Law & Principles
Ray Carter | May 1, 2020
National poll shows vote-by-mail concern
Even as activists in Oklahoma seek to remove a longstanding election-security safeguard for absentee voting, a new national poll shows many voters are concerned that an increase in voting by mail could lead to increased election fraud.
The Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen shows 62 percent of voters believe having everyone vote by mail is likely to increase voter fraud, while 29 percent disagree. The poll showed that 39 percent of respondents believe an increase in fraud is “very likely” compared to 15 percent who believe increased fraud is “not at all likely.”
Concern was highest among Republicans with 81 percent of GOP voters concerned that voting by mail would lead to more fraud. But concern was high among all groups with 59 percent of independents fearing increased fraud and 48 percent of Democrats expressing concern. Among Democrats, those concerned about fraud represented a plurality, compared to 45 percent of Democrats who disagreed that voting by mail would lead to increased fraud.
The national survey interviewed 1,200 registered voters from April 23-25. The margin of sampling error for the poll was +/- 2.8 percent.
The poll comes even as a legal challenge is underway in Oklahoma to prevent the state from requiring those who cast absentee ballots to provide an affidavit signed by a notary public. The notarized affidavit is required to verify that the person who filled out a ballot is the same person who requested the ballot.
The League of Women Voters, joined by two citizens, has filed a lawsuit asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to effectively strike that requirement, arguing that the notarization requirement forces those casting absentee ballots to meet “face to face” with a notary public.
“Such a requirement is burdensome in ordinary times,” the league’s petition states. “In the time of COVID-19, it could be deadly.”
Rather than have absentee ballots notarized, the league wants the court to require only that an absentee ballot be submitted with a signed statement declaring the person voting is the same person who requested the ballot. The league argues that action is authorized by current law and notarization is only an option. The league also says requiring notarization of all absentee ballots will mean Oklahomans have to “risk their lives, or the lives of others” to vote.
The state’s response says the actions endorsed by the League of Women Voters would not only nullify the requirement for a notarized affidavit when absentee voting, but is so broad it would “impact every provision of the Oklahoma Statutes that specifically requires a notarized affidavit for verification.”
“This cannot be the case,” the state’s petition declares.
Also, the state’s petition notes Oklahoma law says voters “shall” complete and have notarized an affidavit when absentee voting. “Shall” is understood to be a mandate. When language is permissive, “may” is used in statutes.
“As a longstanding and essential feature of our absentee voting process, the notarization requirement relates directly to our State’s unfortunate history of absentee voter fraud,” the state response declares.
The state response also notes that Oklahomans are required to provide identification when voting in person, a requirement that has been upheld by the courts.
“Considering the history of voter fraud, the specifics of our absentee voting process, and recent legislative history, it would be absurd to now open the gates and provide for no verification for absentee ballots but still requiring in-person voters to present a valid proof of identification,” the state response states.
Claims of virus-related health risks from voting have been undermined by real-world experience in Wisconsin, which conducted a statewide election on April 7 amidst the pandemic. Around 450,000 Wisconsin residents voted in person that day, and a recent study found that rates of new confirmed COVID-19 cases didn’t increase in Wisconsin compared with the rest of the country after the April 7 election. According to recent reports, only 52 people who participated in in-person voting in the Wisconsin election (or 0.01 percent of the total) subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, and many of those individuals indicated they may have been exposed to the virus elsewhere.
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.