Delighted by the outcome of the explosion of mail-in voting in the 2020 election, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 37 into law the following year to make it a permanent feature of future elections in the state.
A so-called “voter integrity” bill, AB 37 allows the state to send a mail-in ballot to every active registered voter. A news release from Newsom’s office said the measure would “increase access to democracy and enfranchise more voters.”
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws,” the governor said, “California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency.”
According to Public Interest Legal Foundation, a conservative nonprofit group based in Indianapolis, Indiana, the vote-by-mail experiment failed spectacularly during the 2022 elections.
Including both the primary and the general elections, the new law resulted in the rejection of 226,250 mail-in ballots by state election officials, the report said. So much for enfranchising more voters.
When one considers how close many of the races in the state ended up, this is especially concerning.
In the general election, PILF reported that 47.8 percent of ballots were rejected because they arrived late. Another 39.8 percent due to a signature mismatch, and 9.8 percent had been submitted without a signature. Others were rejected because voters were recorded as having already voted (0.6 percent) or had failed to provide an ID (0.5 percent). In some cases, the ballot was missing entirely from the envelope (0.5 percent).
Equally concerning, PILF claims that 10 million ballots — over half of the ballots sent out — are still unaccounted for.
PILF provided ballot data for the general election. The state sent out a total of 22,184,707 ballots. Of those, 9,781,328 were accepted, 120,432 were rejected, and 1,391,422 voters cast their ballots in person. This leaves 10,891,525 that remain unaccounted for.
The PILF report included a quote from the group’s president, J. Christian Adams: “Mail ballots disenfranchise. There are many reasons mail ballots fail ultimately to count. No one casting a ballot at home can correct an error before it’s too late. California’s vote-by-mail demonstration should serve as a warning to state legislators elsewhere.”
Adams stated the obvious.
Perhaps the worst aspect of mail-in voting is that it’s become an invitation for voter fraud. Many of us recall the 2005 Commission on Federal Election Reform co-chaired former President Jimmy Carter and former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, a Republican. The bipartisan commission concluded, “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”
Regrettable as it is, it looks like this controversial practice is here to stay. Democrats have lobbied for universal absentee voting for a long time. The 2020 pandemic handed them a golden opportunity to implement mail-in voting and its close cousins, early voting and ballot harvesting, on an unprecedented scale. And they are not about to let it go.
This means that if Republicans ever plan to win another election, we need to hop on the bandwagon fast.
Republicans have long supported the tradition of in-person voting on Election Day. Unfortunately, by then, Democratic candidates who have been getting out the vote for weeks, are way ahead of their Republican rivals. And Republicans start the day with a serious vote deficit.
We all recall the voting machine issues in the state of Arizona on Election Day. People were forced to wait in long lines for hours in some cases. How many of them left because it was just not worth their effort? Or they simply had other obligations such as work?
In a perfect world, voters would be required to show up on Election Day to cast their ballots. But that perfect world no longer exists.
We must master vote-by-mail and the other techniques that have worked so well for Democrats in the past few election cycles, or we will continue to lose otherwise winnable races.
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