How is everyone feeling today? Did your candidate win the Presidency of the United States? I bet the answer to my second question will support the answer to my first question. Even though we all have the election results, there are still about 2-3% of Americans who haven't excepted the outcome from last Saturday's vote tally in Pennsylvania and Georgia.
I am starting this week's blog off with a couple of key points I learned this past week about the voters of America and the system in which we get to participate. First, there were 159.8 million votes cast in the 2020 Presidential election, according to NBC's new projections on Wednesday, November 4th. That's 22 million more than in the 2016 election. The second interesting fact was that this was the most votes cast since the year 1900 when Republican President William McKinley defeated his Democratic challenger, William Jennings Bryan, over 120 years ago. Why was there such a big turnout for the 2020 election? Not only was this election based on two very different ideologies, but it accrued during an unprecedented health crisis (COVID 19) that has gripped the world. It is no surprise that an unprecedented number of votes came in through the U.S. mail. An interesting fact is that over 50% of the vote in this year's election were cast via mail-in ballots. According to the Pew Research Center, that number is up by more than 22% percent from the 2016 Presidential election.
I, for one, enjoyed voting by mail this year. It was the first time in thirty-plus years of casting a ballot that I didn't have to go into a polling precinct in my town and wait in a line for an hour and push pin in my votes.
This year I was able to take my time and read all the instructions. I had no pressure to make my decisions, and I could research a judge or candidate I'd never heard of before in "real" time to make sure that I had all the information on who they were and what they stood for.
Voter Fraud - Mail-in Voting Under Scrutiny
As I enjoyed this new experience of mail-in voting, I got to wonder about why there was such opposition to it. This started to get me thinking about why there was a lot of false information about mail-in voting fraud.
Who would gain from making the American people go out and vote in person? Why was mail-in voting supported for the past 200 years, and why was this election any different from the past?
Voter suppression is real and has been around since the Greeks invented it back in the 5th Century BC when they used pebbles to cast their anonymous vote in the Senate. The idea behind a secret vote was to allow people to make a public choice without revealing their specific choice of candidate to others. Anonymity is helpful, but it opens up the ability to be deceitful in an election.
The Greeks used a Direct system of democracy where each person represented their own vote or choice. When our founding fathers wrote the constitution, they wanted to install a representative democracy. In our system, we use representatives to champion our wants and needs through the voting process. The electoral college represents each state, and they cast the final vote for the presidential choice who reaches 270 electoral votes. But you need to know that this is not a law but more of an agreed method between both parties. Each state has a different number of electoral votes, based on how many representatives it has in the House, plus its two senators.
For example, California has 55 electoral votes, which is 53 electoral votes plus its two Senate seats. Illinois has 18 electoral votes and two senate votes, equaling a total of 20 votes. And states with a smaller population and representatives like Montana only get one electoral vote and two senate votes, this equaling 3 electoral votes.
Why Do We Have Mail-In Voting Anyway?
Now that you understand our voting process, let's get back to why there seems to be so much mistrust in the mail-in voting process. In 34 states, you are allowed to vote early, this is called absentee voting or mail-in voting. All of this is legal and has been used for many elections. Five of our states only use mail-in voting for elections. Those states are Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. It is also worth noting that there is no controversy here, just an accusation from the current President of the U.S. Here is the fact of the matter, all states provide an absentee or mail-in ballot for registered voters upon request, according to the NCSL. However, some states require an excuse or reason for requesting an absentee or mail-in ballot, while others allow voters to request an absentee ballot without a reason.
Absentee or Mail-in voting started back during the civil war to support the soldiers who were on duty and unable to vote in their home districts. It protects U.S. citizen's right to vote for the candidate of their choice. No matter where they are during election day.
So why all the fuss? It turns out that the Republican Party had been filing lawsuits to several states, including Nevada for using "relaxed" voting measures. One has to consider what the word "relaxed" means and why a major political party wants to make it harder for a U.S. citizen to vote. I don't have the answers, so I'll leave it to you, the reader, to do your research and come to a conclusion. Here is a hint, it is harder to hold back votes if you don't make people wait in line for five hours, ask for three specific forms of I.D., and not let people take a paid day off to vote. If all you have to do is fill out a mail-in ballot and send it in through the mail, it might make everyone consider voting. That sounds crazy.
Was There Voter Fraud in The U.S. Election?
What about voter fraud, you may ask? What about dead people voting or stuffed ballots? Let's just look at the evidence and see what we find. Multiple studies have been done throughout the years and no matter what party you support, both sides want a fair and honest election. Here is the data: incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. This data is equal to the fact that an American is more likely to be struck by lightning than that he/she will impersonate another voter. You can find this research at the Brennan center for justice (about the Brennan Center) if you want to verify the information. One more interesting fact. The majority of reports for voter fraud come directly from the loser's campaign. Shocker!
The United State is just that, United
So, whether we are talking about dead people voting, Russia hacking our election, or missing ballots, the truth remains that voters are the ones who are being manipulated, not the other way around. 2020 has been one of the most unpredictable and transformational years in my life and many others. In my 54 years of life, I have never seen the United States close down because of a virus. I have never seen such a contentious election, and I have never seen such a close race for the presidency.
Politics aside, I have also seen the best of humanity where people have continually come together to support each other. You can see examples of this daily. The men and women who supply meals for the elderly and infirmed, the hospital workers who put their patients before themselves. The scientist who are working tirelessly to find a cure for COVID 19. All of us have a place in this democracy, and we need to consider that our elected officials are representing each one of us. But, we have to be engaged in the process, and voting is just the beginning, not the end.
Participate in your local community and give as much as you want to receive. We will all better for it.