September 28, 2020

A Counterfeit Issue

By Stephen Tuttle | Aug. 22, 2020

In 2016, the problem was all those illegal immigrants voting, remember? Millions and millions of them we were told. To be fair, the voter fraud commission that President Trump launched did find one green-card holder who had tried to vote. And on average, each year, there are about 20 prosecutions for illegal voting. 

This year it's “fraudulent” mail-in ballots. But once again, it's going to be “millions” of illegal votes cast and a “rigged” election. And once again, the fear mongers will be wrong. 

Five states — Colorado, Utah, Hawai'i, Oregon, and Washington — have been doing universal mail-in voting for years, and two-thirds of the rest of the states already allow mail-in voting on request. There should be ample evidence of mail-in voting fraud. So where is it? 

This year, all but seven states distributed mail-in voting applications to all registered voters. (No, not everybody; just to registered voters.)

Since the entire illegal-immigrants-will-be-voting accusations were a bust, this year, President Trump — Fear-Monger-in-Chief — says it's “obvious” there will be millions of counterfeit ballots. Attorney General William Barr says it's “common sense” there will be counterfeit ballots.  

Perhaps either could explain how that's going to happen.

Only registered voters can apply for a mail-in ballot. When we registered to vote in the first place, we were required to show identification, list our address, and provide a signature. All of that is part of a database. Mail-in ballot applications, including our signatures, must match what is already on file. 

Counterfeiting a ballot would be relatively simple, or at least simpler, if there was a single, national ballot with a race or two. But there is no national ballot.

Every state has its own rules, including paper weight, ballot size, font style and size, margin sizes, space between candidates, etc. A patient counterfeiter could find all that information because it is part of every state's election laws. But if anything on that ballot is somehow off, it isn't going to be counted.

The envelope in which the ballot arrives is subject to similar rules and adds a bar code that connects the voter to information on file. That makes the counterfeiting trickier.    

The slate of candidates on the ballot makes counterfeiting, at least in sufficient numbers to alter a national election, almost impossible because every state has different candidates for every race below president. And not just every state.

The United States has 3,007 counties; 67 parishes; 19 organized bureaus; 11 census areas; 41 independent cities, plus the District of Columbia; a total of 3,143 counties and county equivalents. Those contain 19,495 incorporated cities, towns and villages.

Every county has a different ballot for local candidates, millages, or bond elections. Several cities within those counties also have municipal elections, requiring still more different ballots. Some states elect precinct committee members so the ballots are even different at the precinct level. Not to mention various legislative districts. 

Michigan alone would require counterfeiters to create at least 83 different ballots, one for each county. Not to mention 533 incorporated municipalities including 276 cities, any or all of which might have their own issues on the ballot.  

All our industrious counterfeiters need do is figure out all the technical requirements for the ballots and envelopes in every state, solve the mystery of the bar code, accurately print thousands of different ballots with different candidates in different races and mail them in for millions of fake voters.  

Seems neither obvious nor anything like common sense to assume such a thing could happen. And it won't. Oh, there will be a relative handful of ballots sent to people who have died or moved, and a few people will try to vote illegally, but counterfeit ballots are the least likely scenario. 

The far bigger threat comes from hackers trying to penetrate none-too-secure voting machines and the blizzard of misinformation and other divisive nonsense coming on social media from Russian and Chinese sources and domestic conspiracy theorists. 

The latest threat has nothing to do with fraud or foreign interference but some rather significant domestic interference. President Trump's attempts to hamstring the U.S. Postal Service to make mail-in balloting far more difficult — he has said that's his intent more than once — is about as cynical as can be.

Slowing mail service won't hurt only Democrat voters. Some people still rely on the mail to receive their Social Security and payroll checks, to get their medicine, and to send payments for their cars and homes.  It will not help an already struggling economy.

The solution is simple: Avoid the rush, fill out your ballot as soon as you receive it, probably in late September, slap a first-class stamp on it, and mail it. And have some faith that our honest and ethical local officials will work very hard to make sure there is neither fraud nor corruption in this year's elections. 


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