On Oct. 13, Texas polls opened for the first day of early voting and predictably, there were enthusiastic reports of record early totals. Information is good, but information without context might yield some incorrect assumptions.
Only a few counties throughout the state have fully reported this year’s election in-person and mail-in voting totals, and comparisons to previous years are difficult due to the additional seven early voting days. Texas is a rapidly growing state, so it stands to reason that there should be a record number of voters exercising their rights each year, simply thanks to in-migration to the state. A new voter wave, is not we are actually seeing, as my colleague noted in The Federalist recently.
But no media outlets are reporting the concerning amounts of funds coming into the state of Texas to influence the vote, under the guise of public/private partnerships assisting county elections administrators to perform “their public duties.” These grants take the form of everything from get-out-the-vote efforts, and voter registration, to promotion of mail-in ballot applications and their collection (which if done by anyone other than a family member, or with any compensation, is illegal in Texas).
They’re also providing funds for drop-off sites for mail-in ballots. The last is odd considering every home or dwelling unit has a USPS drop box within a few hundred feet. Of course if people wouldn’t take a bet on the USPS to mail themselves $500, then why would they trust it with our most important civic right? Even MIT says there is between a 3.5% and 4.9% error rate from the 2016 election, one with far fewer ballots in circulation to be lost.
Inaccurate voter lists, universal mail-in ballots, and unsecured drop-off points would result in a broken system full of unprotected votes, that could be used by bad actors to game the election. It’s also interesting that long lines and record turnout used to be positive signs of engaged voter participation, but now they are called “unreasonable voter suppression” in places like Georgia as well as Texas. Perhaps some of the financial resources being improperly dedicated to mail in ballots for those un-eligible voters could have been used.
None of the rights guaranteed to us in the U.S. Constitution mean anything if the most fundamental one—the right to vote to select our office-holders—is undermined.
In a contentious year, there is deliberate sowing of insecurity and the creation of confusion in the election process. This is done by challenging established state law, as we’ve seen in Travis county, or in Harris county which has been attempting to ignore election laws as far back as April. The legal challenges continue to bounce from court to court and the voter ultimately is the loser—not being sure what to believe.
As with any rights we have, there are responsibilities that go along with it. Be observant; secure your ballot; if you are concerned, do not subject it to the vulnerabilities of a mail system that at times fails, nor to a third party who promises to deliver it to the authorities. Voting early and in person as it is the most secure method.
But regardless, administrators owe the citizenry a simple pledge, that voting should always be easy to do, but hard to cheat at. And they should resource that pledge accordingly.