I Was Affected by Mail-In Voter Fraud. Expanding Mail-In Voting is a Recipe for Disaster

by Peter Billovits and Emily Martin

 In the wake of the recent Wisconsin elections and with concern over the coming general election in November, mail-in voting has become the flavor-of-the-month political issue. It’s been playing out the way most voting-readjustment debates have played out: Republicans argue that it creates the opportunity for voter fraud, and Democrats viciously claim that Republicans are trying to suppress votes. Democrats have frequently argued that voter fraud is incredibly rare and could not affect the results of an election.

Yet, we know voter fraud is real and damaging. Not only can voter fraud happen, but it has happened – and may have changed the results of an election. In 2018, a rogue Republican campaign in North Carolina used ballot harvesting and manipulation to remove unfavorable absentee ballots, denying the Democratic opponent the victory. Emily Martin, one of the two writers of this article, lived in North Carolina’s 9th District and experienced it firsthand.

To refresh your memory: A political operative was accused of ballot tampering in the 2018 congressional election. Republican Mark Harris led the unofficial vote tally by a little under 1,000 votes over Democrat Dan McCready. However, state officials uncovered peculiar patterns among the mail-in ballots, leading to an investigation. A team was paid to go door-to-door in mostly rural areas and collect incomplete absentee ballots. The team then brought these incomplete ballots to an operative, Leslie McRae Dowless Jr., who reportedly filled them out in support of Harris. This “coordinated, unlawful, and substantially-resourced absentee ballot scheme,” as state officials described it, tainted the election through the tampering of mailed-in ballots. According to investigators, Dowless filled out at least 1,000 mail-in ballot requests without most of the voters’ knowledge. The effort to hide the fraud was extensive. Ballots were sent out at staggered times, mailed from different post offices, and signed with the voters’ ink colors.

How did this affect Emily? She was disappointed with the partisan deceit, of course, but the consequences went beyond this. Her district extends from Charlotte’s southeast suburbs along the state’s southern border – a sizable amount of the state’s population. Emily and her fellow citizens received no representation for nine months, depriving the district of a voice in Congress. If mail-in voting is recklessly expanded, this could occur in any of our hometowns – especially in swing states for the 2020 election. For the government to open the door for voting manipulation is to undermine our legitimate rights to vote.

That we are talking about a Republican operative that committed this fraud, should tell you that stopping voter fraud is not partisan for us. Republicans are not worried about voter fraud from just Democrats – we are worried about voter fraud from anyone elected improperly – including those hiding within our own party. This isn’t an issue of partisanship – it’s an issue of electoral integrity.

Though not all Democrats are trying to cheat in elections, they have an incentive to push mail-in voting: They want to increase turnout among some voters who would vote blue but stay home on Election Day. However, there’s no reason that US citizens cannot vote as circumstances are now. Absentee ballots are allotted by request to those who will be unable to reach the polls on Election Day. Unless a voter is subverted by unfair voter suppression tactics (which mail-in voting does nothing to address), any US citizen can vote on Election Day (or before, if necessary). We have systems set up to protect this already.

Expanding mail-in voting would simply be a use of taxpayer dollars to increase Democratic turnout among those who already have the ability to vote (while exposing our elections to voter fraud). There must be a bipartisan solution for voting amid the coronavirus outbreak – but we speak from experience when we say that mail-in voting simply isn’t an option.