The political pundits have been going back and forth for months about whether voters should entrust the presidential election to mail-in voting. The numbers seem to indicate that mail-in voting could lead to hundreds of thousands or even more than a million lost votes. However, it is important to understand exactly what causes a vote to be lost in mail-in voting.
There are many valid reasons why mail-in ballots might not be counted by election authorities. One very big reason why a vote won’t be counted is if it arrives late or does not arrive at all. If you have ever used the U.S. Postal Service, you know that happens all the time. Not having a required signature on the proper line is another reason. Another is when the signature does not match the voter’s signature on file. A big reason to consider is the lack of a postmark on the envelope.
An official U.S. postmark on the envelope containing the ballot has long been required as proof that the ballot was mailed before election day. Postmarks are supposed to be applied to first-class mail, but many envelopes are delivered without a legible postmark, thereby invalidating the ballot.
There is no way the voter can cure any of these defects, or even be notified that his ballot is rejected. Vote tallies must be completed and turned in to the secretary of state by an exacting deadline. Usually this deadline is 7 to 14 days after the election.
While elections for state or local offices can be disputed, litigated, and even redone amid a system failure, the election for President of the United States allows no such leeway. The Supreme Court ruled in Bush v. Gore (2000) that vote counts must be completed in time for the Electoral College to meet on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. According to the Supreme Court, this date cannot be postponed.
The few times total mail-in voting has been employed, it has not worked out well. If the presidential election had any irregularities, there would not be time to fix them. If that’s not a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is.