You can add another item to the list of shortages in our current age of the China Flu.
Political trust is harder to find than disinfectant wipes. With the suspicion level this high, one would think political leaders on both sides would be working hard to make sure the November election runs smoothly, and results up and down the tickets are reported quickly.
Unfortunately, this time suspense may be killing us before and after the polls close.
The Washington Post (better known here as the WoePost) once again has the bad news. In an analysis of the upcoming presidential election, the headline reads: “Barring a landslide, what’s probably not coming on Nov. 3? A result in the race for the White House.”
With the exception of the victory by Donald Trump in 2016, nothing could be better calculated to create suspicion among the losers of the presidential contest than delaying the final result for a week or more.
Voters want the results of elections to be clear, prompt and final. Waiting while ballots are counted in some backroom only creates suspicion that someone is monkeying with the count.
Our culprit here is mail balloting. Voting by mail doubles the cost of elections for candidates at a minimum and makes money — along with its handmaiden, wealthy candidates — all that much more important.
Before the advent of mail balloting and early voting, the greatest expenditures for candidates occurred in the final two weeks of the election, just prior to election day. That’s when voters began to really focus on making their decisions.
Mail and early voting expands that high-expenditure window by at least two weeks and sometimes four. When the window for persuading voters doubles in length, so do the expenditures. I worked in the very first mail-only election in Colorado. Research showed in the past about 8 percent of the electorate voted.
The mail ballot upended that. Polling showed 17 percent were likely to cast a mail ballot and even worse, there was no way to predict which voters would be among the 17 percent.
Instead of concentrating communication efforts on frequent voters and new registrations, my client had to mail EVERY voter EVERY time we communicated. The cost to conduct the campaign exploded.
Mail balloting is also anonymous and atomized. Instead of meeting at the polling place on election day in a community effort to reaffirm our public commitment to democratic participation, voters are isolated, connected only by the glue on the back of a postage stamp.
Thanks to the Flu Manchu, this is shaping up to be an election-by-mail and bureaucrats aren’t prepared. “In Kentucky, nearly 1 million voters requested mail ballots, vastly more than the roughly 50,000 voters who usually vote absentee. In New York, roughly 10 times the number of ballots mailed four years ago have been requested for Tuesday’s primary,” the Washington Post reported.
Beginning the mail count on election day is going to produce extraordinary delays in tabulating final results. As the WoePost says counting isn’t easy, “for a process that includes opening envelopes, verifying voter identity and scanning ballots into machines.”
The Democrat secretary of state in Pennsylvania identified the problem and convinced the legislature to allow her to begin counting mail ballots the morning of election day. It wasn’t enough. It still took 10 days to complete the count.
In a primary election where the results are intramural this lengthy delay will cause grumbling, but not insurrection. In a general election, for all the marbles, this delay is courting disaster.
The real solution to the delay dilemma is to revert to in—person voting with limited absentee voting. The stopgap solution — which will require new law in state legislatures — is to make the final day for postmarking a mail ballot at least one week before election day. Mail ballots should be counted on a daily basis as they arrive, thus avoiding a democracy cram session where all ballots are counted the night of the election.
The daily count must be absolutely secret — with felony penalties for leaking information — and the mail ballots retained in a secure location in the event of a recount.
That way on election night after in person ballots are counted, the mail totals are added and voters know the outcome that evening.
None of that will happen. Election bureaucrats are too hidebound and legislators aren’t focused on the problem. Unless there is a landslide for either President Trump or Gropey Joe Biden, the nation will be hit with another divisive controversy that will further alienate an angry electorate.