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Voting by mail is chaos by mail

You are standing on a hill that overlooks a busy, traffic-signal intersection.

The lights are changing. The motorist receiving the green light hits the gas the millisecond they see green. The motorist receiving the red light decides they have an extra second to work with and is speeding through the intersection.

A collision is inevitable with damages guaranteed and loss of human life very possible.

One of those cars is driven by mail-in voting. The other is driven by the election.

The collision could turn this country into frightening chaos.

The evidence is based on multiple realities revealed since we last addressed this topic.

In New York’s June primary, the latest estimate is that 25 percent of the mail-in ballots were not counted. Are you okay with your ballot being one of them? When the calendar turned to August, some results from the June primary were still unknown. Candidates in New York have filed lawsuits charging discrimination and disenfranchisement. In some precincts, they had not even gotten around to starting the counting of absentee ballots as of mid-July.

In New Jersey, one in five mail-in ballots were rejected and fraud was charged against four men..

In Pennsylvania, according to National Public Radio, the rejection rate on 1,460,700 mail-in ballots was 1.07 percent. That may not seem like much, but the presidential contest in Pennsylvania this November could be tighter than that.

These counts were mostly for party nomination races for state Assembly and the House of Representatives.

Imagine the turmoil when this sort of bungled vote counting accompanies a presidential race in November.

The realities in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania did not keep Nevada’s legislature and governor from passing weekend measures recently authorizing a mail-in ballot for all voter roll residents this fall. How do we know that list is 100 percent accurate? How do we know who is signing the ballot?

We are asking our beleaguered Postal Service to gear up in less than 90 days to handle 170 million ballots, all attached to delicate timing and multiple opportunities for misplacement.

It’s the height of naivete to think this can be done without a hitch in any battleground state.

While we would all like to think no fraud will be involved in this cumbersome process, people of all political persuasions can’t believe this process will be entirely without attempts to tip the election scales given the hopelessly divided nature of our nation today.

And that’s the most frightening part of this collision. It feels like chaos is imminent regardless of the results of the election.

That chaos will be hijacked just as calls for racial justice were in the past three months by people who want to overturn rather than improve the way we are policed and governed. For evidence, see Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, Chicago and New York in recent weeks.

They are not provinces of peaceful demonstration. They are tinder boxes.

I honestly fear the dangers of a protracted, contested presidential election during these times in this country.

The best way to insure confidence in this election result is not mail, but a renewed emphasis on in-person voting. Expand the voting hours, beef up the presence of election judges, and help everyone vote in person.

Asking people to show an ID, sign a voter roll and cast a ballot in person is not voter suppression, the buzz phrase adopted by those pushing to make mailing in a vote to an overwhelmed Postal Service the new measure of democracy.

You might want to ask yourself why they are doing this. You might want to ask yourself why the media, which previously was skeptical of mail-in voting, is suddenly pushing it as the best way to cast a ballot.

What we are setting up is an election left to judges, especially if there are thousands of ballots in question in battleground states, an eventuality that would throw the nation into dangerous turmoil.

The coronavirus is being used as the rationale behind greater mail-in balloting. If we can wait in line at grocery and liquor stores, we can wait in line to vote. Wisconsin did that in May and sustained no uptick in COVID-19 cases that could be traced to its election.

All of us, regardless of our voting preference, need to advocate in these troubled times for the value of all our voices. Voting is our voice. It’s nothing less than the granite block of our democracy. And assuring its fairness should be a cause embraced by all of us.

Forfeiting the in-person voting exercise in exchange for a postal process that has proven already to be dangerously flawed is an invitation to a collision.

And the last thing our country needs at this time is another collision.

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

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