Editorials

Opinion pieces and editorials on voting issues.

Editorials: Vote by Mail Works. Here’s How It Was Done in Michigan. | Jocelyn Benson/Slate

The ongoing war over voting rights and voter suppression has developed a new battleground in recent weeks: The debate over whether every citizen should have a right to vote by mail in the era of COVID19, thus ensuring that no American has to fear risking his or her health in order to vote. On one side of this issue is the president of the United States, who has taken to Twitter to denounce a practice that is time tested and secure—and has backed up these denunciations with threats to withhold funding from states, like Michigan, that have sought to ensure voting by mail is universally accessible to every voter. The other side is the vast majority of voters, millions of whom have voted by mail for decades, and several governors and secretaries of states on both sides of the aisle who in recent months have embraced voting by mail as a way to ensure democracy is preserved amidst the current pandemic. In fact, 46 states have provided a way for every citizen to vote from home this election year. This option is permanent in 34 states, and 12 more temporarily granted their voters this right due to the coronavirus outbreak this spring.

Full Article: Michigan secretary of state: how vote by mail works..

Editorials: Republicans would rather undermine California’s elections than honorably take their lumps | Los Angeles Times

Making it safe to vote during a pandemic shouldn’t be a partisan issue. But Republicans, including and especially the president, are turning it into one. This week, the state and national Republican Party organizations filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order mandating that every registered voter receive a vote-by-mail ballot as a hedge against the likelihood that the coronavirus will still be circulating in November (though in-person vote centers will still be available). No one should have to risk the fate of the many Wisconsin residents who had to cast ballots in the April primary in person. Fifty-two people who participated were later found to have contracted COVID-19. The lawsuit claims that the governor’s emergency authority doesn’t extend to setting rules about voting and that only the Legislature has the power to do so. Maybe, maybe not. The governor’s emergency authority is so broad and vague that it’s possible a federal judge may agree. But it’s largely irrelevant because the Legislature is moving a bill (Assembly Bill 860 by Palo Alto Democratic Assemblyman Marc Berman) to codify the governor’s order. And even if it didn’t, the vast majority of Californians already choose to vote via mail ballots. But halting mail ballots is probably not the intent of the lawsuit. What seems more likely is that Republicans are seeding doubts in the legitimacy of California’s election returns in expectation of a drubbing in November. That’s a game that President Trump has been playing for months, as he continues to falsely claim that mail ballots lead to fraud (drawing his first Twitter fact-check disclaimer on Tuesday).

Full Article: Why the GOP wants to stop you from voting - Los Angeles Times.

Editorials: Mobilize Pennsylvania National Guard to secure the June primary | Nathaniel Persily and Tom Westphal/Philadelphia Inquirer

With the June primary approaching and ballots already in the mail, Pennsylvania now finds itself in the same position as most states when it comes to running an election in a pandemic: overwhelmed and unprepared. It is already past time to take drastic action. Gov. Tom Wolf needs to mobilize the National Guard now to help secure the vote for all Pennsylvanians. The potentially devastating challenge that the pandemic poses for elections is now coming clearly into view. One need only look at what happened in Wisconsin’s April primary: mail ballots never received, massive poll worker shortages, most polling places shut down, and long, life-threatening lines for voters at a limited number of polling places put into operation.

Full Article: Mobilize Pa. National Guard to secure the June primary | Opinion.

Editorials: Texas Voters Face Malicious Prosecutions After COVID-19 Absentee Ballot Ruling | Richard L. Hasen/Slate

On Wednesday, Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling that makes a Lone Star-sized mess of the state’s law on absentee balloting and the question of whether voters who lack immunity to COVID-19 have a valid “excuse” to vote by mail in the upcoming elections. In a nutshell, the court has said that the statute does not allow voters who lack immunity and who fear contracting the virus to vote by mail because the statute only allows voting by mail for those with physical conditions preventing them from voting. But it further says that election officials won’t check the validity of excuses and it will be up to each voter, acting in good faith, to determine whether they have the ability safely vote by mail. This “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is a recipe for disaster in a state in which Attorney General Ken Paxton has already threatened with criminal prosecution those who advise voters who lack immunity and fear the disease to vote by mail. And it cries for federal court relief.

Full Article: Texas voters face prosecution after COVID-19 absentee ballot ruling..

Editorials: Vote by mail works in Oregon. It will work in Michigan, too. | Bill Bradbury and Tim Palmer/Detroit Free Press

Voting by mail works. We know. We’ve been doing it in Oregon for 20 years. As Michigan’s Secretary of State endeavors to make it easier for Michigan voters to apply for absentee ballots and ensure safe voting in August and November, let us tell you why we vote entirely by mail. More people get to vote. Data proves this in Oregon, Colorado and elsewhere. This makes voting more democratic, addressing a fundamental American value, enshrined in the Constitution. It’s safer. No exposure to COVID-19, or even the common cold. It’s easier, especially for the elderly. No one leaves home. None of us have to skip work, find a baby sitter, or cram another commitment into the day. There’s no need to drive or catch a bus to the polls.

Full Article: Vote by mail works in Oregon. It will work in Michigan, too..

Editorials: Voting test run: Officials will learn a lot from Pennsylvania primary vote by mail | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The campaign to encourage Pennsylvania voters to request mail-in ballots for the June 2 primary election has already resulted in more than 1 million registered voters asking for ballots. Along the way, elections officials are learning that even a mail-in system is not without challenges, and those must be addressed before the November presidential election. In Allegheny County, which has already processed about 180,000 absentee or mail-in ballot requests, officials have had to deal with a problem of duplicate ballots being mailed because of a glitch in processing batches of mailing labels. Elections officials said they have corrected the problem and that bar codes on the ballots will prevent any voter from having more than one ballot counted. Officials need to continue their vigilance in identifying and correcting that problem. Since the county opted to send applications for a mail-in ballot to all registered voters, there is also the issue of ballot applications going to deceased people who have not been removed from registration rolls. Those registration rolls need to be reviewed and purged before November’s election to limit the possibility of voter fraud.

Full Article: Voting test run: Officials will learn a lot from primary vote by mail | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Editorials: Trump’s bogus attacks on mail-in voting could hurt his supporters, too | Richard L. Hasen /The Washington Post

On Wednesday morning, President Trump threatened to withhold aid from Michigan and Nevada because of purportedly illegal activity related to absentee ballots. In reality, the states are doing nothing illegal — they are trying to ensure voters can exercise their right to vote without jeopardizing their health during a pandemic. Even putting aside the likely unconstitutionality of the president conditioning aid to states upon acceding to his political demands, Trump’s unsupported claims are exceedingly troubling because they seek to cast doubt on the legitimacy and fairness of the upcoming elections without reason. Trump may not realize it, but they are also politically counterproductive for him: Rural Republican voters, even in blue states, may be the ones most hurt in November by attacks on mail-in balloting. Let’s start with the facts. On Michigan, Trump wrote: “Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!.” On Nevada, he wrote: “State of Nevada ‘thinks’ that they can send out illegal vote by mail ballots, creating a great Voter Fraud scenario for the State and the U.S. They can’t! If they do, ‘I think’ I can hold up funds to the State. Sorry, but you must not cheat in elections.” But Michigan is not sending absentee ballots to all 7.7 million registered voters in the state, as Trump’s claim suggests. Instead, as Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson explained, officials are sending absentee ballot applications to voters. These forms have to be filled out and sent back to election officials, who verify that these voters are, indeed, eligible to obtain ballots. Republican election officials in states such as Iowa and Nebraska have done the same thing. Political parties send such applications to voters all the time. Trump has offered no evidence that sending absentee ballot applications leads to the fraudulent casting of ballots.

Full Article: Trump claims mail voting leads to fraud. He's wrong. - The Washington Post.

Editorials: Texas Attorney General Paxton’s cynical ploy lost in the mail as Texas voters prevail | Houston Chronicle

Stop us if you’ve heard this one: what’s the difference between the novel coronavirus and the voter fraud rate in Texas? Give up? They’re both microscopic, but if a federal ruling is allowed to stand, only one can get you killed. U.S. District Judge Fred Biery had ruled Tuesday that all Texans will be able to vote by mail during the pandemic. On Wednesday afternoon, however, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton convinced a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to block Biery’s ruling temporarily. Now the plaintiffs in the case have until Thursday to tell the appeals court why it shouldn’t agree to Paxton’s demand that the ruling be stayed until the court can issue a ruling on the appeal his office filed earlier in the day. It’s the latest development in a series of court battles between those who would prioritize voter health over a cynical ruse to limit voter access in the name of “election security.”

Full Article: Editorial: Texas AG Paxton’s cynical ploy lost in the mail as Texas voters prevail - HoustonChronicle.com.

Editorials: Wisconsin is starting to resemble a failed state | Nathan Robinson/The Guardian

A failed state is one that can no longer claim legitimacy or perform a government’s core function of protecting the people’s basic security. Lately, the Wisconsin supreme court seems to be doing its level best to make its state qualify for “failed” status. Multiple decisions have both undermined the government’s legitimacy and endangered the people. First, there was the primary. Because voting in person is clearly risky during a pandemic, several states delayed their primaries to make sure everyone was able to mail in a ballot instead of having to go to a polling place. Not so Wisconsin. The state’s Democratic governor signed an executive order for an all mail-in election but was thwarted by the Republican legislature. Then the governor issued an order postponing the election. Republicans challenged it, and the Wisconsin supreme court sided with them. The primary went forward, but was a disaster: there were “long lines in Milwaukee, where only five polling places in the whole city were open” and more than 50 people appear to have contracted coronavirus as a result. Ensuring that people can vote without risking their lives is a basic duty of government, one at which Wisconsin failed. But the Wisconsin supreme court’s latest decision is even worse. The conservative majority overturned the state’s “stay-at-home” order, immediately leading bars to be flooded with patrons. Even as public health officials stress the danger in suddenly lifting restrictions, justices presented it as a freedom issue, with one writing that the “comprehensive claim to control virtually every aspect of a person’s life is something we normally associate with a prison, not a free society governed by the rule of law”. Public opinion is generally against the anti-lockdown protests, but if a conservative minority has power, the “letting a deadly virus spread unchecked = freedom” perspective will triumph.

Full Article: Wisconsin is starting to resemble a failed state | Wisconsin | The Guardian.

Editorials: ELECTION-20 and COVID-19: Keeping our democracy while keeping our distance | Rob Sprinkle and David Mussington/Medium

Decades of concern with election security have so far led to scandalously few reforms of our voting procedures. Many Americans are no longer confident that vote totals this coming November will be accurate or, more fundamentally, will reflect the preferences of citizens among whom “voter suppression” is a reawakened worry. States remain firmly in control of election administration, and states vary widely in timing votes, deciding where votes can be cast, permitting votes to be cast early or other than in-person, handling votes cast overseas or in advance, recording votes, counting votes, and reporting votes. And states also vary widely — and frighteningly — in their attitudes toward cyber attacks by foreign intelligence organizations, by digital criminals, and by thrill-seeking Internet trolls. Deterring such attacks is difficult, and retaliating against them is dicey. Our 2016 experience and our ongoing observations show many states, Maryland fortunately an exception, either uninterested in election security or ineffective at mitigating the dangers they do expect to face. Familiar risks — storms, earthquakes, fires, riots, fraud — have strained past votes, and our new cyber risk, most dangerous where least feared, will surely strain the coming vote, but no stress prior to our current coronavirus pandemic has created, in every state simultaneously, a conflict between exercising the electoral franchise and staying healthy. Directly ahead in COVID-19’s policy-forcing path and already immunocompromised by pre-existing conditions, lies ELECTION-20.

Full Article: ELECTION-20 and COVID-19 - David Mussington - Medium.

Editorials: Federal leaders must get behind absentee voting — or explain why they’d prefer chaos | The Washington Post

A Monmouth University poll released Wednesday found that only 16 percent of voters cast ballots by mail in recent elections, yet 51 percent say it is at least somewhat likely that they will do so in November. As the covid-19 pandemic continues, more people will conclude absentee voting is the safest option. And they will be right. But much of the country is not ready for a surge of absentee voters. Federal leaders must help immediately — or explain why they instead prefer an unsafe and chaotic November election. Ill-preparedness could produce electoral calamity. Sixteen states require absentee voters to have a valid excuse. All of these states should declare that coronavirus fears qualify as one. But that’s just a first step. Serving millions of new absentee voters will be a massive logistical challenge for most states. Leading up to Wisconsin’s dreadful April 7 primary, the state failed to dispatch absentee ballots to thousands of voters in time for them to be postmarked by Election Day. Widespread covid-19-related poll closures meant these voters had to choose between risking their health in long lines at a handful of polling places and not voting. Ohio officials struggled with a surge in absentee voting in their just-completed primary, and many voters found it difficult or impossible to participate by mail, despite a mail-in ballot deadline extension of more than a month and exceptionally low turnout — two factors on which officials must not rely come November.

Full Article: Federal leaders must get behind absentee voting — or explain why they’d prefer chaos - The Washington Post.

Editorials: To Save Election Day, Start By Getting Rid of Election Night? | Eric Lach/The New Yorker

Election Days are as old as America, but Election Nights are a product of twentieth-century mass media. And, over decades, television news outlets have trained the American Election Night viewer to expect a certain dramatic arc. Tune in at 6 P.M. (at least on the East Coast), when everything is uncertain, and go to bed at 11 P.M., having watched uncertainty resolve into certainty, with the winners separated from the losers. It’s not so different from the Super Bowl or the Grammys. (I recommend watching NBC’s Election Night coverage from 1948 on YouTube. The televised press releases, the correspondent on the scene, the panel of analysts—it’s all very familiar.) Even before the coronavirus crisis, election experts were worrying that these media-created expectations, so good for ratings, were bad for democracy. The rise in the use of mail-in and absentee ballots was making it harder for states to tally their election results quickly, and news outlets were not adjusting to this new reality. In the 2018 midterms, for instance, California took days to finalize its results. As a consequence, the Democratic wave that allowed the Party to flip control of the House of Representatives wasn’t fully revealed on Election Night, and so, on Election Night, the story wasn’t about a Democratic wave, causing confusion and frustration on all sides. But, even when results are expected to be reported quickly, problems can occur. In February (remember February?), a bum app caused delays in reporting the results of the Iowa Democratic caucuses. The chaos that followed led supporters of both Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg—who finished practically in a tie for first place—to suspect that their candidate was the victim of malfeasance, and left lingering questions about the validity of the results.

Full Article: To Save Election Day, Start By Getting Rid of Election Night? | The New Yorker.

Editorials: Voting By Mail in November—It’s Not a Matter of if, But How | Jason Abel, Evan Glassman and Daniel Podair/Bloomberg

Five states—Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington—automatically send voting ballots to all registered voters, while another 29 states and Washington, D.C., provide no excuse mail-in ballots at a voter’s request. Steptoe & Johnson LLP attorneys suggest ways to ensure election integrity with mail-in voting and say that for most states, ensuring voter access to ballot boxes just means adjusting current rules, and not starting from square one. Following the recent election in Wisconsin, which led to a number of voters contracting Covid-19, there’s been an increasingly heated debate concerning how to provide safe ballot access in November. Various vote-by-mail proposals are being offered at both the state and federal levels. However, the debate over whether to vote-by-mail misses the larger picture. Most states already provide voters with access to a “no excuse required” vote-by-mail option.

Full Article: INSIGHT: Voting By Mail in November—It’s Not a Matter of if, But How.

Editorials: Why We Need Postal Democracy | David Cole/The New York Review of Books

Nothing symbolizes democracy like long lines at the polls on election day. They represent a collective act of faith, as chances are virtually nil that any one of the votes we cast over our lifetime will determine the outcome of an election. They remind us that many of our fellow citizens have had to fight to stand in such lines. And because long lines are also often a sign that election officials have failed to provide sufficient voting opportunities, they illustrate the tenacity of citizens who insist on casting their ballots even when the government seems more interested in obstructing than in facilitating the franchise. Not since the civil rights era, when African-Americans in the South braved death threats to exercise their right to vote, has a voting line embodied this commitment more profoundly than on April 7 in Milwaukee. People lined up around the block, trying to maintain six-foot social-distancing intervals, to vote in what was a relatively unimportant election. At issue were only the all-but-concluded Democratic presidential primary, a single state supreme court seat, and a small number of lower state and local offices. At a time when their governor and mayor—both Democrats—had instructed them to shelter in place, these Milwaukee citizens had come out to stand in public for hours in order to exercise their constitutional right. The city, which ordinarily operates 180 polling places, opened only five, as poll workers balked at showing up. At least forty voters and poll workers may have contracted the coronavirus as a result.

Full Article: Why We Need Postal Democracy | by David Cole | The New York Review of Books.

Editorials: Kentucky has it right on voting in the age of Covid-19 | Joshua A. Douglas/CNN

There must be something in the water in Kentucky. At a time when partisanship still runs rampant, despite a pandemic, Kentucky’s leaders have found a way to come to a bipartisan agreement on how to administer the upcoming primary on June 23. That agreement — which expands vote-by-mail for all voters, permits in-person voting for those who need it, and allows the state to begin the process of cleaning up the voter rolls — pales in comparison to the debacle in Wisconsin, where partisan bickering and court decisions that fell along ideological lines led voters to face an unfathomable choice between their health and their fundamental right to vote. Officials in other states should copy Kentucky’s lead. Senator Mitch McConnell should look to his own backyard to see how working across the aisle can actually produce positive results for the people. Maybe if McConnell emulated his state’s leaders—and learned how to work in a bipartisan manner — he would not be so unpopular.

Full Article: This state has it right on voting in the age of Covid-19 (Opinion) - CNN.

Editorials: What Happened When Our Election-Hacking Documentary Came Out During Coronavirus | Simon Ardizzone and Sarah Teale/Talkhouse

When HBO chose March 26, 2020, as the airdate for our documentary Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America’s Elections, we obviously had no idea that we would be launching our film in the middle of a pandemic. But oddly enough, as the primary vote in Wisconsin recently showed, the challenges presented by COVID-19 have only sharpened the debate about our ability to vote using paper ballots and highlighted the deep shortcomings of our current system. How do we vote when most of our precincts are run by the elderly – the population most at risk from coronavirus? How do we vote in the primaries when we are not supposed to gather and visit public places? How do we vote when so many of the voting machines use touch screens and are therefore an infection risk? Does mailing in our ballots present the answer? Perhaps the coronavirus offers us an unprecedented opportunity to secure the vote, but there are also risks.

Full Article: What Happened When Our Election-Hacking Doc Came Out During Coronavirus.

Editorials: How to Hold a Fair Election in November | Jonathan Bernstein/Bloomberg

There’s no question about it: Holding successful elections under current conditions is going to be difficult. The good news is that a group of experts put together by election-law maven Rick Hasen, the Ad Hoc Committee for 2020 Election Fairness and Legitimacy, has thought through many of the major issues and published solid recommendations for getting it right this November. Now we’ll see whether politicians and the media will follow through. How to work around the pandemic? What’s needed, Hasen’s group says, is an approach that allows for several methods of voting. Mail voting should be an important piece of this, and no-excuse absentee voting (meaning you don’t have to explain why you are casting your ballot that way) extended to those states that don’t have it. The overall strategy: “Having a diversity of avenues for voting — in-person, absentee, curbside, on-site at hospitals and other such facilities — enhances the stability of the system, maximizing the likelihood that elections may continue despite whatever unexpected threat emerges.” No one knows how difficult in-person voting will be by the fall, but states should prepare for the worst — and Congress should immediately provide emergency funding, with up to $2 billion needed.

Full Article: 2020 Vote: How to Hold a Fair Election in November - Bloomberg.

Editorials: Online Voting Is Not the Answer Even in a Pandemic | Hans von Spakovsky/The Daily Signal

What is the best way to conduct elections in a time of epidemic? The simplest and most obvious answer might appear at first glance to be voting over the internet—via email, fax, blockchain, or smartphone apps. While this would certainly seem to fit with our internet-dependent lives as we socially distance, online voting is not a viable or acceptable solution and must not be on the table. No method of casting ballots over the internet is safe, secure, or trustworthy. Period. Votes can be manipulated or changed, recorded and spied on, deleted or cast fraudulently through hacking, viruses, Trojan horses, and other types of malware. The even bigger danger is that these sorts of attacks could succeed and go completely undetected, imperiling the integrity of the election process.
Computer security experts insist that online voting is far too insecure to be used for public elections.

Full Article: Online Voting Is Not the Answer Even in a Pandemic.

Editorials: Let’s put the vote-by-mail ‘fraud’ myth to rest | Amber McReynolds and Charles Stewart III/The Hill

Widespread calls to conduct the 2020 elections by mail, to protect voters from COVID-19 exposure, are being met with charges that the system inevitably would lead to massive voter fraud. This is simply not true. Vote fraud in the United States is exceedingly rare, with mailed ballots and otherwise. Over the past 20 years, about 250 million votes have been cast by a mail ballot nationally. The Heritage Foundation maintains an online database of election fraud cases in the United States and reports that there have been just over 1,200 cases of vote fraud of all forms, resulting in 1,100 criminal convictions, over the past 20 years. Of these, 204 involved the fraudulent use of absentee ballots; 143 resulted in criminal convictions. Let’s put that data in perspective. One hundred forty-three cases of fraud using mailed ballots over the course of 20 years comes out to seven to eight cases per year, nationally. It also means that across the 50 states, there has been an average of three cases per state over the 20-year span. That is just one case per state every six or seven years. We are talking about an occurrence that translates to about 0.00006 percent of total votes cast.

Full Article: Let's put the vote-by-mail 'fraud' myth to rest | TheHill.

Editorials: Why can’t we just vote online? Let us count the ways. { The Washington Post

Elections in the United States have been thrown into disarray by a pandemic that makes packing into polling places a risk the country cannot afford to take. Why, some are asking, isn’t voting over the Internet the smartest option in the modern age? Let us count the ways. The greatest threat to democracy on Election Day is hacking, and cybersecurity experts have long agreed that the intelligent response is to take as much cyber out of the security equation as possible. Pen-and-paper ballots let officials count hard copies and compare them with electronic tallies after the fact. Critical infrastructure that’s disconnected from the Web keeps systems further from adversaries’ reach. Putting voting online, of course, follows the precise opposite of this advice. An Internet election presents plenty of penetration points for an enemy to attack. Election officials must figure out how to ensure the security of individuals’ personal devices (many of which are already infected by some sort of malware) as well as how to keep remote adversaries away from a server that’s necessarily connected to the Web. Then there’s the trouble of guaranteeing voters are who they say they are. This task is easier for, say, the Estonian e-government, which issues ID smart cards with advanced authentication capabilities to every citizen — but researchers say even that nation’s vaunted I-voting system is all too vulnerable.

Full Article: Why can’t we just vote online? Let us count the ways. - The Washington Post.