Voting officially started Friday and this year’s election is lining up to be the most contentious ever, filled with fear mongering, charges and counter charges of fraud, There is every indication that the November election will result in a national outcome that will make the historic 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore with hanging and pregnant chads look like a minor inconvenience.
Fearmongering begins with the concerns that in person voting will result in increased cases of Covid-19 victims and that instead voters should, for health reasons, seek to cast their votes by mail-in or absentee ballots. That canard, or false argument, is designed to keep people from the polls. Dr. Anthony Fauci, coronavirus taskforce chief, has said confidently that voters can visit the polls on November 3. He compared in person voting to grocery shopping stating, “"I think if carefully done, according to the guidelines, there's no reason that I can see why that not be the case.”
Sadly, and intentionally, this advice is being ignored by the national media and certain elected officials who are promoting mail-in or absentee balloting. The purpose is not to enhance the voting process but to sow seeds of doubt and create a contentious election that will require judicial action. The result will be a lack of trust in both the system and the winning party.
As noted in previous editorials and news stories, neither the US Postal Service nor the various boards of elections are prepared for the anticipated surge of mail ballots.
The operative word here is surge. The numbers of mailed pieces can easily be handled over time but there is anticipation that voters will be enticed to wait to the last minute, flooding both the mail system and election board with an overwhelming surge of ballots. The result will be chaos, which is what a certain element in the system is seeking.
Contributing to the chaos is a recent memo from the NC State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell, sent to local boards of elections, directing them to ignore ballot harvesting regulations and to accept ballots delivered under that process.
State law requires that absentee ballots can only be delivered to the local board of elections by mail or by commercial courier service at the voter’s expense, or can be delivered in person by a relative or legal guardian. In the 2018 election, the state’s absentee balloting procedure gained notoriety when McCrae Dowless, a political operative working for Mark Harris, a Republican candidate for the 9th Congressional district, was charged with collecting ballots from residents and sending them in to the local board of elections. This is known as ballot harvesting, which is illegal.
Ballot harvesting involves political operatives, usually working for a specific candidate or party, visiting voters and having them fill out the absentee ballots, sometimes assisting in the completion of the ballot. Often the operative will sign the ballot envelope as a witness and then act as a courier for delivery to the board of elections.
The state law is correctly concerned with both the privacy of the vote and the surety that the vote is not open to tampering, both of which are obviously possible with ballot harvesting.
Ballot harvesters can either fail to deliver the ballots to the boards of elections, or as has been the case in New York, the harvesters have been known to open the envelopes after leaving the voter’s home, replacing the ballot with one filled out by the harvester.
According to Andy Jackson, Policy Fellow at the NC Civitas Institute, the state’s board of elections executive director, Karen Brinson Bell, recently sent out a memo to local boards of elections advising them to accept ballots delivered in bulk even if the identity of the courier is unknown. Her memo reads:
Failure to comply with the logging requirement, or delivery of an absentee ballot by a person other than the voter, the voter’s near relative, or the voter’s legal guardian, is not sufficient evidence in and of itself to establish that the voter did not lawfully vote their ballot. A county board shall not disapprove an absentee ballot solely because it was delivered by someone who was not authorized to possess the ballot. The county board may, however, consider the delivery of a ballot in accordance with the rule, 08 NCAC 18 .0102, in conjunction with other evidence in determining whether the container-return envelope has been properly executed.
This memo only verifies the fears that voters should have about the integrity of the November election. With each added layer of contact between voter and the ballot box, there are greater opportunities for mischief or outright fraud.
There is a solution and that is active public participation. Voters can regain control of the system and government but only if we make a conscious decision to participate actively and preferably voting in person rather than by mail.