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A recent survey by Peanut found 73% of mothers are worried about voter suppression and nearly 40% say they don't have much faith in the system. And with President Trump suggested that fraudulent ballots are being mailed in the millions that faith could erode even during a pandemic that makes voting by mail more attractive to many.
On Tuesday night, late in the debate, President Trump suggested there would be widespread mail-vote fraud in this election and that the Supreme Court would have to "look at the ballots" to determine the next President.
"This is going to be a fraud like you've never seen," Trump said. "We might not know for months because these ballots are going to be all over."
Election integrity is a real issue of incredible importance, that is 100% true. But concerns over massive mail-in vote fraud, as the President describes them, are overblown. Here's why:
While issues with mail-in ballots can occur, vote-by-mail fraud and actually all types of voter fraud are rare.
There have been multiple investigations into potential voter fraud in the United States, none of which (including one in 2018 by the Trump administration) found evidence that this is a statistically significant problem.
One of the largest investigations found that between 2000 and 2012 there were only 2,068 cases of voter fraud in the United States and just 491 of those involved absentee voter or mail-in ballots. And voting systems have evolved since then. In 2020 most states have voter tracking and there are other safeguards and systems in place at the state level to prevent fraud.
Now, that doesn't necessarily mean all states are ready for the increase in voting by mail this year. While some states have been at this for a long time and have efficient systems, others will be dealing with mail-in votes on a scale they've not yet seen. That's why experts say that it's probable we won't know the outcome of this election for days after the polls close.
"It is plausible that not all states are ready to handle the flood of mail-in votes. This could complicate the voting process and prolong vote counts in some states," says Alexander Cohen, an assistant professor of political science at Clarkson University.
Cohen tells The Conversation that Trump's claim that mail-in voting can lead to voter fraud has been widely challenged and that studies suggest that voting by mail doesn't benefit Democrats any more than Republicans.
"However, such studies on voting by mail tend to examine scenarios where state and local governments were well prepared for ballot distribution," Cohen explains.
With states new to the process coming on (not to mention disruptions to the United States Postal Service) complications could easily arise this year. "Such delays could be incredibly significant," says Cohen, pitting to the 2000 Supreme Court decision to halt the recount in Florida when Republican George W. Bush was running against Democrat Al Gore.
According to Cohen, "Trump has laid the groundwork for disputing the results of any close election. If neither candidate wins decisively, the nation should brace itself for a lengthy, and divisive, struggle."
Basically: Ballot fraud isn't the real threat here as much as delays and misinformation are.
Voting by mail is a valid choice (especially for parents who can't access childcare due to the pandemic), but if you can vote safely in-person on election night, that works too. Either way, casting your vote is what truly matters.