As Election Day is drawing ever closer, I’ve noticed an alarming trend of rhetoric emerging about the potential results. Recently, at their respective debates, both President Trump and Vice President Pence refused to definitely state they would accept the results of the November election and commit to a peaceful transition of power. Trump particularly has also made regular statements questioning the legitimacy of absentee voting and making unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. These sentiments represent a terrible trend for our country and seek to undermine the American people’s confidence in the conduct of our elections. Rather than continuing to promote divisive language such as this, candidates should commit to respect the results of the November elections, once all votes are counted.
Elections in 2020 do look a lot different than in the past. Due to the continuing Covid-19 pandemic, which has now killed more than 210,000 Americans, many people are choosing to vote by mail or early in person rather than risk infection from crowds on Election Day. Even if you do choose to vote in person on Nov. 3, things will look a lot different, as evidenced by the requirement for masks and social distancing in polling places. These differences have sparked a lot of wrongful talk about the integrity of our elections.
President Trump, among others, has claimed absentee ballots are being sent by foreign countries to rig the vote or that ballots will be sent to wrong addresses or to deceased people. These claims are untrue. Absentee ballots, like when you vote in person, require you to mark your signature, which is checked against the voter registration rolls. Similarly, if ballots are sent to wrong addresses or to a deceased individual in error, those ballots wouldn’t be accepted if submitted by a potential fraudster because they would require the correct signatures. In essence, mail-in voting is as safe and secure as in-person votes. Claims of fraud are also weakened by the fact voting by mail is actually more difficult to use because a legitimate signature may be rejected wrongfully, or voters may make a mistake that could have been corrected had they voted in person.
Our elections in America as a whole are also highly secure. The conservative-aligned Heritage Foundation has compiled a database of 1,298 cases of voter fraud during the past few years across the entire United States. Compare this to the more than 100 million votes cast in both the federal 2018 midterms and the 2016 presidential election alone.
Though any case of voter fraud is a problem, to suggest it is widespread is blatantly deceptive and not supported by the numbers. A recent federal court ruling in Pennsylvania agreed with this by denying an attempt by the Trump campaign to restrict ballot drop boxes and disqualify certain absentee ballots there, because the campaign could not show proof that voter fraud could result from these measures.
If anything, we should be making it easier for people to vote, not harder. As I wrote in another column recently, if we truly want the leaders of our country and state to reflect our residents, we should be getting every eligible voter to the polls. Restricting drop boxes, absentee ballots and making baseless allegations of fraud only serves to make it harder for people to vote and make people less likely to accept the results if their side loses.
One of the most important tenets of a democracy is that after the people vote and the ballots are counted, the results will be accepted by both the successful and unsuccessful candidates. A peaceful transition of power in this manner between opposing sides is what separates us from violent dictatorships where rulers hold power through force. So on Nov. 3, and in the days following, as absentee and mail-in votes are counted, we should wait patiently for the final results. A winner should only be declared once this process is complete, and once it is complete that winner should be accepted by all. Refusal to accept the results of free and fair elections should have no place in America.
Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.