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Mailing it in is a recipe for voting chaos

We walked into the voting precinct, gave poll workers our names, showed our identification, signed our names on the roll, filled out ballots and watched the volunteer scan them while explaining how they would be counted and safeguards against a scanning error.

We left certain our votes would be accurately counted in Pennsylvania’s primary election. It took two minutes. The process promoted trust there would not be a duplicate of us sending in another ballot. And when we die, there won’t be someone voting as us.

There’s a push to change the way we vote this November, with a ballot box replaced by the mailbox, the poll worker replaced by the mail carrier and the two-minute process replaced by about a four-step process with multiple variables.

The shortest distance between two points has always been the best way to achieve accuracy in any tabulation. Don’t tell that to the pushers telling us mail-in voting represents the ultimate assurance votes are counted accurately and fairly and participation will be improved by balloting through the local Post Office.

Three times we have gone on vacation and filled out a form specifying when we wanted our mail put in our mail box so it is there when we return. Three times it has not happened.

I have an annuity check I am supposed to receive the 12th of each month. It has arrived anywhere from the 10th to the 15th. One year, I never did get my tax refund check from the IRS and it had to be resent.

This is not a criticism of the Postal Service or our mail carriers. They have 320 million people to keep track of. There will be snafus. To expect otherwise is unrealistic.

And now we expect them to be the key conduit in the election process to determine the next leader of the free world. We are complicating a simple process that has worked pretty well for centuries, a process that has been refined as problems have arisen.

There are 27 states, including Pennsylvania, with “no excuse” mail-in voting, meaning you don’t need an excuse to vote by mail. I will let you figure out why some people are pushing so hard to make mailing it in the nation’s voting protocol. But replacing the ballot booth with the mailing process leaves a rancid taste in my mouth. Here’s why:

* In the 2008 presidential election, 7.8 million of 35.5 million mailed-in ballots requested were not counted because they never reached voters, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study.

* In 2012, before mail-in voting became a partisan issue, the New York Times published “Error and Fraud at Issue as Absentee Voting Rises,” noting bipartisan consensus that “voting by mail is more easily abused than other forms.”

* A commission chaired by former President Jimmy Carter in 2005 found heavy evidence of voter fraud, vote buying and intimidation of nursing home residents when mail-in voting is involved. In Florida, they call that “granny farming.”

* In the June primary, more than 300 Lycoming County residents had to call voter services to cancel and resend ballots because of delays in delivery of them by the Postal Service. Forest R. Lehman, the county’s director of elections and registration, said counties were disgusted by the postal system’s failure to deliver election mail in a timely manner. Several voters told the Sun-Gazette they had lost trust that the postal system could handle the voting task.

* In Chicago, a dead cat recently received a voter application in the mail. Whose name will be on that ballot when it is mailed in?

In November, as close as balloting will be in many states, including Pennsylvania, any mail-in voting issue – which is likely – will create chaos. The ultimate outcome will be resentment by half the country of whatever the protracted vote count determines. The past four years have shown us what that resentment breeds.

It’s not a lot to ask a person to show up at a voting precinct with one identification to prove they are eligible to vote. If you think votes are suppressed by limiting voting hours, why not allow a four-day voting window that stretches from Saturday to the traditional Tuesday election day? If the virus is still a concern, everyone should wear masks, observe spacing and the added time to vote would be helpful.

The country has an absentee ballot policy that requires a legitimate reason for its use.

The count for the rest of us should be based on the shortest distance between two points.

People who want to make mailing it in the dominant means of voting have reasons that are being polished up as cries for greater inclusion and fairness. Those things already exist and if you think they don’t you should complain to authorities.

In the meantime, let’s not create a greater possibility of chaos involving the most sacred of our democratic rights.

David F. Troisi is retired as editor of the Sun-Gazette.

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