President Donald Trump recently floated the idea of delaying the November election, citing concerns of voter fraud through mail-in voting.
However, the Constitution does not afford the president power to change an election date. It does give Congress the power to set a date, but to change it would require Congress to change laws that govern the date of the general election, and that would require approval from both houses.
Both Republican and Democrat lawmakers have been quick to point that out, and it doesn’t appear they’re willing move the 2020 election. The majority of local residents also believe the election should be held on time, although there seems to be a divide on the security of mail-in voting, as opposed to absentee voting.
Oklahoma does not have plans for what is being called by the president “universal mail-in voting,” wherein the state automatically sends ballots to everyone on the registration rolls. The state does allow no-excuse absentee voting, meaning Oklahomans do not need to give a reason to vote absentee by mail.
State Rep. Matt Meredith, D-Tahlequah, said he doesn’t think the election will be postponed, and he does not have any concerns about the security of absentee voting, in which voters must request ballots from their local election boards.
“I think you’re going to see more people use the mail-in process, and I think at some point we need to look at making it more accessible for everybody to be able to do," he said. "You saw it in June and I think you’re going to see it more in the November election. I also just think people are going to exercise their right to vote.”
A number of groups in the U.S. collect data on voter fraud. A database by News21 found 2,068 cases of alleged fraud between 2000 and 2012, with absentee ballot fraud being the most prevalent at 24 percent. The Heritage Foundation’s database, which was created four years ago, has found 1,285 “proven instances of voter fraud.” The Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank, disputes Heritage’s database, though, claiming the evidence presented therein does not make the case that voter fraud is a major problem.
After the election in 2016, President Trump actually convened a task force to examine voter fraud, but it disbanded after finding no evidence of widespread issues.
Only a few states have universal mail-in voting, where they automatically send ballots to registered voters. However, almost 180 million people have some way of voting through the mail. Only eight states currently require in-person voting, unless the person can provide a reason not related to the COVID-19 outbreak for absentee voting.
State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, said he is happy Oklahoma will not be sending ballots to every voter’s mailbox, adding that many states have registration rolls that haven’t been purged in recent years.
“I would have some concerns about the universal mail-in voting,” he said. “If you start mailing ballots out to every individual in the country, you don’t know if they’re still living there, if they’re deceased, if they are mentally impaired. I’m glad it’s something that Oklahoma hasn’t taken up. I don’t anticipate us taking it up.”
Pemberton also does not expect the election to be delayed.
“I understand what [Trump’s] thinking, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s something constitutionally that we can do,” he said. “I’m not in favor of that. I think we just need to find a way to have our election like we normally would. I think it was kind of a shock to me and just about everybody. I think he was thinking out loud, and I don’t really see any merit to it.”
Members of the administration are known to have used absentee voting. Trump has asserted it’s a secure way of voting, while he has condemned states that mail ballots out to every voter. Proponents of mail-in voting argue, though, that absentee and mail-in voting require the same process.
“Absentee ballots are already handled by mail, and a few states already carry out their elections with mail-in voting,” said Dell Barnes, Cherokee County Democratic Party vice chair. “I think it’s a good solution to protect public health in the short term. At this time it is a matter for the states to decide, and I feel our election board does a great job of ensuring the integrity of our processes.”
In a Facebook Saturday Forum on Aug. 1, the Daily Press asked readers for their thoughts on delaying the election and mail-in voting. There were a total of 247 comments.
Jerrold Williams doesn’t have a problem with mail-in voting, but suggested other steps could be taken to give more Americans a chance to cast ballots.
“I do not believe mail-in votes are a source for major voter fraud and am against postponing the election,” he said. “I do believe, however, that allowing in-person voting to be extended over several days to give a better opportunity for in-person voting should be taken into consideration.”
Tia Frits agreed that in-person voting should be extended, but has concerns about mail-in voting.
“The only ones that should be allowed mail-in voting are our elderly, disabled, and our military who are serving out of the country. You can wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart at the polls just like everywhere else," she said.
Some people aren’t so sure it matters how a person votes.
“Well, considering the Electoral College decides on who the next president will be, I don’t see why it makes a difference how we vote or even vote at all,” said Kenny Drywater II.
In an online poll, the Daily Press asked readers if the November election should be delayed because, due to COVID-19, many people may vote by mail, and that could mean more fraud. Of the respondents, 58.8 percent of the respondents said, “No, elections shouldn’t be delayed, and fraud would be minimal or nonexistent"; 14.7 percent answered, “No, elections shouldn’t be delayed, even if there may be some fraud"; 12.7 percent responded, “Yes, elections should be delayed just a couple of weeks so better voting methods can be in place to safeguard voters from coronavirus"; and 11.8 percent said, “Yes, elections should be delayed as long as Congress and/or the president believe they should be.” Two percent were undecided.