The political debate over proliferating mail ballots is a pretty straightforward illustration of how debates go between the Left and the Right.
Conservatives instinctively feel that departing from the traditional way of elections invites problems (and we suspect progressives know this and expect to benefit from it). Progressives insist that there “is no evidence” that problems will arise, which isn’t actually true, but even if it were, that wouldn’t be surprising, because they are insisting on conducting the experiment in real time on a large scale.
An elderly man of my acquaintance, having received an application for a mail ballot yesterday, asked me whether he should send it in. In the course of the conversation, he offered the reasonable opinion that it couldn’t hurt to order the ballot, because he could always go and vote in person if he wanted. This reminded me of an anecdote that Michael Napolitano told about his own experience with mail ballots for the Presidential primary:
… my wife and I each received TWO BALLOTS for the Presidential Primary. WE DID NOT MAIL THEM IN. I went to the polls to vote in person on Presidential Primary Day and was told that a mail-on ballot was sent to me and I could cast a provisional ballot. I would then have to turn the mail-in ballot to the Lincoln Town Hall to have my provisional ballot counted. I went home to retrieve my mail-on ballot only to discover that I had two and so did my wife. I decided to keep my mail-in ballots sealed in the envelopes and alert the media. The story is below.
The system is a mess! Later the state would claim they sent out 2 ballots to make sure it was received. But here is the kicker, THEY SENT THEM TO TWO DIFFERENT ADDRESSES! However, they both came to me.
The argument for mail ballots and, similarly, against voter ID is that making it too difficult to vote is a form of voter suppression. Yet, here we have a system in which voters are receiving multiple ballots by mail and then have to drive around town voting and returning mail ballots if they decide to vote in person. They then have to trust that the same government that sent them two mail ballots will correctly notice that they returned them (or at least one of them) and count the associated provisional ballot.
This seems a whole lot more complex than remembering an ID or finding a way to get to the polls on election day.
The difference is that it is complex in a way that rewards fraud. If workaday voters get tripped up because “the system is a mess,” as Napolitano says, it only increases the advantage of those gaming the system.