk of spreading COVID-19 throughout some of our most vulnerable populations."

Americans deserve to have access to a safe and secure voting system for November’s election in spite of the difficulties posed by COVID-19. In her op-ed, Dhillon writes:

All Americans deserve an election system that is easy to access, secure and final. Instead, many states offer bloated rolls that include millions of ineligible voters; tabulation of ballots that takes weeks instead of hours; and with ballot harvesting, substantially increase the risk that ballots are coerced from voters, misdirected or completed fraudulently.

Despite the nearly universal recognition of the problems with vote-by-mail, members of the media and Democratic leaders continue to direct the blame towards Republicans who have been calling for reforms that will ensure the security of elections.