Despite President Donald Trump’s dire warnings of massive fraud, a study conducted by Integrity Florida concluded that vote-by-mail is a valid option, especially in Florida.
From 1992 to 2017, only 33 cases of voter fraud charges were prosecuted in the state of Florida, according to The New York Times. So why are politicians at very high levels of government actively trying to discredit an election before it has taken place?
The Americano posed this question to Myrna Pérez, the Director of Brennan Center’s Voting Rights and Elections Program.
“[They] are spreading lies about voter fraud and they are raising it in instances in which there is zero evidence,” says Pérez, who leads the program’s research, advocacy, and litigation work nationwide. “Part of how they are doing this is by discrediting vote by mail, which is something that every state in the country uses and has been using since the Civil War.”
“During the past few years, the language about fraud has been highly racialized,” Pérez said. “The implication, and sometimes [it’s stated] outright, has been that immigrants are the ones causing the problem —discrediting our elections, making them tarnished.”
And yet, she explains, there is no evidence of systemic issues. In the few instances when there was a problem, Pérez said it was often “a case where somebody made a mistake or didn’t understand the rules.”
In defense of voting by mail, the Florida Division of Elections website, where residents of the state can obtain the forms they need to register for voting, has a mandated system with safeguards in place. The system allows fixes when mistakes are made, as well as provides tools to help voters track their ballot and make sure it counts.
Combating Voter Suppression
“Voters are being suppressed by politicians spreading misinformation, by barriers to the ballot box —like not having registration systems that are accessible during a pandemic,” the advocate says. “Voters are being suppressed by having burdensome requirements — like witness requirements or notary requirements — or by closing polling places without giving voters enough notice, or not processing ballot applications on time.”
To counter this, Pérez suggests having a concrete voting plan. “If you want to vote in person early, or if you want to vote by mail, get your application in and turn it around quickly,” she said. “Tell our politicians we need to resource our election administrators better.”
The advocate’s overriding message is voters should not be deterred if they run into problems on Election Day.
“Make sure you persist,” Pérez insisted. “There are a lot of people out there trying to help. There is a national nonpartisan hotline where questions can get answered. The number is 866 OUR VOTE; in Spanish, 888 VE Y VOTA.”
Ultimately, she says if the politicians didn’t do the work of protecting our elections ahead of time, it comes down to all of us to help each other out.
“If you have a flexible schedule and you are in a long line, and there’s someone who is concerned about getting back to work, let them go ahead of you; if you are able to vote early, vote early; if you can offer childcare to someone so they can wait in line if there’s a problem, please do so,” Pérez says. “If you’re an employer who can be flexible about when your employees can get back to work if they have a problem at the polling place, please do so.”
“I think it’s important for Americans to continue to believe in the power of the vote — that it matters — because what intimidators and people spreading misinformation want is for voters to get disgusted by the system and not vote,” Pérez said.