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Blair Horner: Taking On The Lies About Mail-In Voting

Led by the President, there is a nationwide attack on the mail in voting option.  The basic thrust of these attacks is that voting by mail is prone to “fraud” and that the mail-in votes will not be counted or will be lost. 

The evidence that those claims are not true is overwhelming and compelling.

So how come we still hear it?

As Mark Twain is credited with declaiming, "A lie can travel around the world while the truth is lacing up its boots."  As that saying makes clear, the problem of responding to lies has always been difficult.  But in our hi-tech world with a dizzying number of social media platforms all operating on their own codes of ethics and fact-checking standards, pushing out a lie is easy to do and can travel many times around the world before truth has even gotten out of bed.

Add to that the power of the Presidency – and its unique bully pulpit – and it is not hard to see how easily the message can stick.  The facts are clear, however, that such charges are simply not true and they have the pernicious effect of sowing doubts about the validity of the outcome of the election. 

So, let’s help truth to lace up its boots.

Studies have shown that all forms of voting fraud are extremely rare in the United States.  A national study in 2016 found few credible allegations of fraudulent voting.  A panel that President Trump himself charged with investigating election corruption found no real evidence of fraud before he disbanded it in 2018.

Five states currently conduct all elections entirely by mail: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. They report very little fraud.

Here in New York, a voter can get a mail-in ballot through the state’s “absentee voter process.”  Under the state Constitution, voters who cannot make it to the polls due to illness or travel can request a ballot to mail in.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all voters can now request a ballot if they are concerned that they will jeopardize their health by voting in person.  All the voter must do is obtain an application for an absentee ballot and choose “temporary illness” as the reason.

Voters can obtain the application to vote by mail by going to New York State Board of Elections at and fill out the online form.  Or a voter can contact their local county board of elections by phone, email, fax, mail or in person.

After successfully submitting the application, the voter will then receive the ballot in the mail.   When the voter receives the ballot they must fill out the ballot properly – the instructions on how to do it are precise and must be followed to a “tee” – and then submit it.  A ballot must be postmarked no later than Election Day, November 3rd, and received by the local county board of elections by November 10th.  Be sure to put the proper postage on the outer envelope—two $.55 stamps are recommended.  A ballot can also be hand delivered to the relevant county board of elections office by November 3rd at 9 p.m. or during the early voting period’s polling hours.  Early voting runs from October 24th through November 1st.  If a voter wishes to drop off the ballot to an early voting site, the voter must return it during normal polling hours from October 24th through November 1st.  

Voters do have options if they don’t want to mail in their ballot.  The most obvious option is to vote the old-fashioned way, on Election Day November 3rd.  A second option is to cast a ballot during the early voting period.  New Yorkers have a window of opportunity to vote from October 24th through November 1st under the state’s early voting law.  In order to find out where to vote, go to the State Board of Elections at or check with your local county board of elections.

There are a lot of safeguards in place to make sure that a voter’s ballot is legitimate.  Under New York State law, for example, the name on every absentee ballot must be checked against the board of elections poll books, which must be signed by the voter each year.  Each book typically has several signatures from past election days for comparison. 

The important thing is to have a voting plan in place.  Voting for our representatives is the bedrock of our democracy.  Efforts to sow doubt, mislead, or lie about the process undermine public confidence and damage our democracy.  Don’t let the liars win; cast your ballot – either through the mail or in person.  Let’s make sure that in the race for democracy, truth wins.

Blair Horner is executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors.They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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