We are coming up on Halloween, and there are plenty of spooky things. There are monsters, ghosts, zombies and… the threats to democracy. A monster we have heard a lot about is the risks of voter fraud from our President Donald Trump, and how his opponents are attempting to cheat this election. Trump claims that methods of voting such as mail-in voting and dropbox voting come with large risks of fraud which could influence the outcome of the election. The problem is that it is not voter fraud people should be afraid of; it is voter suppression that hides under your bed.
Is there a risk of voter fraud with alternative methods of voting? Trump, his colleagues, and his supporters rail against alternative methods of voting. In the 2016 presidential election, a review of the election found four documented cases of voter fraud. Just four. The conservative Heritage Foundation, which has itself warned of the risks of mail voting, found 14 cases of attempted mail fraud out of roughly 15.5 million ballots cast in Oregon since the state started conducting elections by mail in 1998. According to all the data available, there is no evidence that there is any substantial risk of voter fraud, whether it is in-person voting or alternative methods of voting. Mail-in voting and other alternative methods of voting are imperative, especially in this election as many may not be able to make it to the polls because of other priorities, and many do not want to risk being exposed to COVID-19 at a polling place. Without alternative methods of voting, voter turnout could be much lower this election cycle.
The real risk to a fair and proper election is voter suppression. Voter suppression has been taking place all over the country, often particularly affecting voters of color. In 2020, the most common form of voter suppression is coming from the reduced amount of drop boxes for ballots and polling places. Counties in many states, such as all counties in Texas and Jefferson County in Kentucky for example have had the number of polling places and or drop boxes reduced down to one. In Kentucky, there will be one polling location for 616,000 voters for a predominantly minority populated county. In Texas, the governor mandated that there be only one dropbox in each county. Voter suppression through the closing of polling places is taking place throughout the country. This, of course, makes it much more difficult for people to vote. Nationwide, this affects people of color the most. Across the country, counties with larger minority populations have fewer polling sites and poll workers per voter. Whether it is intent or just in effect, these policies that restrict access to voting are suppressing the vote.
But why might public officials be attempting to suppress the vote? Throughout America’s history, its people have fought to extend the right and ability of more people to vote. However, in recent years, there has been a renewed effort to block voting. Democrats are not innocent, as the DNC and high ranking Democrats have implemented measures which target progressive Democrats. The DNC blacklists organizations which help progressive primary challengers. However, Republicans have been largely responsible for voter suppression efforts. Important context to be aware of is that minority populations are most affected by voter suppression in the form of voter ID laws, voter purges, restrictions on registration, felony disenfranchisement, and gerrymandering. Minority voters are likely to vote Democrat instead of Republican. It would be in the interest of Republicans to suppress their ability to vote. Trump himself told a Politico reporter “My biggest risk is that we don’t win lawsuits,” in reference to the lawsuits against Republicans over refusal to expand mail-in voting. It is difficult to say whether or not Republicans implement these measures in bad faith, but in effect, these measures to restrict voting access help the political interests of the GOP.
2020 has been a horror movie of a year, with COVID-19, mass protests in the streets, and economic collapse. As we move faster towards election day, remember to not be spooked by the imaginary monster of voter fraud, but rather the looming threats against our democracy.