Wednesday, November 25, 2020


I am not one of the people who thinks that lawsuits and recounts will change the outcome of the presidential election, but I believe that a serious and immediate Justice Department investigation of the mail-in ballot approach is needed before the Georgia run-off election in January. If the system is found to be as flawed — as I believe it to be — that only in-person or legitimate absentee ballots be counted in the Georgia run-off.

I do not think that a Justice Department investigation will change the Electoral College count decisively. But the two Georgia races will determine the trajectory of America for decades to come, if not irrevocably. Simply stated, mail-in voting as it was done in the Nov. 3 election was an invitation to fraud. The American public needs to know if someone accepted that invitation; if so, that the situation should be corrected before the Jan. 5 run-off election.

I personally received an unsolicited mail-in ballot application from Virginia, and I have not lived there for five years. Worse still, there was no way — other than my word — to certify that I was me. I did not cast a Virginia ballot along with my New York vote; that would be a felony, but there was virtually nothing to stop me from doing so. Nothing convinces me that the Georgia mail-in system is any better or worse than Virginia, but the American public owes it to itself to find out.

A competent investigation of the Georgia mail-ins would be easy to undertake. A statistically significant number of the mail-ins would be cross-checked by contacting the voter whose name is on the ballot to ensure that: 1) he or she actually did the mailing; 2) did not vote multiple times; 3) is a verifiable American citizen; and 4) is actually alive. There is some room for honest mistakes; but if a trend is detected, the Justice Department should bring suit to stop mail-ins for the January runoff in Georgia until the system is corrected.

Many Americans do not know that there is a difference between mail-in and absentee ballots. Absentee ballots — such as those used by military members — must be notarized. In the case of the military, the notary is an officer authorized to act as one. This does not mean that the notary sees the ballot. That official merely certifies that the envelope in which the ballot is contained was submitted by the person who filled it out. It is up to local election officials to ensure that the person is registered to vote in their jurisdiction. As evidenced by my unsolicited Virginia ballot application, no such checks are required for mail-ins.

We now know that dead people put Illinois over the top for Jack Kennedy in 1960, and some of them were life-long Republicans. Back in those days, it was considered ungentlemanly to accuse an opponent of dirty tricks, but the mid-20th century was an anomaly. Before that, and since Bill Clinton, politics has been a full contact sport. 

George Washington was not above buying votes with the considerable supplies of whiskey from his distillery, and Andrew Jackson considered dueling with political opponents as legitimate politics. In that spirit, I cannot fault Democrats from trying to exploit the fear of COVID-19 in making mail-ins easy, but the Republicans would be remiss if they did not try to call the Democrats down on it.

Conventional news organizations call Republican complaints about the election “unsubstantiated,” but since there has not been a comprehensive investigation, it is virtually impossible to substantiate anything. The administration has been accused of trying to delegitimize the election, but the major television outlets, The Washington Post and The New York Times are making an extraordinary effort to discourage the very type of investigation that could either re-establish credibility or allow the courts to fix the system if it is indeed broken. There is a lot of smoke here; let’s see if there’s fire.

I believe that an investigation into mail-in ballots will reveal significant problems with them. Such an investigation may not change the presidential outcome, but it could result in reforms to mail-ins that could be critical in the January runoff. Come what may, it would reassure the 71-and-some-odd-million people who voted for President Trump that the electoral system has legitimacy because their concerns are addressed. War may be too important to be left to the generals, but politics are too important to be left to the postal service.

• Gary Anderson lectures on Alternative Analysis at the graduate level.

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