As if this year hasn’t already had more than its share of chaos, we can now add mail-in voting — touted as a safe way to vote in the November election — to the list.
Many Franklin County residents may have been confused last month when mail-in voter applications from a third-party vendor, the Center for Voter Information, contained incorrect return envelopes. While the applications were correct, the return envelopes were not. They should have been directed to the Franklin County registrar’s office in Rocky Mount, but instead, they were addressed to the registrar in Franklin City, Virginia, a small town about 200 miles east of Rocky Mount.
Most recently, the U.S. Postal Service has come under scrutiny as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who has held the top job since May, has begun making sweeping changes to the postal service by removing many blue outgoing mailboxes and mail sorting mail-sorting machines from postal facilities.
How is it that a practice that has been around since the Civil War, when soldiers were allowed to vote from the battlefield, now be considered a potentially unreliable way to vote — and most importantly during a global pandemic? Rather than making it harder for Americans to vote, is it not the government’s responsibility to its people to make it easier and safer?
The grumblings of fraudulent ballots have been around perhaps as long as mail-in voting has, but in a recent op-ed for The Hill, Amber McReynolds, a former Colorado election official who is now CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, and Charles Stewart, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Election Data and Science Lab, debunked that myth.
They wrote that in the past 20 years, there have been about 250 million ballots cast by mail nationwide. The Heritage Foundation, which keeps an online database of U.S. election fraud cases, reported that there were 1,200 cases of voter fraud (in all forms) and 1,100 criminal convictions, the op-ed stated.
Of these, 204 were from fraudulent use of absentee ballots and of those, there were 143 criminal convictions. That translates to one case per state every six to seven years or 0.00006% of total votes cast, the op-ed stated.
If you’re still not convinced that your mail-in ballot will be counted, but you’re leery about going to the polls on Nov. 3, you can vote in person at the registrar’s office. Early voting, according to the Virginia Department of Elections website, begins Sept. 19.
The registrar is in the Franklin County Government Building at 1255 Franklin St., Rocky Mount. To vote in person, you must provide your name, address and an acceptable form of identification. If you have any questions about the process, call the registrar’s office at 483-3025 — these folks are ready to help voters with any questions they may have.
In addition, you can use the citizen portal on the Virginia Department of Elections website, vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation. Here you can register to vote, check your registration status, find your polling place and register to vote absentee by mail.
Rather than sit on the sidelines and talk conspiracy theories about what may or may not happen during this year’s election, the onus is each of us to ensure that we’re doing our due diligence by participating, either in person or by mail-in ballot. It’s important, and it’s our right to do our part and cast our vote.