COVID-19 has given a big boost to the move for mail-in voting. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has declared mail-in voting a health issue.

According to J. Christian Adams, who formerly worked in the Voting Section in the U.S. Department of Justice and is president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, mail-in voting looks great—until you look at the numbers.

Mail-in voting would depend on the good old U.S. Post Office. Voters who have a question about the ballot will be on their own. Here are some alarming numbers:

  • Vote by mail might sound good, until you look at the data. The federal election assistance commission keeps tabs. Their data show that 28 million ballots mailed since 2012 simply vanished. They were sent out, but never came back and were counted. Some say they are in landfills, others figure they are in file cabinets.
  • It gets worse. Hundreds of thousands came back but had defects that prevented them from being counted. The voters who sent these ballots probably do not even know that their ballot was not counted after they sent it back.

The secret ballot protects us from undue influence: go into the voting booth, and you can vote your conscience without fear of reprisals. This is probably more important in 2020, when tensions are so high, than in most years.

In effect, mail-in voting destroys the secret ballot. Adams doesn’t put it quite this bluntly, but he does write:  

  • Mail voting also destroys the transparency of our elections. Observers from each side are unable to watch the process. Mail ballots are uniquely vulnerable to fraud because they are voted behind closed doors where third parties regularly attempt to influence the process.

Far from making the process easier, mail-in voting would result in a nightmare election night (pardon me, election week or months as ballots would trickle in). Democrats have tried legislatively to institute nation-wide mail-in voting:

What the bills would actually do is foment chaos. The election would not be decided on election day. Millions of mail ballots would keep appearing, keep rolling in, until there were enough votes to make the difference. If there was a dispute, lawyers would steal the show, subjecting America to weeks of post-election court contests to force a particular outcome.

If the U.S. were to experiment with the radical transformation of voting, 2020, given the political climate, would be the worst possible year.  Such a radical change also should not be adopted hastily. After all, the U.S. held a presidential election during the Civil War, the only period in our history with tensions that are more intense than those today.