The Trump campaign post-election efforts to detect fraud and possibly reverse the election results were doomed to failure. In retrospect, their only hope was to block mail-in voting before it spread.
Democrats learned in 2018 how to use mail-in voting to their advantage. They were dead set on a repeat performance.
The bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission had warned back in 2005 that “absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud “. Public health officials and election experts broadly agreed that Covid was not a barrier to conducting safe in-person elections. But it did not matter.
There were no arguments that could prevail against the relentless movement to establish mail-in elections. The proponents knew exactly what they were doing and why.
Mail-in ballots, sent to voters with no legitimate obstacle to voting in person, have become a far more serious threat to election integrity than the absentee ballots which concerned Carter-Baker. So, it was no surprise when election results shifted dramatically during ballot counting as the mail-in votes came in. Here is the take home from 2020: it is humanly impossible to conduct a secure election with mail-in ballots.
The obvious key to obtaining an honest vote count is ballot security. Time tested protocols for normal in-person voting established a chain of evidence. At no time is an official ballot, once printed, out of the control of an accountable authority until the vote is counted. Each voter is verified at the polls and each ballot is cast in secret without interference.
All the safety checks go out the window with mail-in voting. By traditional standards, every mailed ballot is a security breach. It is unknown and unknowable what happens to that ballot once it is mailed.
Elections officials in Arizona and elsewhere crowed about what a great job they had done and how little or no fraud was committed. But they missed the point. Mail-in fraud is invisible to them, unless they’re willing to dig for it, which they are not.
The Trump team and others readily found evidence of both massive petty and systemic fraud everywhere. With the new methodology in place, there are multiple cases of ridiculously high registration counts and turnout rates. Voters cast multiple ballots, dead people, felons and noncitizens voted, there were computer “glitches” with runs of votes almost all for the same candidate and bags of uncounted ballots. Fraud was seeping out of every pore.
We know that mail-in voting enabled family members to “help“ grandma vote, delivered ballots that were bought or exchanged for gifts, allowed ballots that were mailed incorrectly to be counted anyway and promoted all the other irregularities unique to mail-in voting.
Signature verification is the go-to safeguard for fraudulent submissions but it is a porous sieve. Even conscientious poll workers have difficulty reliably matching signatures which can change in appearance. There are numerous and widespread instances of improper or absent verification procedures.
One investigator reportedly signed and mailed in nine falsely signed ballots, eight of which were accepted. Moreover, signature verifications cannot be reviewed once the secret ballot is removed and separated from the envelope.
The almost insurmountable challenge in mitigating mail-in fraud is that it is not only difficult to detect, but it occurs mostly in multiple small incidents. To obtain relief, each of them must be separately identified, investigated and prosecuted in a short time window.
Campaigning is hard and expensive. Stealing mail-in votes is far easier. We may never know for sure how much fraud there was in this election or whether it was enough to change the outcome.
But we do know that somewhere between 70% to 80% of Americans believe there was substantial corruption, an alarming level of distrust in a democracy. Voting is the lifeblood of government by the consent of the governed. Mail-in voting injects a toxic level of uncertainty into the process
If fraud, corruption and widespread cynicism become the new normal, America will be permanently destabilized. The days of working together for the common good and peaceful transitions of power will be over.
Mail-in voting leads to inevitable, undetectable and irreversible fraud. We will never have transparent, honest elections Americans can believe in until we restore ballot security.
Thomas C. Patterson, MD is a retired Emergency Medicine physician, Arizona state Senator and Arizona Senate Majority Leader in the ’90s. He is a former Chairman, Goldwater Institute.