15 September 2020

US Election

Going postal

Sensemaker investigates the ‘rigged’ election claims over absentee ballots

By Ella Hill

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” That inscription carved into the neo-classical facade of the Post Office on New York City’s 8th Avenue is an unofficial motto that has come to speak for something steadfast and reliable. Not in this US election year.

What’s the problem?

The intricacies of postal voting don’t often make headlines, but this year they could make history. Here’s why:

But there’s a hitch:

Trump’s opponents say he’s meddling with the postal service to disrupt Democrat votes.

What is Trump claiming?

That expanding postal voting will:

Is there any evidence?

Not really.

Voter fraud is uncommon in the United States, no matter the type of ballot.

Mail-ballot fraud is, therefore, also rare. A Washington Post analysis of voting data from Oregon, Washington and Colorado – three all-mail voting states – found only 372 possible cases of fraud out of a total 14.6 million postal ballots cast in the 2016 and 2018 elections.

It is, according to the New York Times, “incredibly hard to pull off undetected”. There are protections built in at each stage of the process to prevent mail-voting fraud:

There isn’t evidence that expanding access to postal voting will help or hinder either party. While it is true that more Democrats are planning to vote by post this year and more states are making that process simpler, studies of election turnout in states that have switched to all-mail voting do not show a significant upswing in Democrat turnout.

What could all this mean on election night?

The US could be heading for a full-blown constitutional crisis. There’s a scenario that Michael Bloomberg’s data company, Hawkfish, has called the “red mirage”. Here’s how it might play out:

The upshot: unless new developments dramatically widen the polling gap in Biden’s favour between now and 3 November, do not expect an uncontested result on the night.

All our journalism is built to be shared. No walls here - as a member you have unlimited sharing