Mail-in voting has increased sharply due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Pew Research Center reported that in the 2016 general election, 24.9% of votes were absentee or mail-in and in the 2018 general election, 27.4% of votes were absentee or mail-in. But during the 2020 primaries, 50.3% of votes cast were absentee or mail-in.  

Is election security at stake? What are some of the documented security vulnerabilities and problems associated with mail-in or absentee ballots? J. Christian Adams, president and general counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, joins the podcast to discuss.

We also cover these stories:

  • Three Republican senators are calling on the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about censorship and possible election interference. 
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation on Oct. 22.
  • Citing his son Barron’s COVID-19 experience, President Donald Trump said children should be back at school. 

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Rachel del Guidice: I’m joined today on “The Daily Signal Podcast” by J. Christian Adams, who is president and general counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation. Christian, it’s great to have you with us today on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”

J. Christian Adams: Thank you for having me.

Del Guidice: You recently participated in an event for The Heritage Foundation called “Is Election Security at Stake? Trading Ballot Boxes for Mailboxes.” So let’s start off with that, is election security at stake, Christian, at the November 3rd presidential election that is just weeks away?

Adams: Well, of course it is because so much of it is now being cranked into the mail system.

The United States Postal Service, you know those guys, they’re the ones who deliver you, your neighbor’s mail all the time. And what we have done is put the election into the hands of the Postal Service, which, by their own inspector general report, only has as a success goal, a goal, of 95%, which is 5% failure.

In reality, the Postal Service fails a lot more often than just 5%. So it’s a very, very, very bad idea.

Del Guidice: Mail-in voting has really increased in large part due to coronavirus. And the Pew Research Center actually had a report come out on Tuesday that just really illustrated how much it’s increased.

In the 2016 general election, it was 24.9% of votes were absentee or mail-in. In the 2018 general election, it was 27.4% of votes were absentee or mail-in. And in the 2020 primaries, that jumped to 50.3% of votes being cast as absentee or mail-in.

So what is your perspective on how this increase in absenteeism mail-in voting has been such a sharp rise?

Adams: First of all, it’s obviously coronavirus, but it’s also tragic. Because when you go to vote by mail, when you move toward mailing in your ballot, that means more votes are not going to be counted. They are going to be lost. They’re going to be rejected by election officials for failure to comply with the law.

And so when you have mail ballots, that means more people lose the right to vote. When you go to vote in person, it doesn’t work that way. You show up at the poll, you walk in, you cast your ballot, you feed it into the machine. It gets tabulated immediately. You can fix any defects. If you accidentally fill in an oval the wrong way, they’ll give you another ballot. …

We heard at the Heritage event that Secretary [of State] Mac Warner of West Virginia talked about all the people who lost their votes because they messed up filling in the ovals. And then they put it in the envelope and mailed it.

So the safest way to have your vote counted is to vote in person. The most likely way to lose your vote is to send it in the mail.

Del Guidice: Let’s talk about this a little bit more before we get into some of the concerns with mail-in or absentee voting.

Let’s just talk for another little bit about why absentee voting, as opposed to voting in person, why there are so many concerns about this practice and switching over. Especially as some states are doing so kind of last minute, versus states like Oregon, who have been doing this for quite a while and do have more of a process down.

Adams: Well, think of all the people involved, right? If you want to cast your ballot in person, it goes like this: They hand you the ballot, you fill it out, you feed it into the machine. There’s no person involved. It is counted immediately.

Now, let’s do mail. If you request an absentee ballot, you call or you send in your form. That form has to go in by mail. So there’s postmen, there’s trucks, there’s sorters, there’s machines. There’s more postmen, there’s more trucks, there’s more sorters, more machines, just to send in your request.

So they get your request for an absentee ballot and the election officials take your ballot and send it to your house. So once again, there’s postmen, there’s trucks, there’s sorters, there’s machines. There’s more postmen handling your ballot.

And in a lot of places, the ballots are being mailed to places where you used to live, instead of where you actually live. And then you fill out the ballot and what happens next? There’s postmen, there’s sorters, there’s trucks, there’s machines, there’s more people, more people touching your ballot.

Look at the contrast between those two stories, between you walking and putting your ballot into the counter at a polling place in person, versus the dozens of people who are touching your ballot, if not more than dozens. And more than dozens of vehicles and machines that are touching your ballot before it ever gets back to be counted.

That’s the difference between vote by mail and voting in person.

Del Guidice: Well, Christian, can you walk us through some of the document insecurity, vulnerabilities and problems, that are associated with mail-in or absentee ballots?

Adams: Well, … look at Nevada. Nevada is a great example of this. This is a real story. This is not speculation. Nevada decided very quickly in the spring to instantly convert to a vote-by-mail state. They did this by edict. It wasn’t a law, it was an edict by officials there.

So they said, “OK, we’re going to mail out to everybody ballots because we’re now vote by mail.”

And they mailed out in Clark County alone, which, by the way, is Las Vegas, Clark County alone sent out 1.3 million ballots. Nobody requested them, they just mailed them out. Two hundred thirty thousand of them came back as bad addresses, so that’s 233,000 bounced.

Now, a lot of them didn’t bounce and they just laid on the floor in apartment complex lobbies—and there’s photos in the Las Vegas paper of this—where anybody could have picked them up.

Well, then, out of 1.3 million, 310,000 did come back that were voted—310,000 out of 1.3 million. And of those 310,000, 7,000 people lost the right to vote because their ballot was canceled for problems.

Now, think about that. That’s like the crowd at a Washington Wizards game. OK, now, I know this seats 17,000, but the Wizards don’t get so many people. The point is that’s a lot of people. Seven thousand people in just one county in Las Vegas lost the right to vote because of mail balloting canceling it out.

If those 7,000 people were in the precinct voting in person, they could have fixed the problem, they would have had their vote counted. There’s so many vulnerabilities in vote by mail.

Del Guidice: On that note, Christian, are there any other reports of voter fraud or even tampering with ballots that you’d like to highlight for people who are listening?

Adams: Well, there’s so many. I mean, every day you read a new one about ballots found in a warehouse.

Don’t forget Paterson, New Jersey. Paterson, New Jersey, had a mail election this year that was so corrupted by fraud, was so corrupted by people taking ballots out of mailboxes and voting them for other people.

There was an activist named YaYa Mendez who pled guilty to committing election crimes in Paterson. It was so bad, they had to do the election over again. That they had to have a whole new election because vote by mail invited such chaos and criminality, that it was a disaster because of what happened in Paterson, Paterson cannot be repeated on a national scale.

This is a dangerous, destabilizing rush to vote by mail, when you have people who are committing crimes and you have regular, normal Americans who want to believe in the system and are losing faith in it because of this chaos.

Del Guidice: As the election, as you talked about, is just weeks away, what do you foresee happening, Christian, if there is voter fraud or widespread voter fraud, in this presidential election?

Adams: First of all, we won’t even know about whether there’s voter fraud in the short term because this is a sort of thing that only emerges after the election. YaYa Mendez taking ballots out of boxes in Paterson, New Jersey, wasn’t something we knew about on election day. It only comes out later. That’s the nature of voter fraud.

So what I’m afraid of happening is the results getting certified before the full extent of the chaos is understood. And that’s not how it’s supposed to work. The more we vote in person, the less chaos there will be.

Del Guidice: What should voters be on the lookout for when they’re in polling places or in drop-off locations for mail-in ballots? What would you caution people to look for in these instances where fraud might be happening?

Adams: Look, folks who don’t monitor this area as part of their profession really are in a tough situation. The best thing they can do right now is to volunteer, to be an election official. A lot of counties still need help and they need help in-person voting to have election officials.

I mean, look, if you see people being forced to vote, which in some parts of the country is not as uncommon as it seems—I did a case when I was at the Justice Department, in Knoxville, Mississippi, where huge amounts of mechanicalized assistance was being imposed on people. If you see something like that, report that to election officials.

Del Guidice: Something that you’ve talked about, Christian, is a lot of the rhetoric that we hear today when people talk about election integrity and how that can be misrepresented. Can you talk a little bit about that and what people should focus on when that is brought up versus how it becomes controversial needlessly?

Adams: Right. There is a hundred million-dollar industry devoted to smearing people who believe in election integrity. And they call them names like vote suppressor, vote suppression guru, racist, all of this stuff.

My message is, do not be afraid of this. These are the tactics of thugs who want to have you whimper like sheep and not look at the problems in the system.

And I think people are finally getting way past being afraid of being called racist and vote suppressors because that’s not what this is about. This is about following the law, this is about having a system that impairs criminals’ ability to elect our politicians.

That’s not vote suppression. That’s not racism. That’s good government. That’s what America stands for, is a system of rules in place ahead of time that were passed by democratic legislature, signed by governors that govern the election. And we’re about following the rules.

Now, I know in some corners in America today, that’s not so cool. That the rules are meant to be laughed at, disregarded, smeared, and dispensed with. And that’s why I tell people, don’t be afraid of being called a vote suppressor because it’s just a smear by thugs to call you that, to stop having you pay attention to these issues.

Del Guidice: Well, because of the huge, drastic increase in absentee voting in this election, a lot of people have been talking about, I know you have been one of them, about how we may not know the results of the presidential election until potentially weeks later.

Can you walk through what might happen and what things might look like? And how this election, because of the huge increase in mail-in voting, might be different from all past presidential elections?

Adams: This is one of the things Secretary Mac Warner talked about during the Heritage event. And that is, it’s good for places to start processing absentee ballots now, to get that work out of the way, so it’s not lingering for weeks after the polls close on Election Day.

But unfortunately, what you’re going to see is, normally an election polling place will tabulate their votes in the machines, report them to a central authority, and that’s how we get election results. But in this new, crazy world that has been thrust upon us, by advocates of vote by mail, that means lack of certainty, that means delay, that means chaos.

Where we spend the next couple of weeks under state laws, going through these mountains of paper ballots, opening up the envelopes, pulling out the ballots, trying to decide whether everything’s been done correctly and whether the vote should count. And then once we decide whether the vote should count, processing those ballots into the tabulators.

And that’s something that will occur, in many cases, after Election Day in many states and will linger and linger and linger, right up to the moment of certification.

So what happens if, for example, President [Donald] Trump is ahead in Pennsylvania and is ahead for many days and the Pennsylvania election officials are dragging their feet in certifying the results?

And there is a very radical secretary of state in Pennsylvania who is really on the far fringes of this area. And what’s to prevent her from saying, “Well, I just haven’t certified the results. I haven’t appointed commissioners to be electors for the Electoral College. And what are you going to do about it?”

I mean, that’s the worst fear, is the lawlessness that has become so popular in some corners of American political life bleeds over into the unwillingness to certify the election.

Del Guidice: Well, Christian, thank you so much for unpacking this issue for us on “The Daily Signal Podcast.” It’s been great having you.

Adams: Thanks for having me.