Voting by Mail Is Crucial for Democracy

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Especially amid the pandemic, it’s the surest path to a more inclusive, more accurate and more secure election.

New York Times Editorial Board: For a man who votes by mail himself, Donald Trump is strangely obsessed with the idea that it is the most dangerous method of casting a ballot.

The president was at it again this week. “Rigged Election,” he tweeted of New York’s well-publicized struggles with counting mail-in votes. “Same thing would happen, but on massive scale, with USA.”

Voting by mail is a “catastrophic disaster,” he later said, “an easy way for foreign countries to enter the race.” Any election conducted by mail would be “INACCURATE AND FRAUDULENT.”

Finally, the hammer: “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

In a word, Mr. President: No

The election will not be delayed — because the president can’t legally delay it. Its date is set by federal law, as is the date on which the presidential electors must cast their ballots. Then there’s the backstop of Inauguration Day, set by the Constitution as Jan. 20.

Mr. Trump says things like this often enough that it can be easy to brush him off. He even claimed that the 2016 election, which he won, was rigged. But the president’s words, however misleading, carry weight. So it is necessary to say it again: Especially in the midst of a raging pandemic, voting by mail is the surest path to a more inclusive, more accurate and more secure election.

The good news is that the primary season gave states a chance to run their elections with far more mail-in ballots than usual, and in many places the system worked well. But there were multiple high-profile examples of mail voting gone wrong. In Wisconsin, thousands of absentee ballots were requested and never received. In New Jersey, 10 percent of mail ballots were thrown out for arriving too late or for being otherwise deficient. In Pennsylvania, tens of thousands of absentee votes were either not cast or not counted, especially among voters who requested their absentee ballots closer to the election.

Mr. Trump and his allies have exploited these bungles to the hilt, claiming that they reveal how dangerous it is to vote by mail. Ignore them. Voting by mail — or absentee voting, which Mr. Trump pretends is something different even though it isn’t — has risks like any other method, but overall it is safe and accurate. So safe and accurate, in fact, that in five states most or all voters use it, and in three other states more than half do. In those states, elections go off without a hitch.

That’s why as soon as the pandemic hit, it was clear that expanding access to mail voting across the country would be essential for the November election to succeed. Voting experts pleaded with Congress to supply the necessary funds to help states with less experience in processing absentee ballots.