Whenever encouraging readers to participate in the April 4 consolidated election, especially if referencing voting methods, I can expect a reader or two to respond with concerns over the safety of mail-in ballots.
This week the topic surfaced unprovoked, as Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy encouraged members to utilize absentee ballots.
“Democrats have won many close elections on the strength of their Vote By Mail programs,” Tracy wrote, which would be completely true if mailed ballots carried extra weight. They do not, however, and so a more accurate phrase would be “on the strength of their turnout efforts.” When the total voter pool skews to one party, that party tends to win.
Tracy noted Virginia Republicans successfully utilized mail ballots in 2021 by implying acquisition of a mail-in ballot increases voter security: once you request the ballot, no one else can do so in your name. Even better, once you have the ballot, you can drop it in a secured location, hand it to a county official or surrender it to vote in person. Or, if a late development negates those options, you can always return it by mail.
This isn’t a flip-flop on Tracy’s part, at least not fresh: He issued a similar missive in September when trying to boost general election turnout. To suggest reversal, you’d have to go back at least a year earlier, to the September 2021 formation of an election integrity committee.
“Voting by mail, with its separation in the chain of custody, poses unique challenges to election integrity,” Tracy said then. “We need to address those issues so that we can have fair, safe, secure, honest elections moving forward.”
Does that statement square with Tracy’s Monday remarks? A more pressing question: does Monday’s note square with itself?
“In contrast to our genuine concerns about how certain aspects of voting by mail undermine fair and honest elections, there is relatively little increased risk of fraudulent abuse of your ballot when you vote by mail as opposed to voting in person. In a sense, voting by mail can actually decrease the possibility of a bad actor voting your ballot for you.”
Tracy essentially suggested Republicans must use mail-in ballots – which he emphasized are convenient and safe – in order to win enough power to change rules about mail-in ballots. But after using this method to secure that power, won’t it be harder to argue for reducing convenience with relatively little decrease in abuse?
The GOP is completely right: to win, it must inspire voters to participate by whatever legal means possible. When I encourage electoral participation, it isn’t partisan, although my inbox says otherwise. An informed, active electorate is healthier for everyone. Even with stamps.
• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at email@example.com.