The death of clean American elections

Sorted mail-in ballots are shown at Chicago Election Board headquarters in 2018. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)

Sorted mail-in ballots are shown at Chicago Election Board headquarters in 2018. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)

Put aside for now the question of whether the presidential election was "rigged" against Donald Trump. Put aside the partisan pronouncements about whether Trump or Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president.

Let's instead take an objective, nonpartisan look at whether the election was was good enough to become an acceptable template for elections to come.

I think not. Because the chain of custody of too many ballots was broken

The chain custody of ballots is as important as the chain of custody in criminal cases. It means that nobody or nothing can intervene between the voter who casts the ballot and its counting. Allowing middlemen or third parties to get their hands on the ballots is an invitation to fraud.

When voters cast their ballots in person at a polling place, the chain of custody is in the hands of the voters themselves. They mark the ballot and they feed it into the machine that counts the votes. The count often is backed up by a paper record

Consider now the route of vote-by-mail ballots. Blank ballots are mailed out to millions of potential voters, including some who no longer are eligible go vote in a particular jurisdiction and some who have died. (That's why it is so important for voting rolls to be regularly updated, to weed out ineligible voters. To pretend that updating the voting rolls is a racist is a lie.)

Anyone who gets his hands on the blank mailed ballot can cast the vote in someone else's name. Especially when their signatures are not verified as they are in a polling place. (Voter IDs would be an even better guarantee of honest elections. Pretending that requiring a voter ID is a racist plot is another lie.)

Verifying the signatures of mail ballots can delay the counting beyond legally required deadlines, creating various opportunities for fraud. For example, illegally marked ballots can be trotted out in the dark of night or "discovered" when it was determined that a "few extra votes" were needed to boost a preferred candidate.

But even legitametly marked ballots are not safe. They can be picked up by people who have a vested interest in an election's outcome and trashed when it becomes clear that they would help give an opponent a victory.

Unattended drop boxes for completed ballots are a weak link in the chain of custody.

There are so many ways that elections can be fixed when the chain of custody is broken there isn't enough room here to list them all. Suffice to say that if we want honest elections, vote-by-mail ballots are not the best way to get them.

Here's a chance for real bi-partisan cooperation--if Democrats can put aside their insistence that any move to ensure clean elections is a racist plot to suppress the minority vote and Republicans can look beyond their deep belief that the election was rigged against Trump.

If I had my way, I'd end vote-by-mail schemes of most sorts, especially when a state is flooded with millions of unrequested empty ballots. If a person can't be around on election day, in-person early voting is a viable option. For those who can't travel to a polling place, requested absentee ballots are available.

But that won't get done, so legislatures will have to figure out a way to improve the legitimacy of vote-by-mail ballots. Doing nothing or extending the mail ballot system, with its built-in errors, to more jurisdictions simply is not acceptable if we're to avoid he shambles that we've had to live through with this election.

Failing to safeguard ballots in the next election is the real and most obvious threat to democracy.


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  • Those who advocate mail-in ballots and extended deadlines for vote counting, along with no ID to vote, are not interested in a democratic process.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    It says a lot for your point of view when it depends on your ability to read minds, doesn't it?

    I wonder if you'll be asking where I live, next?

  • In reply to BillDCat:

    Logic dictates my conclusion, not a crystal ball. As for your living quarters, I suppose they are underfoot, as logic dictates.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Keep repeating that only your point of view is based on logic. It'll let you sleep more soundly. It'll also allow you to change the subject before you actually have to reply to a point someone makes. As logic dictates, of course.

  • In reply to BillDCat:

    You asked me about my point-of-view, not about any specific subject; I answered. Please review English grammar and usage and ask a question about the actual subject, not a question about my opinion.

    Why are you so afraid to use your real name?

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    I'm not afraid to use my real name, I just know that the point I make is more important than the Avatar I use here. You feel the opposite.

    People usually emphasize the things they think are important. My point is the important part. Your use of your name is what you think is important, I guess...

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Richard, Biden's election has been called the fairest and cleanest election ever. Why suggest otherwise without any proof whatsoever? Remember, Richard, allegations are not proof.

  • > Put aside for now the question of whether the presidential election was "rigged" against Donald Trump. Put aside the partisan pronouncements about whether Trump or Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president.

    That's nice. Since there hasn't been any sort of evidence at all, anywhere, that anything like this happened, it's good of Dennis to suggest that we can temporarily put these things aside. Should we come back to innuendo and lies and treat them as though they are evidence and facts at a later time?

    This election has had international observers, local observers, career election officials all looking at the process and the results. Not one of them, anywhere, has even suggested that any of what Dennis suggests has actually happened. Not one. Lawsuit after lawsuit by the Trump campaign has been thrown out. When put under oath or the suggestion that they will be put under oath, these credible witnesses suddenly recant. Lawyers who cry fraud in the news suddenly change their tune when they are in a courtroom and speaking to a judge (when the bar for malfeasance is significantly lower than it is when speaking to a crowd or reporter). Where is the evidence that has been presented in a court? Where are the witnesses who are willing to actually testify under oath? Where are the people who are willing to cry fraud when there is a consequence for lying or being intentionally misleading?

    Thanks, Dennis, for allowing us to temporarily put the lies and stupidity aside for a brief period. After all, attorneys that even the Trump campaign has fired are seemingly lending credibility to all of this, right?

  • In reply to BillDCat:

    It must be nice on your planet where every election is clean as a whistle.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    Telling... You've been touting all this as though it is proven. Someone makes reference to the fact that no one has actually brought any actual proof of anything to court, or even to the public in some other forum, and you then have to fall back on the strawman... No one said that every election is clean as a whistle. No election ever was, including those where signatures were matches and people voted in person. But, you choose to ignore all of this talk about proof and stuff and rely on the hope that no one notices that you respond about an assertion I've never made. Are you really done talking about all this fraud that people have been asserting? Now, the standard has changed and now everything has to be clean as a whistle. Trump lost by 10's of thousands of votes, at least, in the places where it really counted. He lost by millions over the country. If there were a hundred fraudulent votes, would you say that Trump should be President next year? What are you saying, actually?

    I'm saying that you should probably get that editor who used to filter out posts like this one back when you wrote professionally.

  • In reply to BillDCat:

    Ah, caught me. I should have said your friends over at the Brennan Center said it was "very rare."

    So rare, that we don't have to worry it, correct?

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    My friends... Ha ha. Again, you do know it becomes obvious to everyone reading when you decide to change the subject, right?

    It's rare enough that you pretending like this election, all of a sudden, represents the death of clean american elections, because you didn't get the result you want, seems a little childish and transparent, don't you think?

    > So rare, that we don't have to worry it, correct?

    Again, if you had a reasonable point to make, you'd probably just make it, correct?

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    Dennis, I don't know a whistle, but members of your own party, public officials, have avowed that the election was clean and without significant fraud. And by the way, they live on our planet.

  • Just look at that farce in NY22. 12 ballots found in a desk drawer a month later. Sticky notes attached to ballots that fell off. 50 ballots found “uncounted” weeks later somewhere else. This is the US best system in 2020?

  • In reply to Get out of IL now!:

    I'd love it if you could provide a citation for those things. I'd love to read about the facts behind them.

  • In reply to BillDCat:

    Google NY22. This has been national news for weeks.

  • In reply to Get out of IL now!:

    Utica Observer Dispatch....o, wait, you’re going to tell me it’s a right wing paper.

  • In reply to Get out of IL now!:

    Makes sense. There's certainly no expectation that you should provide any sort of citation for a subject that you brought to the table. Well done. 'Google it' certainly makes you seem like a credible source on this subject.

  • In reply to BillDCat:

    Trying Googling it before you make up more stuff.

  • In reply to Get out of IL now!:

    I'm not going to tell you anything about the paper. But, you told me it has been national news for weeks, and you point me to the Utica newspaper as proof of how it has been national news?

    Hahahahaha. National news outlet, the Utica Observer Dispatch, has been running a series of hard hitting articles on this. They'll probably be nominated for a Pulitzer. 'National news'... Is there any idiotic thing you won't say?

  • When you say, "Let's instead take an objective, nonpartisan look..," WTF do you mean?

    If you're saying that you are suddenly objective and nonpartisan, you really should be writing science fiction.

    If the Department of Homeland Security, Bill Barr, every secretary of state and every election official declare that the election was secure and that there is NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER of fraud, irregularities or vote tampering, I don't think anyone needs a barber to tell them how to secure elections.

    Rudy Giuliani and his clown car full of "lawyers" couldn't find a shred of evidence to bring to court, just wild conspiracy theories and baseless claims.

    Even Trump's own committee to find fraud, headed by Kansan Chris Kobach, famous voter fraud claimant disbanded because there just isn't any such thing, except for the occasional Republican collected ballots and voting for their candidates.

  • In reply to Bob Abrams:

    Little edgy, Mr. Tirade? Why so? If there is no evidence of fraud why not let the silly investigations continue? Nothing will be found, right? At least nothing that will ever see the light of day. We all know there is no voter fraud in Chicago, for instance. Just ask Nixon's ghost.

    Speaking of "WTF" about "objective" looks at anything, it's rather ironic of someone who has never looked objectively at anything to complain. But then, the irony is lost on rabid ideologues such as yourself who publish science fiction on a planet called Tirade.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    How long should they continue? Who is making them stop, other than the courts, which held their scheduled hearings, laughed at what was presented and then dismissed the cases. No one cares if idiots want to waste their own money on lawyers filing pointless briefs.

    But, how long should the grownups wait for the idiocy to continue before they get down to the business of doing their jobs?

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    Be careful, Richard. You have violated rule number 1 of Dennis Byrne's Rules for Posting on My Blog: "I cannot continue to allow personal attacks on other people who comment."

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