The coronavirus has changed the way we all will need to interact in the immediate future, but any changes – even temporary changes – to something as fundamental as Americans’ right to vote must be done safely, securely, and in a non-partisan way. The Democrats’ recent proposals and lawsuits miss that mark. We must beware of partisan Democrats bearing “reforms,” because they are not chiefly concerned with protecting free and fair elections.
The twin pillars of voting equality are ballot access and ballot integrity. Nothing has so defined America’s mission, or marked our progress as a free people, as our efforts to extend the majesty of the ballot to all eligible voters. And nothing undermines this goal more significantly than when the right to vote is diminished through fraud or deceit. We protect the majesty of the ballot by respecting the sanctity of the law and the choices that representative legislatures make to secure the integrity of election day. Or so we thought.
Let’s look back to the last Presidential election. As reported by The Washington Post in August 2016, liberal mega-donor George Soros funded a multimillion-dollar commitment to the top Democratic Party attorney to challenge “state restrictions that would be helpful up and down the ballot” for Democrats.
They tried to sue their way to electoral success then and they are trying to sue their way to electoral success now. This partisan gamesmanship undermines the point of free and fair elections—allowing the people to choose for ourselves our leaders.
In Nevada, for example, the Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit this month asking the court to completely ignore state law on ballot harvesting (sending far-left activists door-to-door to collect ballots from people they have never previously met); asking the court to completely ignore state law on ballot signature validation; and asking the court to mail a ballot to registered voters who the State of Nevada knows no longer live at the registered address on file or, worse, has passed away.
In short, the Democrats envision a system where every person – alive or dead, registered or not – is automatically mailed a ballot, where Democrat operatives go house-to-house, person-to-person collecting them, and there’s no secret ballot. They can ensure you “voted the right way” and they will deliver your ballot only if you voted for the Democrats.
While certain changes may need to be made to our voting systems during a national pandemic, these modifications should all be guided by the following principles:
- Ballot harvesting is unacceptable. The Democrats are using the coronavirus as a reason to implement nationwide “community collection” – or harvesting – of ballots. This is absurd on its face. Sending activists door-to-door to collect ballots not only jeopardizes people’s health in this time of social-distancing, but it also threatens the security of ballots. Harvesting, even when legal, often takes advantage of the uninformed and elderly. The pestering and pressuring of voters to return their absentee ballots becomes more about voting for the harvester’s preferred candidate than any notion of voter assistance. Even worse, harvesters can tamper with, alter, or even destroy ballots. Ballot harvesting started as a rare and limited way to help those who needed assistance voting, and Democrats have turned it into a vote-stealing operation. This practice should not only be excluded from being expanded through any potential voting reforms, but also abolished where currently used.
- Ballots must be requested by absentee voters and not automatically mailed to all registered voters. Absentee ballots are the only way to vote for many senior citizens, military personnel, and others who can’t get to the polls on Election Day. Voting by mail should remain a rare occurrence because it adds to the chain of custody of a ballot and thus inherently leads to fraud. The more people touch a ballot, the more opportunity there is to tamper with or destroy it. Further, mailing a ballot to a voter who did not request one is unacceptable because it leads to fraudulent ballot harvesting and double voting.
- Trust voters to decide how they want to vote. In-person voting must be an available option for voters. Universal mail voting is unacceptable because it inherently leads to fraud and it also disenfranchises voters by limiting options. Many voters want the security of the voting booth and the privacy it affords. Democrats pretend they want universal mail voting as an expansion of voting rights, but in reality, they only want elections-by-mail where it helps them win. In the Nevada lawsuit referenced above, the Democratic National Committee actually sued to have more polling places. How stunningly hypocritical that the same politicians and lawyers who warn of the risks of in-person voting are quite willing and even eager to obtain the exact opposite result in a state where it hurts their get-out-the-vote operation. The rules should never be tailored to achieve a specific result.
- Security measures protect the principle of one person, one vote. Photo identification, signature match requirements, and other security measures must be preserved and enhanced because they secure the principle of one person, one vote, which in turn protects free and fair elections. Moreover, how embarrassingly inconsistent is it that the same politicians who pushed a Russia collusion hoax now try to strip down ballot integrity measures that provide security checks at the ballot box? If Democrats are truly concerned about election integrity, they would want security measures to protect against any interference, rather than blocking measures that they believe may disadvantage their preferred candidates.
- Ballots must be cast and received before or on election day. Receiving ballots after election day allows losing candidates to “go find” enough late votes to change the outcome. Moreover, any system that allows late-arriving ballots is ripe for prolonged litigation and almost always undermines election legitimacy because reporting delays can last for days and sometimes weeks after the election. The deadline to request absentee or mail ballots should be set in advance of election day to allow for the mail system to provide voted ballots by the time the polls close. There must be a deadline, and shifting the deadline from Election Day to any later time period is only for the purpose of creating opportunity for fraud.
- Federalism works. States should maintain primary responsibility for their voting laws. Democrat attempts to nationalize our elections through one-size-fits-all federal legislation is irresponsible. Democrats couldn’t even make a vote-counting app work in Iowa during their presidential election primary, and now they suddenly believe they can redesign the entire U.S. election system. It’s much more difficult for the Democrats to make substantial changes to each state’s laws than it would be to simply design one system tailored to their preferences.
President Trump and Americans who care about election integrity recognize the Democrat’s proposals for what they are: attempts to get more votes for Democrats at the expense of the health and voting rights of the American people. While the Democrats will continue to try to sue their way to victory in November, President Trump will fight to ensure that everyone who has the right to vote is allowed to cast their ballot safely and securely.
Justin Clark, an attorney, is senior political advisor to the Trump campaign. Jenna Ellis, an attorney, is senior legal advisor to the Trump campaign. Matthew E. Morgan, an attorney, is litigation counsel for the Trump campaign.