COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – With fewer than 90 days until Election Day, a majority of Americans say they are not confident that elections will be conducted fairly.
Fifty-five percent of the 44,601 U.S. adults who took NBC/SurveyMonkey’s weekly poll last week said they are either “not too confident” or “not at all confident” that the Nov. 3 election will be conducted in a fair and equal way.
Republican and Republican-leaning adults worry about fairness more than their Democratic equivalents, 65 to 46 percent. Forty-three percent overall said they are very or somewhat confident that elections will be fair and equal.
The survey, released Tuesday, was conducted Aug. 3-9 and is nationally representative of age, race, sex, education and geography. Its margin of error is +/- 1 percent.
Experts point to two main things that have Americans – depending on their political views – weary of election fairness: foreign interference and expansion of mail-in voting.
The United States’ top intelligence official, Bill Evanina, said Friday that Russia is “using a range of measures to primarily denigrate,” former Vice President Joe Biden, President Donald Trump’s Democratic opponent, and in some cases trying to “boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television.”
A coordinated Russian effort to help Trump’s election chances by discrediting his opponent was the key finding of last year’s Mueller Report, which found that the Russians used social media and hacking to hurt Hillary Clinton. The report, however, also cleared Trump of collusion with the Russians.
Evanina also said Friday that China “prefers that President Trump — whom Beijing sees as unpredictable — does not win reelection.”
Shift to mail-in voting
Fifty-five percent of survey respondents said they either somewhat or strongly favor changing election laws to allow all voters to vote by mail, while 42 percent somewhat or strongly oppose increasing mail-in balloting.
Five states – Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Utah and Hawaii – already conduct elections entirely by mail. And all states have some type of mail-in ballots, which include absentee ballots (used when things like school or travel keep you from your home polling place).
Nineteen states have changed their election laws because of the coronavirus, according to a Washington Post analysis, including California, Nevada, Montana and Vermont, which will mail ballots to all registered voters.
Votes in Ohio’s April 28 primary election were cast almost entirely by mail (or local election office drop box) as the state braced through the worst days of the pandemic. Mail-in ballots made up 99.8 percent of the more than 1.8 million ballots cast in this year’s primary, according to data from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.
The share of mail-in ballots in Ohio’s last presidential primary, 2016, was about 60 percent of the more than 3.3 million ballots cast.
Mail-in voting fraud extremely rare
Opposing the expansion of mail-in voting during the pandemic is an opinion held by far more Republicans and Republican leaners than Democrats and Democrat leaners – 76 to 13 percent according to Tuesday’s poll results. Independents came in closer to Democrats at 35 percent.
This partisan rift may be explained in part by President Donald Trump’s repeated questioning of the safety of voting by mail. The President has claimed that increasing mail-in voting will lead to widespread voter fraud and that it could unfairly tip the election to Democrats. These claims, however, are false:
- A May study from researchers at Stanford University found universal mail-in voting has no impact on partisan turnout or votes.
- And 20 years of voter fraud data compiled by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and analyzed by a vote-by-mail advocate and a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found just 204 instances of mail-in voting fraud out of 250 million total votes cast.
“There is no evidence that mail-balloting results in rampant voter fraud, nor that election officials lack the knowledge about how to protect against abuses,” Amber McReynolds, CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, and professor Charles Stewart III wrote in The Hill in April.
President Trump himself even voted by mail (via absentee ballot) in this year’s primary election. His state of residence, Florida, does not require an excuse to vote absentee. Ohio doesn’t either.
Despite changes nationwide, the Post’s analysis found, 55 million voters in eight states (New York, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas) will still need an excuse beyond fear of contracting COVID-19 to vote by mail instead of in person.
So, how many Americans vote by mail? Fifty-five percent of respondents to the NBC/SurveyMonkey poll said they are either very or somewhat likely to vote by mail in the November election, while 42 percent said they are not so likely or not likely at all.
Democrats and Democrat leaners were far more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say they expect to vote by mail, 79 to 33 percent. Fifty-four percent of independents said so.
Ohioans can register to vote here and request a mail-in (absentee) ballot here. Below are important dates to keep in mind for the November election, per the Ohio Secretary of State’s election calendar.
- Deadline to register to vote: Mon. Oct. 5 at 9 p.m.
- Early in-person voting begins: Tue. Oct. 6
- Deadline to request absentee ballot: Sat. Oct. 31 at noon
- Absentee ballot postmark deadline: Mon. Nov. 2. (Ballots can still be dropped off at local board of election office until Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.)
- Election Day: Tue. Nov. 3. In-person voting open 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.