Claims about fraud have been used to suppress voting since the Civil War. As we approach the 2020 presidential election, access to voting remains one of the urgent civil rights issues of our time. The COVID-19 pandemic has offered an unexpected opportunity to change American voting fundamentally through the adoption of mail-in voting policies.
Mail-in voting has been exercised by several states, including Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, and others for many years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more Americans are expected to vote by mail this November than in any other election of our time. The current administration has been sounding the alarm—or, perhaps more accurately, the dog whistle—claiming that increased mail-in voting will increase voter fraud. Yet, both Republican and Democrat secretaries of state, where mail-in voting has occurred for several years, have noted that there is no evidence to support these claims.
As this topic is debated, it is hard to discern what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to mail-in voting and voter fraud. This panel of voting experts and election officials contextualize the history of voting rights and attacks on the institution of voting. They also provide insight into the pros and cons of mail-in voting and discuss what if any concerns there should be about voter fraud. The panel also discusses the role of the civil rights lawyer in supporting the right to vote and will provide some practical steps that civil rights lawyers can take to support access to voting during November 2020 and in years to come.