I wish to respond to the recent opinion piece by the recorder from Pinal County and the elections director from Cochise County in support of an all-mail election in 2020 due to the current pandemic.
As the chairman of the Pinal County Republican Party, I have found that the people in the County Recorder’s Office, including the elections officials, are always professionals who follow the law, maintain election integrity and are fair to everyone.
But in this case, I must respectfully disagree with this proposal.
Arizona has a very robust system that allows registered voters to request early mail-in ballots and many take advantage of this option. This works because the overwhelming majority of these voters are motivated, they know how they wish to vote and they have full control over their ballot decisions. Mailing ballots to everyone, however, including to those who have not requested one, is another matter.
My concern is not with county elections officials. Yes, they verify signatures, but that process is anything but an exact science, even among handwriting experts. Furthermore, no one can certify who the decision maker is at the other end of an unsolicited ballot.
We know from bitter experience all over the country that mail-in ballots and absentee ballots are bought and sold by unscrupulous individuals who are adept at election fraud. We also know that vulnerable members of society, especially the elderly, can be either coerced or have their ballots submitted without their knowledge.
Maintaining the oldest democracy in the world is not easy, but Americans have always risen to the occasion, even during the most difficult of times.
During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, which killed 675,000 Americans, the deadliest part of the curve occurred in the fall of that year. By all accounts, the November turnout was 10% less than in the midterms of 1914 and while some of that was attributable to the flu, a number of men were still fighting in World War I.
In spite of the risks, Americans voted because in addition to the usual midterm congressional elections, many states had proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot including Prohibition and Women’s Suffrage.
This year the stakes could not be higher. The legislature is almost evenly divided, local leaders will have to be chosen carefully as they will make difficult decisions in the wake of lower tax revenues, and of course the presidential election will determine the future direction of the nation for years to come.
It may be true that sending unsolicited ballots to registered voters represents only 20% of the electorate. But this amounts to nearly 400,000 unsolicited ballots statewide and over 40,000 unsolicited ballots in Pinal County.
This would present a treasure trove of opportunity for persons who would disfranchise the votes of the people who follow the rules, illegally overturn elections that are decided by narrow margins and steal the sovereignty of Arizona’s citizens.
The Legislature and county supervisors should reject this or any measure that would surrender election integrity for short-term security.
Michael Burke is chairman of the Pinal County Republican Committee.