Faith in Our Voting Process…

Amid all of the chaos that has come from this election, one thing that admittedly I find a bit intriguing are the scenarios that the Trump campaign and his party have used to drum up this mistrust in the electoral process that we’re now seeing play out particularly around the counting of mail-in ballots.

The most common, no doubt, is boxes of ballots showing up for the other party, which I suppose could be a possible concern if you have very little faith in our voting process to begin with … because really if you think about it, there’s a lot of faith that goes into voting even without mail-in ballots being part of the equation…

  • We trust that the person who checks IDs and voter registrations is actually doing their job.
  • We trust that ballots across the country are designed in a fashion that are easy to understand.
  • We trust that the machines used to tabulate our votes are free of bugs and malicious software.
  • We trust that the people loading boxes of ballots into trucks for the central tabulation that happens in some states doesn’t miss one.
  • We trust that the people loading boxes of ballots into bigger counting machines make sure that none stick to the bottoms of each and every box.
  • We trust that all of the websites aggregating and summarizing voting data once the results are made public manage all of that data accurately.
  • We trust the media to publish and report on those results fairly and accurately to the entire world, including calling winners in every state and eventually the election as a whole.
  • And after all is said and done, we trust the electors of the electoral college themselves to actually vote the will of the people and execute on the results of the election.

That’s a lot of trust just for the average American walking into a voting booth to cast their vote, so for people who are ok with all of that … what’s with the stretch to also trust ballots of the mail-in variety which are delivered through the USPS, which includes ballots from our troops overseas and people traveling who can’t make it to the polls in their home state … oddly enough including most of the people who work in Washington, D.C.!

The truth is, one of our voting process’s greatest strengths is also a weakness – the anonymity of a person’s ballot once it’s been cast. Because the way our system is purposefully designed, although taking a ballot to vote puts a check mark next to my name in the voter registration database that “I voted!” in the 2020 election, nowhere is it actually recorded how I voted.

Or how many ballots I fed into the machine after I left that little booth.

You just have to trust me, and the elderly lady standing by the machine who tells me to feed in one page at a time, that I only submitted one ballot. But there’s nothing on my ballot to tie my name to my vote so that someone could later review the results to say, “Hey, this guy submitted four different ballots at different locations!” or “How is this dude voting when he’s already dead?!”

Voting while dead is another common allegation for voter fraud, but the system isn’t really designed to thoroughly prevent it from happening outside of simply having the trust of a couple of random people along the chain.

And I’m not necessarily saying that this needs to change, mind you, although I think to some extent if we ever do move to some form of online voting we’re going to have to give up a little secrecy in exchange for security.

My point is simply this – voting, and democracy in general, requires some faith and it’s certainly not without its share of flaws, however mail-in ballots aren’t the villain in this story. Tens of millions of mail-in ballots are used in every election – this year we just had to lean on them more heavily due to COVID-19. If anything, we should be thankful that we had another option to extend the vote to 65 million Americans who otherwise might not have exercised their civic duty due to risk of the pandemic.

And the people who took advantage of mail-in ballots to cast their votes shouldn’t be used as a scapegoat when one party has lost its faith in the electoral process in general because it’s looking like it won’t produce the results that they were hoping for.

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