September 26, 2020

Trump’s Mail-In Ballot Hysteria: Trouble in River City

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

Well, ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say, trouble right here in River City.

It could, indeed, be Professor Harold Hill running for re-election, but, no it is, of course, none other than President Donald Trump, spreading fear as outrageously as the Broadway showman leading seventy-six trombones in the big parade.

Worse, President Trump refuses to commit to honoring the results of the forthcoming election and assuring a peaceful transfer of power. Throw out the ballots (mail-in ballots) and there will be a peaceful transfer of power (from me, to me), he, essentially, said this past Wednesday. And, make no mistake about it, he means it.

There is, of course, always some voter fraud (and there always will be), but studies have indicated time and again that the combined mail and in-person voting fraud that does take place is infinitesimally small and immaterial. Utah, Colorado, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon. already vote primarily by mail with few irregularities.

Justin Levitt a law professor at Loyola Marymount University and voter fraud expert, reports that while misconduct in the mail voting process may be more prevalent than misconduct in the process of voting in person, misconduct overall still amounts to only a tiny fraction of the ballots cast by mail and is far less prevalent than the President’s rhetoric suggests.

Professor Anthony Fowler, of the right-leaning University of Chicago, is a well-respected expert on elections and voter turnout. In addition to his own research, he has studied the research of other experts as well. He states, “Voter fraud is very rare, and the risk of widespread fraud is probably very minimal, even with all-mail elections…we shouldn’t let unfounded fears prevent us from administering a fairer and more representative election.”

But it is exactly the flames of unfounded fears that President Trump is franticly fanning.

For example, early this week, nine ballots were improperly discarded in Luzerne County Pennsylvania (strong Trump country) because a temporary contract employee mishandled the ballots that he (or she) concluded were “naked ballots” i.e. they were presumed not to have been received in so-called secrecy envelopes and Pennsylvania law requires such naked ballots to be discarded. Local voting supervisors quickly caught and corrected the error and properly reported it. If anything, the Luzerne County incident attests to the oversight of local voting officials. Well, faster than you can say “hoax, scam, rig and fixed” the incident found its way to Attorney General Barr who quickly forwarded the information on to President Trump who then elevated and misrepresented the incident to the entire nation. You can’t make this stuff up.

Actually, in-person voting suppression is really more insidious than whatever mail-in voting fraud theoretically might take place. That’s because there are entirely legal ways to suppress the vote in areas where political parties think the vote will not go their way. The Wisconsin Republican-dominated legislature forced a Primary last March in which only 5 of 180 voting precincts even opened on election day in heavily Democratic-leaning Milwaukee. The Democratic governor wanted to briefly delay the Primary because of the high incidence of the Coronavirus in the state. Similar in-person voting hardships were found in other urban centers throughout the state as well. In Waukesha, there was only one voting station open for all of the community’s 70,000 voters. In Green Bay, only 17 of the city’s 270 poll workers even showed up. The right-leaning Milwaukee Journal even editorialized that it was the most undemocratic election in Wisconsin history. But this massive voter suppression was real and it was all legal. The President, it seems, had no quarrel with the Wisconsin voting debacle, but he is very exercised that more Americans (presumably Democrats) might vote by mail in the November general election.

The federal government’s role should be to assure that the US Postal Service is doing everything it can to prepare for an uptick in mail volume during an election season. Not this government though. It presumes that heavy voting will favor the Democrats so the President, without a shred of serious evidence, has declared mail-in voting, to be a hoax, a Democratic fraud. There is no hoax. There is no fraud, other than whatever routine in-person or mail-in chicanery always seems to take place on the margins of every election.

So, what is the Trumpian mail-ballot paranoia really all about. President Trump constantly infers, and presumably believes, that he is the most popular President in history and the only way he could possibly lose would be to have the election stolen from him. No serious, rational person believes that. No respected poll suggests that. In fact, all serious on-going polling suggests exactly the opposite. Most serious political observers, however, (including this writer) believe that the election process is more fluid then many pundits presume, and that sentiment could certainly tilt either way between now and November 3rd.

President Trump does enjoy a solid and highly motivated base, (perhaps nearly 40% of the electorate) but he knows it is not nearly large enough to assure an election victory. He knows he decidedly lost the popular vote in 2016 and only narrowly won in three states that tipped the scales in his favor in the electoral college. Approximately 78,000 votes between Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, largely due to the more liberal votes syphoned off by Green Party spoiler Jill Stein, made Donald Trump the 45th President of the United States.

If there is a large turnout the Republicans fear they will lose, perhaps, by a large margin so they, in high dudgeon, are fulminating that mail-in voting is a colossal fraud. They don’t even want convenient ballot drop boxes to be made available where registered voters can deposit properly signed ballots. They are not worried about a colossal fraud. They are worried about a colossal turnout.

There is absolutely no evidence that mail-in voting anywhere is plagued by voter fraud. But there is, at this point in time, substantial evidence that the President is in big trouble almost everywhere, including major battle-ground states. One battle ground, toss-up state, however, where he is still polling relatively well is Florida, a must-win state for Trump and where there is now substantial voting by mail. So, in Florida and solid red states voting by mail doesn’t concern President Trump. It is voting by mail in other states that freaks out President Trump. That is what this is all about, and that is all this is about.

All states require that signatures on mail-in ballots be verified by comparison with voter registration signatures or other signatures that are on file in state records. Signatures are studied individually when automated verification “questions” a signature and in many states voters whose signatures are rejected are given an opportunity to confirm their identity. In some states they are not. The cases of actual confirmed signature fraud are extremely rare; too rare to really compromise an election.

A number of states, both Democratic and Republican have relied on mail-in voting for years, with few problems. Data collected from the Electronic Registration Information Center found that officials identified just 372 possible cases of double voting or voting on behalf of deceased people out of about 14.6 million votes cast by mail in three vote-by-mail states in the 2016 and 2018 general elections or about 0.0025 percent.

It’s an issue because mail-in voting is a safe alternative to in-person voting during this deadly and horribly mismanaged pandemic. A responsible leader would be taking steps to further assure the efficacy of mail-in voting during a public-health crisis. Instead, the President is doing all that he can to discourage, if not eliminate, mail-in voting in the hope of suppressing the vote, especially in blue metropolitan areas.

“Get rid of the Ballots and we’ll have a very peaceful—there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.” (sic)

Well, ya got trouble, my friend, right here, I say, trouble right here in River City.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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23 responses to “Trump’s Mail-In Ballot Hysteria: Trouble in River City”

  1. Mitch Gershenfeld says:

    At least, at the end of The Music Man, Professor Harold Hill shows that he has a heart. We’ll have to wait for Trump The Musical to see how this one ends.

  2. Thomasin Savaiano says:

    Many people need to see this article for the stats alone- which when one takes the time to ingest, apply a transparency to the claims- and proof of what is really going on.

  3. ELIEZAR BENJAMEIN aka Leonard sherman says:

    Hal I wanted you to to be the first person that I know that at 10:00 am this morning I exercised my patriotic duty and I voted as a Registered Republican for Donald Trump for reelection as the president of the United States of America and I dropped My ballot into a U.S postal box singing Irving Berlin’s song GOD BLESS AMERICA THE LAND THAT I LOVE.

  4. Gary Gittelsohn says:

    At the end of the “The Music Man,“ Harold Hill didn’t show he has a heart; he‘s in love with Marion, and wants to stay with her, so he doubles down on the con. After fleecing the townspeople of River City, Hill is finally apprehended and forced to prove he’s taught the town’s children to play music. So, he implores the children to “think” their way to playing something reminiscent of the Minuet in G. As they butcher the music, it’s clear to the audience they can’t really play. But, all that matters is the people of River City think they sound great because they, too, want to believe. Kinda like the con man Trump selling his acolytes a bill of goods without delivering the merchandise. But, still, Trump implores his faithful to just believe what he says, even if he’s lying. While it’s natural to feel good and sentimental about the love story between Harold (Hill, not Gershowitz) and Marion, one of the lessons of the play is Winthrop doesn’t become Wynton Marsalis merely by thinking he can play.

  5. qua says:

    As an absentee voter I will be voting in this election, but I also
    know that the incidence of voter fraud is very real. IF only
    70,000 votes in three contested States were the difference in this election imagine the scenario of 36,000 illegally garnered
    votes.
    I have personally viewed Democrat operatives in the Native
    villages in Alaska offering to fill out ballots for them
    Today in Alaska we have seen millions of out of State money come in to elect an” Independent “candidate personally in
    contact with Senator . As they say “All is fair in politics and war”,,,,,,,,,,,,,or is it.?

  6. Stuart Goldfine says:

    Iowa was unable to count their ballots for weeks in their recent primary.
    People in Virginia already receiving double ballots.
    I live in CA and will probably get two ballots.
    Mayor Bloomberg plans to pay debts for 30,000 felons in Florida so they can vote. It is BRIBERY, just like the Hollywood women who paid to get their children into college.
    We are a divided country and there cannot be a fair election.
    The Silent Majority and the Deplorables will vote for Trump on November3rd, but I doubt if the election will be fair and it may take weeks or months to solve.
    If we had an election by popular vote, a candidate need only visit 6-8 states with a majority of our population and the other 42 or 44 states will never need to vote again in a Presidential election.
    If Trump loses, America loses.

  7. James Fisher says:

    Having volunteered to work in the local voting precincts for years, I have seen the depths to which democrat operatives will go to literally drag in a barely- cognizant, wholly-disinterested warm body to vote for their ticket. Shameful but legal.

    I salute Mr. Goldfine for getting the our political situation EXACTLY right.

    • Response to Mr. fisher: Actually, Mr. Goldfine does not “have it exactly right.” Iowa’s vote count problem had nothing to do with mail-in votes. While some voters in Virginia accidentally received two ballots in the mail, only one ballot could be tabulated for each registered voter regardless of how many ballots he or she may have received. One bar code, one vote per registered voter. The same is true in California. The felons to which Mr. Goldfine refers are ex-felons who have served their time. While Mr. Bloomberg may pay their delinquent fines or fees, these men and women are free to vote for whomever they choose. While we are surprised that Mr. Fisher has observed democratic operatives literally “dragging in barely cognizant, wholly-disinterested warm bodies to vote for their ticket,” we agree that such activity is deplorable. The original draft of this essay listed the cases of voter suppression reports and prosecutions so far during the 21st century, but I deleted them because one of our two political parties dominated the list, and I felt listing them would suggest bias. Care to guess?

  8. Robert J. Fraiman says:

    Freedom of speech, thankfully is a bedrock of our Bill of Rights.
    However, how can you naysayers really vote for a man who
    constantly says this or that is a HOAX or the Press is an enemy of
    the people? I guess “it is what it is”.

  9. Steve Prover says:

    Response to Stuart and James: Find a room.

  10. judy allen says:

    Hal,
    Rarely a day goes by that I don’t receive an invitation to vote from “Immigrants Registration” or some other group.
    I decided to open one up lately and filled it out with incorrect information ie, name, birth date, etc. at the end, I was advised that my ballot was on the way.

    And, since they are not for profit would I make a donation so that they can continue to locate and register others… ??? Gotta wonder just how safe mail in voting is going to be?

    • Reponse to Judy Allen: You really don’t have to wonder. Only one vote per registered voter can be tabulated in California…the one with the voter’s bar code on the sending envelope.

  11. susan duman says:

    I was totally uplifted by your essay.
    Then I read what you readers had to say.
    You have provided an extraordinary forum for opinions on all sides.
    Grateful as always.

  12. Sylvan Gershowitz says:

    Hal, I agree with your essay that Trump is making too much of an issue regarding voting by mail. However,
    I think Trump has accomplished more than any President since Reagan. As far as Covid 19, I am not sure that the cure is not worse than the problem. I would like to know how many small businesses (like mine) are going out due to the country being shut down. Trump’s accomplishments are numerous, including but not limited to, appointing two Supreme
    Court Justices,maybe a third , many Federal and District judges,
    Tax cuts and government regulations, lowest unemployment in 50 years, lowest in history for African American and Hispanics ,new jobs created due to deregulation, 52 per cent increase in the Dow,
    Stronger and prepared military, making other countries pay their share in NATO, weapons to Ukraine for their protection, reform Veterans Affairs,
    (So needed!!) Energy production and independence,
    Sanctions on China and Russia, increase pressure ion Iran not to develop a bomb, criminal justice reforms,
    Building the wall, tariff threat to Mexico has helped
    make them crack down on illegal immigration and better on trade, moved the embassy to Jerusalem,
    Stood by Israel, Historic Agreement with UAE and other countries will follow, these are just a few there are many others, not bad for three and half years !!!

    • Response to Sylvan Gershowitz: While Mr. Gershowitz’s comments really do not relate to this week’s essay, I am pleased to provide some further perspective. With respect to COVID-19, many can and will debate whether the “cure” is worse than the problem. Johns Hopkins University and most other public health officials agree that 70% or more of the COVID-19 deaths were avoidable, but for the mismanagement of the pandemic. Many would also suggest that the prolonged severe interruption to business could have ended nearly four months ago had the pandemic been properly managed. Appointing Supreme Court Judges is not really an accomplishment. Getting them confirmed is an accomplishment shared by the President and the leadership of the Senate. President Trump has continued the economic improvement that began under the Obama Administration. Economic growth under President Trump, prior to the pandemic, was slightly higher than the economic growth achieved during the Obama Administration. Improvement in unemployment, especially African American unemployment also built upon that achieved during the Obama Administration. For example, Black unemployment declined 53% during the Obama Administration from 16.8 % to 7.9%, and continued to drop to 5.5% under President Trump. Overall economic growth under President Trump prior to the pandemic was essentially the same as that achieved during the last year of the Obama Administration (2.5% under Trump, 2.4% under Obama). The Dow is, indeed, at or consistently near, all-time highs. Then again, interest rates are, and have been, near historic lows. Lower interest rates generally equate to higher stock market prices as investors look to maximize their market returns on invested capital. NATO commitments to higher spending began following the Russian invasion of Crimea. That sanctions on Iran (with which I agree) are reducing Iranian determination to build nuclear capability is highly questionable. While these columns, on more than one occasion, have given President Trump due credit for various actions, other accomplishments for which he grabs credit were well underway during the prior administration, such as growing energy independence. The President has been on target, however, with significant movement in the Middle east. I give Trump high marks for criminal justice reform as well.

  13. Paul Lubar says:

    “Don’t buy another vote, I won’t pay for a landslide.”

    Joseph P. Kennedy during the 1960 W Va. primary

  14. Robert borns says:

    Since when did the u of Chicago become right wing. My relatives with u of c doctorates were and are totally left radical. Go hootenannies on the lawn. Trump may be Henry hill but Biden is joe the clown. And his lies about his life are not funny. His lies about his academic achievements are outrageous. He was a terrible student and his stories about his degrees are disgusting. And he is so obviously on the downside of brainpower. I grew up in Gary Indiana that had totally stupid crooked politicians and Biden is their type. His Crooked immoral relatives Prove that. I suspect Biden will perform much better than trump expects because he will be juiced up with some compound. New York illinois California will go to the ballot box like sheep so trump should forget them. Trump is no angel but Biden’s advisors are devils. His dominating advisors such as bernie and aoc will destroy our nation. Obama and Biden gave power to Iran. Was that good?They said that you need a magic wand to bring bac k manufacturing. I guess trump got one. Let mail in voting happen pres trump. It won’t help Biden as toomany Americans are thinking Right. And as they say in Chicago-vote early and vote often!

  15. Eddie Whitehead says:

    Did someone here admit to falsely completing and submitting a ballot? Maybe I misread that comment.

  16. Bob Scadron says:

    So wonderful to hear from Bob Borns and his thoughts on this subject.

  17. Steve says:

    I am amazed that otherwise intelligent thoughtful people hear Donald Trump say that mail-in voting is fraudulent and then automatically repeat it over and over again, although hardly as often as Trump himself repeats it, but without any REAL evidence of it. The Iowa primary example is absurd as an example since it was a first time attempt at ranked voting in Iowa. It has nothing to do with Presidential General election voting. Secondly, the matter of integrity in election voting has been studied to death by about every organization in American with any interest in the issue with virtually no evidence of cheating being uncovered. Some mistakes? Yes, but usually minor and uncovered and reported by the election officials themselves. Otherwise none, nada. As a matter of fact it’s my understanding that following the 2016 election a Presidential commission was created to study the matter of voter fraud driven solely by the fact that the President had lost the national popular vote. It was disbanded in short order because nothing of substance could be found. I encourage all of you, regardless of your party, to do whatever you can to get people to vote, but stop complaining about the options they’ve been given to exercise our most important right of democracy. And for those who are REALLY interested in our democracy STOP being complicit in frightening people away from the polls by suggesting that there’s only a false choice open to them…..vote in person (and risk your lives in a pandemic) or stay home and stay safe.

  18. LWY says:

    Yes, Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million, but he lost California by 6 million! Excluding California, he won the popular vote with the rest of the country.

    Average earnings have gone up by over $4,000 under Trump. My understanding is that is more than any other president ever. So much for only the rich benefited from his economic policy.

    As for COVID, almost 40 % of deaths were from people in nursing homes, many of which were in New York and New Jersey. Are you going to blame Trump for that?

    Trump gets blamed for not having enough PPE. Yet, what did Obama leave him? Why were we in this situation? Did Trump not fix this problem?

    Do you think we will be in better shape if Biden wins and the Democrats take the house and Senate? Just envision that scenario.

    This country is so divided. It would be nice to have something to read that could help bring this country together vs further apart. It certainly is not going to come from our glorious press or TV.

    • Response to LWY: LWY makes several important points. LWY is correct that PPE was in short supply when President Trump assumed office. The Obama Administration did distribute 85 million N95 masks, 12.5 million regimens of antiviral drugs, and 19.6 million units of PPE during the H1N1 Swine flu epidemic in 2009. The Obama Administration did not replace the 19.6 million units of PPE. Having been warned that PPE was in short supply, however, does beg the question of why The Trump Administration left the stockpile in short supply for the next three years. LWY is correct that approximately 80,000 Coronavirus deaths can be attributed to deaths in nursing homes. Conversely 120,000 coronavirus deaths are not attributed to nursing homes. Finally, the reference to a $4,000 increase in household earnings under President Trump, is misleading. Obama inherited the worse economic downturn since the great depression. Nonetheless, in the last 31 months of the Obama Administration, household income rose 5.6 percent and continued to increase to 7.1 percent during the first 31 months of the Trump Administration. Trump does deserve credit for building on the increase in household income attained during the Obama Administration.

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