By Ronald J. Rosenberg
Voter fraud has been around since the creation of democracy, but that doesn’t make it right or mean we should allow it to continue or expand. Free and fair elections are the foundation of any free, self-governing country. Without them, you have nothing except the tyranny imposed by those who successfully manipulate the electoral process.
The latest assault on our voting mechanisms has a long history. You could buy a vote with a round of drinks as practiced by the New York City Democrats of Tammany Hall of the 1880s. And voting from the grave? Louisiana’s governor of the 1930s, Huey Long, reportedly said, “When I die, I want to be buried in Louisiana, so I can stay active in politics.” Others have used a variety of frauds, including bribes, intimidation and poll taxes to redirect election outcomes.
But in the 21st century, we are facing a far more insidious and systemic corruption of our balloting. Today, would-be electoral fraudsters want to entirely abolish the requirement of voting in person with identification, in favor of allowing voting by mail or an absentee ballot merely for the asking.
Requiring ID and other laws designed to ensure the integrity of elections do not suppress the vote, as President Biden and others have falsely asserted. Last month’s Georgia primary saw record turnout for early voting — nearly triple the level in 2018 level and 212 percent more than in 2020, a presidential election year.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill earlier this year that, dangerously, allows New Yorkers who are concerned about getting Covid to vote this year by absentee ballot. Some political pundits believe that, much like their clumsy and illegal gerrymander of election districts, this is one more instance of those on the left seeking to undermine the integrity of our elections so they can gain a political advantage at the expense of democracy.
It’s not as if New York voters aren’t wise. They sent a loud and unequivocal message last November when they voted down a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed no-excuse absentee voting.
As the political cycle heats up with a double-barreled primary calendar, it is important to understand that voting by mail and unlimited absentee voting is a serious threat that undermines confidence in the integrity of the outcome. “Ballot harvesting” has become a thing: Paid operatives are sent door to door, offering to transport individuals’ mail-in ballots to the Board of Elections. One suspects that these concerned defenders of democracy may well check your party affiliation before deciding whether the next stop is the ballot box or the dumpster.
In California, no less, the practice was recognized as being so egregious to democracy that after it was made legal in 2016, it was subject to serious restrictions.
California “has since made it illegal to get paid per ballot collected,” The Washington Post reported, “and for employers to ask employees to bring their ballots into their workplace.”
Another dimension to ballot harvesting that harms the integrity of absentee voting is the ability of the paid operative to make a last-minute argument about why you should vote one way or another. This kind of pressure is why our polling places have restrictions on how close candidates can campaign.
If our democracy is to stand the test of time, the Covid-imposed ability to vote remotely needs to be curtailed and restricted to those who legitimately cannot make it to the polling place on Election Day. It isn’t too much of an ask for a concerned and engaged citizenry to find the will and the means to physically make it to the ballot box one day a year.
Those who argue that these options increase participation in our election process will have to make a far more cogent case, because the jury is still out on that claim. An analysis by the Connecticut Mirror suggested that absentee voting has not brought a significant spike in participation. The Public Policy Institute of California reported a similar finding. So one can legitimately ask, what is the real reason to expand absentee and remote voting, who is pushing that agenda, and why?
As we reflect on the priceless gift of democracy, we should consider who should be given the unchallenged right to offer absentee ballots. The immediate and obvious answer would be our fellow Americans in uniform, who are defending the nation. Those patriots earn the right to an absentee ballot with their blood and valor.
What’s the left’s excuse?
Ronald J. Rosenberg has been an attorney for 42 years, concentrating in commercial litigation and transactions, and real estate, municipal, zoning and land use law. He founded the Garden City law firm Rosenberg Calica & Birney in 1999.