At the Washington Times: Dangers of in-person voting greatly exaggerated by Democrats

21 Aug , 2020  

Dr. John Lott has a new piece up at the Washington Times on the Democrats claims about the dangers of in-person voting.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to vote, in person or otherwise,” claimed Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “If you go and wear a mask, if you observe the physical distancing and don’t have a crowded situation, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do that.” The experience from Wisconsin’s primary earlier this year confirms that this is entirely feasible.

President Trump is right to take issue with the Democrats’ demand for funding of universal mail-in ballots. He is right to worry that the practice might cause “the greatest fraud in history.” 

But Democrats such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont independent, have attacked Mr. Trump, claiming that his opposition to mail-in ballots was an attempt “to undermine American democracy.”

Of course, the news media agree with Mr. Sanders. One article after another asserts that Mr. Trump’s warning was issued “baselessly” (Associated Press and The Washington Post) or “without evidence” (The New York Times, Politico and NBC News).

The overwhelming majority of European and developed countries share Mr. Trump’s concerns. Most of them don’t even allow absentee ballots, much less universal mail-in voting. Among the 43 European countries, 71% ban absentee mail-in voting unless living abroad, and another 19% require a photo ID to obtain an absentee ballot. Twenty-two percent ban the practice even for those who live abroad.

Absentee voting requires individuals to specifically request the ballot. By contrast, universal mail-in ballots would automatically be sent to all registered voters. 

Sending ballots to everyone on the voter roll creates a much greater risk of fraud, especially considering the substantial number that are sent to people who have moved or passed away.

This year, postal workers in Texas and West Virginia have been caught engaging in mail-in ballot fraud. Widespread fraud also resulted in charges and investigations in New Jersey and Texas this year. In Los Angeles, four men admitted to vote-buying by offering homeless people cigarettes and alcohol to register and vote. There are many more cases from this and other recent years.

Concerns about what the coronavirus means for in-person voting are understandable, but tremendously exaggerated. Wisconsin had an in-person vote during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Democrats tried to change the state’s April 7 election to an exclusively mail-in affair, but the state Supreme Court and Republican-controlled state legislature kept the polls open. 

The vote didn’t have the disastrous outcome that many predicted. A full 22 days after the vote, 52 people who had worked or voted in the Wisconsin election had COVID-19. With the average incubation period for the disease being less than six days, it is interesting to note that there were only 19 such cases 14 days after the vote.

Furthermore, there is no way of proving that any of these people actually contracted it at the polls and not elsewhere.

But even if the vote caused all 52 infections, what was the rate of infection? The number of in-person votes was greater than the 550,000 votes, since not everyone who showed up participated in the Democratic and Republican primaries. Some people who sent in mail-in ballots also decided to show up in person.

Then there are also the people working at the 4,050 polling places in Wisconsin. The precincts in Milwaukee had between 80 to 100 poll workers, and 30 National Guard members at each site at some time during the 13 hours of voting. So, there were between 110 and 130 people working at each location. But for the state as a whole let’s estimate conservatively that each polling site only averaged 50 people working at it. That is still another 202,500 people who risked exposure.

The total number of people involved in in-person voting was thus more than 750,000. Even assuming that none of those 52 people could have gotten the virus any other way, the rate of confirmed infections was then 0.0069% at the very most. To put it differently, 6.9 out of every 100,000 people who participated got ill. Fortunately, none of these cases has been noted as particularly serious.

The Wisconsin vote wasn’t depressed. Thirty-four percent of the state’s electorate voted. During the 2012 presidential primary, with an incumbent running for reelection on the Democrat side, the turnout was only 26%. The average turnout in the 12 statewide primary elections from 2008 to 2019 was only 24%.

The dangers of in-person voting are greatly exaggerated, and normal safety precautions appear to have kept people safe in the April 7 vote. But Democrats don’t want to let a crisis go to waste. They are using it to push for mail-in voting because they expect vote-buying and fraud to be to their advantage. 

The Democrats, not Mr. Trump, are the ones who are out of whack with the international consensus about the risks of mail-in voting.

John R. Lott, Jr., “Dangers of in-person voting greatly exaggerated by Democrats,” Washington Times, August 19, 2020.


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