AMAC Exclusive – By Cal Palmer
For almost a year, Democrats and left-wing activists have smeared the efforts of Republican lawmakers to strengthen election integrity as “racist” and “voter suppression.” But as high-flying rhetoric has abounded on both sides of the debate, it has left many voters wondering: after months of politicians fighting, fortifying, and falsifying, what actually happened? In particular, with the midterm elections looming as the next big test of the integrity of the American election system, where do the major swing states now stand on the biggest opportunity for election fraud—mail-in, absentee ballots?
Recent polls show that a solid majority of Americans on both sides of the political aisle are eager for the answer to those questions. According to the Center for Excellence in Polling, over 60 percent of all voters are concerned about institutional election fraud, including a surprising 31 percent of Democrats who admit they are “very concerned.”
Two states – Georgia and Texas – have received the most national attention for their new election integrity measures, with the MLB pulling the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta and multiple large corporations issuing public rebukes of the Republican-controlled state legislatures in both states over the bills. President Joe Biden went so far as to call Georgia’s election integrity law “Jim Crow on steroids.” Democrats in Texas’s state legislature fled Austin on private planes in an attempt to block a vote on the state’s election integrity bill.
The Texas bill, which finally passed, tightened the state’s mail-in ballot rules by now requiring absentee voters to include either their driver’s license number, last four digits of their Social Security number, or a sworn statement that the voter has neither.
Texas also now requires counties with 100,000 people or more to provide a live stream of all ballot drop-boxes.
However, in America’s upcoming midterm and presidential elections, the Lone Star State likely won’t play a decisive role in which party controls the future direction of the country. With no Senate contest in 2022 and a comfortable win for Donald Trump in the most recent presidential election, other states will likely determine which side comes out on top.
These states—call them the big nine—are Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Iowa, and New Hampshire.
The big nine will decide control of the Senate in 2022 and the presidency in 2024. But they have at least one more common trait. Each has seen serious fights in 2021 over election integrity and mail-in ballots.
Of the big nine, Georgia’s law, SB 202, received the lion’s share of national attention. Of course, it also received an outsized share of leftist hysteria.
Voters must also make their request for an absentee earlier than two Fridays before election, rather than just the Friday before election day.
The bill’s defenders argue this will likely lead to an increase in the number of absentee ballots actually counted because it will decrease the number of rejected ballots.
In turn, Georgia voters will need to provide their driver’s license number or equivalent voter ID number. Among the big nine, Georgia now joins Ohio and Wisconsin in requiring a driver’s license number on ballots. Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania don’t.
One modest reform not included in Georgia’s election integrity bill was a witness requirement for absentee ballots. Instead, like Florida, Arizona, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, Georgia allows unwitnessed, mail-in ballots.
North Carolina and Wisconsin do require absentee ballots to be witnessed. Missouri’s absentee voters are actually required to have their ballots notarized, but none of the big nine have taken that approach.
What about timing? What’s the deadline for returning these mail-in ballots?
That’s not Ohio’s only fast-and-loose rule, either.
Most states in America have either no “cure” period—a time in which voters can “correct” a mistake in their signature or try to overcome a verification problem in their absentee ballot—or a cure period of three days or less after election day.
One thing is clear. As long as a strong majority of Americans have serious doubts about the integrity of mail-in voting, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for Americans to have faith in election outcomes. How states address those concerns is of vital importance to the health of our democracy, and it is accordingly the responsibility of both elected officials and a free and independent press to explain changes to election laws clearly and honestly. People are tuned in and engaged, and they expect no less from those charged with safeguarding our democratic ideals.
Cal Palmer is the pen name of an analyst and fellow at a national think tank. He is an attorney and officer in the U.S. Army Reserve.