AUSTIN (KXAN) — A database of voter fraud cases established by the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation notes 24 cases of voter fraud in Texas since 2015, seven of which involved fraudulent absentee ballots, as debate rages over whether Texans should be able to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Unfortunately, there are people willing to take advantage of (expanded absentee voting) and, unless it’s reported or some other way detected, it’s going to occur with no one to know that it happened,” said Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
Republicans, like Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have warned that expanded vote by mail would lead to widespread election fraud, while Democrats say voters shouldn’t have to sacrifice their health to exercise a constitutional right.
“There is no reason, capital ‘N’ capital ‘O’ no reason that anyone under the age of 65 should be able to say ‘I’m afraid to go vote,'” Patrick said last Friday on Fox News.
Spakovsky noted, during an interview with KXAN, that Wisconsin successfully executed an election in April with 300,000 people voting in person without any spikes in COVID-19 infections. However, public health officials reported 71 positive cases involving poll workers or people who voted in person. It’s unclear how many of those cases were caused by the election.
President Trump tweeted on Tuesday that there is “NO WAY (ZERO!)” chance of voter fraud if mail-in voting is expanded during the pandemic.
The debate between Democrats and Republicans over expanding mail-in voting began long before the coronavirus pandemic. However, it has been elevated in Texas with July runoff and pivotal November elections approach without a vaccine for the virus.
The Texas Supreme Court and 5th District Court of Appeals have both temporarily put on hold orders to allow all Texans to vote by mail. The challenges by the Texas Democratic Party claim the coronavirus pandemic is a disability facing all Texans and should qualify all Texans for an absentee ballot.
“Republicans only have a problem with vote by mail when they’re afraid it might not benefit them,” said Rose Cloutston, voter protection director for the Texas Democratic Party. “I didn’t hear any Republican complaints about the 29 percent of Floridians that voted by mail in 2016 when Donald Trump carried that state.”
An analysis of vote by mail expansion by the Institute for Economic Policy Research at Stanford University found “neutral partisan effects” on both voter turnout and voter rate in states that previously required in-person voting but expanded vote by mail.
Victoria Gonzales, a Republican voter in Austin, said she’s not afraid of going to the polls but wants the option to vote by mail.
“I think as a whole for society in a community it’s to have respect for how people feel as a whole, that’s avoid the virus, stay as healthy as possible right now and essentially respect everyone’s boundaries,” Gonzales said.
Others, via Twitter, expressed concerns about vote by mail expansion. Like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, many suggested going to the polls is no different than going to the grocery store.
“It seems to me that the more human interactions you have with a ballot, the more opportunity for mistakes and fraud,” said Bryan Finnegan of Westlake. “When you combine mail-in ballots which go to the wrong voter at an alarming rate, with ballot harvesting, I do not see how you can trust the outcome. There is no way to audit it.”
Those close to the state and federal lawsuits believe decisions could be announced as soon as this week.