Make it Fair Calls for Wider Access to Vote by Mail

Photo credit: alameda county ballot by citymaus via Creative Commons

Through most of our lives, we’ve all been surfacely reminded about the importance of voting (and by surfacely, I mean, in a way that leaves the concept in the abstract).  Many of us have had the occasion to ponder, “Does my ONE vote really matter?” Currently, we are living through a point of critical mass, where government corruption appears intent on mass disenfranchisement, and is removing democracy from the grip of WE, THE PEOPLE, via mechanisms of voter suppression; so, I want to clearly state, in no uncertain terms- YES, your ONE vote really DOES matter.  Voting is our citizenry’s greatest weapon in the fight against government corruption. It’s no wonder why our corrupt government is trying to stop us from voting! Now, in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, a movement to expand VOTE BY MAIL access to more of the electorate is growing louder at an exponential rate. Opponents of the move are screaming unfounded claims about increased voter fraud, but the reality?  VOTE BY MAIL offers proven benefits that go far beyond just simply ensuring the voice of the people defines our governing process.

We all just watched voters in Wisconsin being subjected to a horrible experiment.  One where they were forced to choose between their constitutional right to vote, and a present need to remain socially distant.  There were efforts to postpone their April 7th primary date, but those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, forcing voters to head in person to the polls, in the midst of a pandemic.  Only time will tell just how deadly to Wisconsin the move will ultimately have been. Meanwhile our state has now TWICE rescheduled the date of our primary, in response to COVID19, but the Louisiana legislature seems intent on subjecting our citizens to a similar experiment, after committees in both of our state’s congressional chambers refused to expand VOTE BY MAIL opportunities to our voters: not for voters with underlying health issues, not for voters 60 and older, not for voters who are under quarantine/isolation orders, not for voters exhibiting symptoms of the virus, not for voters who believe they’ve been exposed to the virus- NO ONE!  This leaves Louisiana as one of only eight states not to offer VOTE BY MAIL expansions. The objections by our legislature overwhelmingly rest on that aforementioned idea that expanded VOTE BY MAIL will lead to a significant increases in voter fraud; though, current Louisiana Secretary of State, conservative Kyle Ardoin, said of the decisions, “I think some of their concerns are not steeped in all the facts that were presented today.”

Even in more normal times, VOTE BY MAIL has proven to be an effective tool for securing the democratic process.  Wherever it’s been tried, the following has occurred:

⦁ A significant increase in participation amongst eligible voters
Mailing your ballot eliminates ALL of the reasons one is unable to make it to the polls.

⦁ A decrease in incidents of voter fraud
Several mechanisms, including matching the signature on your ballot to the signature on your voter registration (held by each state’s election commission), and use of bar codes, ensures easy verification of each vote, and provides a paper trial, in case a recount is necessary.

⦁ An increase in informed decision making among voters
Having the time to study and research your full ballot, as you fill it out, removes the pressure one feels at the polls to complete their ballot under a time limit, because others are waiting.

⦁ A significant decrease in cost to taxpayers
Every locale where wider access to VOTE BY MAIL is available has reported spending anywhere from 40% to 60% less than traditional in person voting, saving millions in polling operating and equipment related costs.  For example: analysis conducted following San Diego’s special Mayoral election of 2013 found it cost $3.81/vote for those who voted in person at the polls, compared to $1.66/vote for those who voted by mail.

(We think it’s worth mentioning, this SPECIAL election, won by the republican candidate, was under circumstances where the decision to institute wider access to VOTE BY MAIL had to be made swiftly, and they were able to do so, without delaying the election. There’s no reason to think Louisiana can’t make a similarly swift decision.

We think it’s also important to note, Louisiana is still voting on 15 year old machines; a contract to replace ALL of these machines is positioned to cost our state $150Million)

Another benefit to instituting VOTE BY MAIL: it greatly reduces the number of surprised voters who learn they’ve been purged from the voter rolls, after it’s too late to rectify their inactive status.  Over the last several election cycles, a number of states (Louisiana included) have engaged in voter purges, claiming their purpose is to remove deceased and/or non citizens from the rolls; even though, analysis has shown the purges have ultimately disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of eligible voters, an overwhelming majority of which are people of color.  In some elections, the numbers purged greatly exceeded the margin of victory. Wider access to VOTE BY MAIL removes the surprise of being kicked off the voter rolls, as each voter must maintain up to date information with the state, in order to receive their ballot. If one’s ballot doesn’t arrive in a timely fashion, there’s ample time to address the discrepancy, before it’s too late to vote.

It’s clear, VOTE BY MAIL is good for democracy in general, but now that we’re faced with a pandemic, widening access to VOTE BY MAIL should be an overwhelmingly obvious move.  We realize there are SOME objections to it. Earlier I pointed to the Louisiana legislature echoing the concern of most VOTE BY MAIL opponents, regarding voter fraud; however there’s no evidence to back those claims up.  In fact, in the last twelve years, there have only been 105 successfully prosecuted VOTE BY MAIL voter fraud cases (out of 421 successfully prosecuted voter fraud cases of ANY kind), nationwide. Another objection comes from those worried on several fronts, about whether their ballot will successfully make it through the mail, and be properly counted by the election commission.  To ease that worry, places with wider access to VOTE BY MAIL also provide specific ballot drop off locations, accessed directly by the local election commission, reducing the number of hands one’s ballot has to go through, which reduces fears of one’s ballot not being properly tallied.

We at Make It Fair are not alone in our call for wider access to VOTE BY MAIL.  There are numerous groups around our state (such as Fair Districts and Fair Vote), and high profile figures around the nation (such as Michelle Obama, and Stacey Abrams), who believe democracy functions at higher capacities when more Americans vote (Abrams, herself, is a victim of voter suppression efforts robbing her of the win in GA’s most recent gubernatorial election).  We are living in unprecedented times, and the fight to permanently offer wider access to VOTE BY MAIL may be far from over, but the evidence suggests, it can be quickly offered to great success. As we all continue to navigate through this pandemic, we are pleading with our Louisiana state legislature not to subject us to the same experiment forced on Wisconsin: protect our citizen’s right to vote, AND our right to cast our votes without risking our lives during a national health crisis.

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