Vote by mail has and will work in Illinois
Adapted from News Gazette editorial of September 2, 2020.
Despite claims by President Trump and some of his allies that voting by mail this fall is a partisan plan to multiply incidents of fraud and to avert his re-election, it’s proving to be a popular concept with voters nationwide and in Illinois.
And there’s no evidence of widespread fraud in the five states (Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington) that have been using vote by mail since before 2018.
The Illinois State Board of Elections reported on Aug. 31 that more than 1.2 million voters in the state already had requested vote-by-mail ballots for the November election. That’s a sure sign that voters here will take advantage in record numbers of the opportunity to vote safely and securely during the coronavirus pandemic. The current record for voting by mail in Illinois was in the 2018 general election when 430,000 votes were cast by mail, about 9.3 percent of all ballots that year.
Requests for vote-by-mail ballots, which are filed with individual election authorities such as county clerks and city boards of elections, have increased both in Republican and Democratic counties. In deep red Iroquois County, 1,835 voters had asked for vote-by-mail ballots as of Aug. 31. That’s already more than 15 percent of all the people who had voted in Iroquois County in 2016, and there’s still several weeks left to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot.
In blue Champaign County, more than 17,000 people had asked for a vote-by-mail ballot as of Monday. In Vermilion County, the two election authorities there report a combined 3,417 requests.
Although you can wait until Oct. 29 to ask for a vote-by-mail ballot for the Nov. 3 election, the state board of elections strongly recommends that you do so by no later than October 15 in order to avoid any complications with mail delivery. <emphasis added>
“Voting by mail provides a safe, secure and convenient voting option for those concerned about COVID-19,” said Steve Sandvoss, director of the state board of elections. “It also will help ease congestion at in-person polling places during early voting and on Election Day.”
Illinois’ early voting system also has been endorsed by Republicans including U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and former Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten. The Brookings Institution, in reviewing Trump’s charges of vote fraud, found that there had been 29 cases in the five states.
“In Oregon, the first state to adopt a universal vote-by-mail system (which Illinois does not have), the Heritage (Foundation) researchers had to cover a period of 19 years in order to find 15 cases of vote fraud,” Brookings said. “Less than one case a year hardly qualifies as rampant voter fraud.”
Brookings also noted that there was a case of extensive vote fraud last year in North Carolina. But it was by Republican operatives who were illegally collecting absentee ballots. They were caught and convicted. The election results were overturned and a new election was held.
Voters shouldn’t let President Trump’s comments dissuade them from participating in the election or attempt to preemptively delegitimize the results. Widespread voting by mail has worked effectively in other states just as absentee voting has been worked effectively in Illinois for decades.