By Edie Goldenberg
Americans’ confidence is lower than that reported in almost every other democratic country.
With voting by mail, research has found people to be more concerned that their vote will not be counted correctly, as compared with voting in person. One 2008 study found that white absentee voters were less confident their ballots would be counted correctly than white in-person voters.
A 2008 telephone survey found that about half of respondents were concerned that mail-in voting might lead to increased fraud, though the report on survey results didn’t describe specific types of fraud the respondents feared.
Research from 2015 mostly confirmed those findings, revealing that people in states with more absentee voting tend to believe that various types of voter fraud are more common. That same study also found that absentee voters are less confident their vote will count than people who voted in person either before Election Day or on the day itself.
Some concerns about mailed-in ballots not being counted may be legitimate: A 2018 study in Florida found that mailed-in ballots from younger voters and voters who needed assistance marking their ballots were rejected more often than others. That indicates standards for rejecting mailed-in ballots may not be uniform, or that some voters’ signatures change over time in ways election officials may not expect or accept.
However, research from California in 2011 found that frequent public communication from election officials can increase voters’ faith in voting by mail .
All this evidence leads to some clear conclusions: Voting by mail is — or, with training of election officials and the use of common standards, can be made — just as honest as in-person voting. Officials can help ensure public confidence by being transparent and communicating their plans and preparations.
People are more interested in voting by mail than ever before, because of the pandemic.
Epidemiology indicates that voting from home is safer than going to a crowded public building to vote.
November’s election will likely involve far more mail-in voting than in the past. To retain voters’ confidence in its integrity, our review indicates that local election offices and the U.S. Postal Service will need to make substantial additional preparations to provide mail-in ballots and to handle the increased volume of mailed-in ballots .
And the public needs to understand that the results of the vote may not be clear for days after Election Day . It takes longer for election workers to open, verify signatures, and count mail ballots than it does to run voting machines, and some states — such as Michigan — do not permit mail ballots to be opened until Election Day.
But when the tallies are announced, if large numbers of Americans have voted by mail, the public can feel confident that the process was fair and the results are accurate.
Edie Goldenberg is a professor of public policy and a professor of political science at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. This was first published by The Conversation — “ Research on voting by mail says it’s safe – from fraud and disease “