A ballot for the 2021 municipal election. On Wednesday, Will Muldoon entered the race for a seat on the Juneau Board of Public Education. He's joining the field of candidates as a write-in option, eight days after city officials mailed ballots to voters and 13 days before ballots are due back. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)

Opinion: There’s good reason to have mail-in voting

Here is the simple answer: it makes it much easier to vote.

  • Thursday, November 4, 2021 6:21pm
  • Opinion

A recent My Turn by Rick Currier questioning mail-in balloting in Juneau was titled in print “Why Have Mail In Balloting?”

Here is the simple answer: it makes it much easier to vote, increases turnout and is extremely secure. Oregon has had vote-by-mail since 1987, and only vote-by-mail since 2000. Colorado, Utah, Hawaii and Washington also have mail-in ballots only. Nineteen other states allow mail-in voting only for certain elections and districts. The only incident has been massively increased voter turnout, both in Oregon and here in Juneau.

As pointed out by Win Gruening in his recent column, voter fraud does not occur in statistically meaningful quantities. The Brennan Center for Justice for Justice puts it at around three ten-thousandths of a percent. However, that has not stopped the effort to prevent it, especially when preventing fraud by imaginary voters helps decrease voter turnout among real ones.

Currier raises the issue that his now-absent son received a ballot at his household. So did mine. However, neither his nor my absent son voted because, first, they’re honest, and second, fraudulent voting is a crime whose reward is worth the risk. How many people will commit a felony on the off-chance that they could win an election by one vote? And without an organized effort, fraudulent votes would fall proportionately on both sides, right? A close election would trigger a recount, in which case ballots would be carefully counted and significant fraud discovered and punished.

Still, we are warned ominously, things “could” go wrong. By this we are meant to suspect an organized conspiracy by bad actors, presumably Democrats, to exploit mail-in balloting. This is the heart of the implied argument against mail-in voting. Though it has only been recently perpetrated once, by a Republican in North Carolina, and was swiftly discovered and punished, the danger of this conspiracy is thought to be great enough to move back to the old way, and thus reduce voter turnout to prior levels. In a sense, we must burn the village down to save it.

I am struggling not to see this flurry of letters against mail-in ballots as an extension of the national campaign to delegitimize voting. Juneau has avoided most of the Stop the Steal hysteria, so it’s disheartening to think that it has arrived here, albeit in this watered-down form. There truly are threats to the voting process rampant in this country: gerrymandering, unlimited and untraceable monetary support for politicians, restrictive ID laws and even laws that allow partisan legislatures to overturn elections in the counties of their choice. These are the real threats to democracy, not mail-in voting.

Can we thoughtfully check the voter roles so that less extraneous ballots are sent out? Sure, that would be a good outcome of this debate. As to the rest: we all occasionally show enthusiasm for bad causes, or support good causes too judgmentally. I’ve done both. Keeping that foremost in mind will help us all move forward together as individuals and as a community.

• Stuart Cohen is a businessman and writer. He resides in Juneau. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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