By Kevin Martin
We will not be able to wake up on Nov. 4 knowing that this horrid election cycle is over. Truthfully, the presidential election just might be a nightmare the American people will never escape from, especially if it becomes contested by Trump, Biden, or both. This chaos will be caused by the method we use to vote on election day and the failure on both sides of the aisle to come up with legitimate solutions and stem the rhetorical undermining of the election.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, many American voters have begun preparing to vote by mail as opposed to voting in person. Like everything else in this country, though, the issue of mail-in voting has taken a partisan turn, with the Democrats generally being in favor and the Republicans generally being opposed to it. Politico recently reported that in Pennsylvania this partisan split is seen in the absentee ballot requests, where Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one. This reality is of serious concern because it has the potential to muddy the results of the election and enable either candidate to contest the results of the election.
Voting by mail is not inherently problematic, but it does pose serious drawbacks and possible flaws. The first drawback is with the actual counting of ballots that are mailed in. In the state of Pennsylvania, ballots cannot begin to be counted until 7 a.m. on Nov. 3. With the increased number of votes by mail, it is nearly impossible to expect them all to be counted by the next day, and certainly not the night of the election as Americans are accustomed to.
A Democratic analytical firm, Hawkfish, has taken notice of this issue and publicly warned about the results we may see on election night. The company argues that we will see a “red mirage” that will make it appear as if Trump has overwhelmingly won the race on election night, but after mail-in votes are counted in large numbers the results will show that Biden actually won. Even though it has come under criticism from other electoral experts, Hawkfish’s projection is entirely plausible. Trump very well might have an immense lead on the night of Nov. 3, and Biden very well might overtake him in the weeks following that day. This possibility could lead to a situation in which Trump declares victory early on and Biden contests, but once more ballots have been counted, Biden declares victory and Trump contests. The prediction, though, has caused some disagreement amongst election experts, notably from Charles Stewart III of MIT.
The ultimate flaw with voting by mail is the sheer number of potential votes that may be thrown away. This is not an accusation of conspiracy, but rather a sincere call for concern. During the 2020 primary elections in 26 states, more than half a million ballots were thrown out due to discrepancies, according to the Washington Post. In states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, a few thousand ballots being thrown out just might change the result of the whole election. And we must keep in mind that voter participation will be significantly higher in the general election than in the primaries.
The American people need their political leaders to stop adding to the disorder. State governments need to get their act together and pass legislation that will ensure a more efficient tabulation of mail-in votes. One solution is to allow the count to begin prior to the election; this approach would at least partially stem the confusion that is likely to follow election day. The Republicans need to stop claiming there are conspiracies when there are none—legitimate criticism is well and good, stick to that. Democrats need to admit that mail-in voting is not entirely safe and recognize that most of the issues come from the failings of local governments; you cannot just blame Trump. Both parties must understand that strategically undermining faith in our elections is not only an immoral way to victory, but is frankly dangerous. The American people need to ready themselves for whatever is coming in November. If we know that this election could be disastrous, then we will be better prepared to handle the nightmarish situations that follow. At the end of the day we are all Americans, and no matter who wins this election we will have to live in this country with our political opponents, so we might as well remember the humanity of those we disagree with.