I don’t know how widespread voter fraud was in the last two presidential elections. But I do know that vulnerabilities exist in our election system that allow both sides to sow legitimate doubts about the results. For the sake of our democracy, this needs to stop.
Thankfully, the vast majority of Texans agree.
The key to protecting the integrity of our elections is verifying that only eligible voters can cast ballots and ensuring that only legitimate votes count. The weaknesses in our system get called out when critics, generally the losers in an election, point to irregularities in how our process collects and counts votes.
While these claims mostly serve to soothe the spurned egos of failed politicos, the reality is that our system is vulnerable, nefarious actors exploit it, and this leads to illegal votes that violate the rights—and choices—of legitimate voters. Policymakers need to take that seriously.
We know the biggest vulnerability is mail-in ballots, which are susceptible to ballot trafficking. That is the practice of using gifts, coercion, intimidation, deception, or simply stealing ballots out of mailboxes, to substitute the trafficker’s choice for the voter’s.
Ballot trafficking and abusing the mail-in ballot process is a preferred method of committing fraud. Once the illegal votes are mixed with the legal ones, it’s virtually impossible to separate them. Mail-in ballots do require a signature, but discrepancies are not checked or largely ignored, which makes signatures a less-than-ideal security measure—one unworthy of protecting a voter’s most fundamental democratic right.
Additionally, our system offers very little recourse for challenge potential fraud after the votes have been counted, which contributes to undermining confidence in the results.
To restore confidence, we need measures that make fraud less likely to succeed in the first place.
That’s why the overwhelming majority of Texans support common-sense voter verification requirements. Nearly 90% of Texans say voters should have to show identification to vote. More than 80% believe in-person and mail-in ballots should have the same protections. Roughly the same number say mail-in ballots should include the voter’s driver’s license number or the last four digits of their social security number. And 89% of Texans say we should audit our voter lists regularly to ensure they only include eligible voters.
These results roundly reject the idea that making elections more secure equates to “Jim Crow” or lead to so-called voter suppression (of which there has been no evidence for numerous decades).
It’s appropriate, and some might argue obligatory, for policymakers to address deficiencies in our institutions when the people are not served by them. The left and right might not agree on the specific way in which problems are fixed, but we all agree the way we educate our kids, deliver heath care, or raise tax revenue could be better. But no one demands that medical malpractice or illiteracy be “widespread” before we expect our politicians to act.
The same is true with our election system. Just as every individual person’s health and education is important, so is the right of a legitimate voter to be counted equally.
Patching the weaknesses in our system, like requiring voter ID for mail in ballots the way we do in-person ballots, gets us closer to truly free and fair elections.