OPINION: Despite Flaws, Vote-by-Mail Options Should Remain Going Forward

For years, American have casted ballots by mail. Servicemen and residents overseas have voted for the candidates of their choice by mailing in their ballots. 

In the 2016 Presidential election, approximately 33 million ballots—about a quarter of all ballots cast—were cast via mailed out ballots. 

With the primary election only days away, counties like Hudson, Morris, Essex, Sussex and Passaic have reported record numbers of ballots already sent in. 

New Jersey has started down the path where Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah currently reside. Numerous other states permit counties to opt into conducting all elections by mail. 

Research by Stanford University showed the availability of postal voting increases turnout. In fact, no one party gains an advantage: partisan outcomes of vote-by-mail elections closely resemble in-person elections, according to the report.

Voting by mail allows for a more informed electorate, giving voters the ability to study the issues at home and vote. Additionally, VBM increases the turnout of low propensity voters, those who are registered but do not vote frequently.

Gov. Phil Murphy, who as a candidate campaigned on making voting and registration easier in New Jersey, has come to embrace voting by mail as a result of the coronavirus crisis we currently find ourselves in. He ordered the 33 elections held on May 12 to be done completely by mail, with turnout rising in competitive races.

For the statewide July 7 primary, Murphy’s kept a vote-by-mail option available while mandating at least one polling place to be open in each voting district. Independents were mailed a ballot to allow them to choose a party so they could vote-by-mail in the primary if they so chose.

The introduction of VBM has not been without its issues—from a voter fraud indictment in Paterson to glitches at the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission with regard to voter registration to even a mail truck catching fire in Morris County that destroyed ballots. 

And despite what the President says, voter fraud is bipartisan. One that immediately comes to mind is the case in 2018 of voter fraud by the Republician nominee in North Carolina for a congressional seat.  

Going forward, we state clearly: Changes are needed in the way New Jersey uses VBM. Board of Elections and County Clerks need more help to process ballots. We believe an earlier cutoff date should be enforced so election results are known on election day, not days or weeks later. 

And while we are at it, let’s make Election Day a state holiday so no one has an excuse not to vote. 

The driver for continued expansion of vote-by-mail in our eyes is simple: greater participation in the grand experiment that is democracy. More voters involved provides a better representation of what we our government to be. 

15 comments

  1. We already have MANY means with which we COULD vote. Fax. Email. Text. ATM. Phone. Telex. And yes, the Internet. Anyone remember Sen. Richard Gephardt shortly after the 2000 election?

    I hear all the howling protesters already clamoring for paper only, so I ask you all, don’t any of you meet on line? shop on line? bank on line? trade on line? watch your retirement on line? do your TAXES on line? write your WILL on line? Really? How about HIPAA-regulated medical necessities like seeing a doctor, checking lab results, etc.? All without blinking an eye, right? Despite how much information they have, and how private it is, right?

    So, whining protesters, my question is, how do you so willingly and innocently trust private industry to keep your financial, social, legal and medical information safe every minute of every day, but refuse to trust the government once a year at most with your vote? You lament so bitterly that the government has far too much information on you anyway — what more harm could it cause if they knew your votes? Have you any idea how closely the government works with major computer companies, especially Microsoft? It’s nothing short of ludicrous, ridiculous, preposterous and heinous.

    The fact is that web sites have all sorts of protections from strong-password criteria to requirements for changing it regularly to 2-way authentication to secret questions to fingerprint-, face- and retina-scanning. Private industry want to keep you as their customer, so they want these mechanisms to work. And just as bank statements, medical records, etc., can all be paperless, your vote can be paperless too, and you can always access it and print it yourself at home or at many convenience stores, even the library.

    The saying goes: where there’s a will, there’s a way. The logical contrapositive is: where there’s no way, there’s no will. People complaining about all these voting methods simply don’t want you to vote; they are not willing to let you vote. They’re called REPUBLICANS, and they, my fellow truly-patriotic Americans, are really what’s ludicrous, ridiculous, preposterous and truly heinous.

  2. Thank you for saying it as well and as plainly as anyone could. To be against voting by mail is a canard. It has been continually debunked and yet just as continually reintroduced as a partisan wedge by Republicans without any factual basis. As the article notes, there are occasional offences on the part of citizens on both sides, but more on the Republican. More importantly, this resistance is baked into the Republican position. More voting is better voting. It better represents who we are as a country and how we need to move forward. I am all for continuing and improving voting by mail.

  3. I entered a reply, corrected what needed to be. and it promtly dissapeared. This is a secure site? What is going to happened to mailed-in ballots?

  4. I think voting should be in person only and only on election day. Suppressing the vote is nothing but a lie. The poor can get to the welfare office every month ,They should be able to get to the voting booth once a year. If not oh well.

  5. Joe, you have exactly made all my points. You want the poor to not vote or count at all, and that’s un-American and unpatriotic. And you may not have said so, but we all know that by “poor” you mean lazy Blacks and Hispanics, among other immigrants, so you’re elitist, xenophobic (look it up!) and racist. And ignorant too – did you really not know that unemployment and welfare are done on line or my mail?

    I hope you get too OLD to be able to GO vote. Then what, Joe? You’re the one who doesn’t deserve one, not the poor.

  6. I believe we need “all of the above”—there are many who prefer to vote by mail, but also many who need or prefer to go to the polls—those with disabilities who need the accommodations and privacy of the machine (yes, someone can read to and mark a ballot for a blind person or someone with a dexterity issue, but that is not private; if the marker is a dominant spouse with a different belief, there could be arguments better simply sidestepped, or worse). I learned about voting by going with Mom (Dad usually voted on his way home from work; they often compared voter-authorization numbers to estimate turnout)—kids still enjoy pressing the buttons (we poll workers advise “kids on the left” to avoid an accidentally cast vote on our current machines), and it is an introduction to participation as a citizen.

    Also, I have a friend in the state of Washington, who was concerned about those who voted by mail before one candidate dropped out shortly before their primary date—those votes were lost, whereas if they had waited, they could have made a new choice.

    I would really like to see Election Day made a national, or at least state, paid holiday (I would gladly trade in Presidents’ Day, which is on neither Washington’s nor Lincoln’s birthday, and has become all about sales and discounts), with that the main emphasis for voters, and those with particular needs for mail-in having that option.

  7. I think Election Day should be Election WEEK if it can’t be made a national holiday. It should be during the summer months, too, not during playoffs — cold weather and playoffs are the reasons many people stay home.

    1. playoffs
      sigh
      I get it—but I also am discouraged that this would be a reason to not vote. Is citizenship that meaningless, voting that irrelevant? Here in N.J., with the influence of political machines, I can’t really say no—but it is discouraging.
      With vote by mail, it sort-of is Election Week, or longer for those who choose to participate that way.

      1. “Playoffs”? What kind of lame excuse is that? Gladiators before patriotism? We need to do everything to ensure that every vote and every voter count equally. Even if the bad guys win, at least the vote was fairly cast and counted. (And a note to the site host: votes are “cast,” not “casted,” in the past tense. My mother was an English teacher and it rubbed off!)

  8. I believe vote by mail is OK, BUT what happens afterward. Are the ballots going to be recorded on/with the roll book of each town? If the books still have dead, moved or “other” names how will the counter be able to send the corrct amount of votes to Trenton? If that be the case opened ballots run the gamut of many other instances of improprieties. Look what happened in Iowa, one iPad handed around during the count,. What about computer crashing, power outages and hacking, who will have the orginal or partial count, or be able to check back? Yes, companies can have “secure” means for tabulating and emailing results, but how much data has already been leaked or missing. I realize this is all above my pay grade, and maybe you all have thought of all the contingincies, just trying to help.

  9. CountryPaul: lame but true, very sorry to say. By the way, every vote and voter countS with an S!

    1. I was pluralizing “every vote” and “every voter.” They all count. I may have erred, so please forgive me if I did; perfection eludes me!

      1. My dad was a business consultant, andf my mom a professor of education, so from both academia and workplace perspectives we kids were well schooled in grammar. The simplest way to think of “each” and “every” is that “one” naturally follows either… one…!

Leave a Reply to Thomas O'Neill Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.