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Heritage Expert Says Twitter's Vote-by-Mail 'Fact Check' Is 'Completely False'

In this photo taken Feb. 24, 2012, mail moved through is deposited the Sacramento Processing Center in West Sacramento, Calif. Elections officials in several states are concerned that the closing of mail-processing centers and post offices could disrupt vote-by-mail balloting this year.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

On Thursday, Heritage Foundation Senior Legal Fellow Hans von Spakovsky debunked the left-leaning media’s claim that “there is no fraud” in vote-by-mail schemes. Twitter cited reports to that effect in its “fact-check” on President Donald Trump’s tweets warning about vote-by-mail this week.

“The left and the media says that there is no fraud. True or false?” Sean Spicer, Newsmax host and former White House press secretary for Trump, asked Spakovsky.

“That is completely false,” the Heritage scholar said.

“I think they’re being very foolish about this,” Spakovsky warned. “Anybody who’s pushing all-mail elections doesn’t realize the inherent security vulnerabilities of absentee ballots.”

“You’re basically taking the election process outside of polling places that are supervised by polling officials and where poll watchers are there representing both political parties and you’re putting it out into people’s homes where you can’t prevent intimidation and pressuring of voters. You can’t prevent electioneering. You can’t prevent ballots from being stolen,” he said. “All of which has happened in proven absentee ballot fraud cases.”

Spakovsky admitted that voters can request an absentee ballot, and that is an important part of the elections system. “But there’s a difference between a voter requesting an absentee ballot, signing a form … and switching to a system like California has just decided to do in which they are mailing absentee ballots to every single registered voter when they know their registered voter list is in terrible shape.”

“It’s filled with people who are dead, who have moved away, and people who are registered more than once. Think about all of those ballots being out there to be scooped up by vote harvesters,” Spakovsky warned.

“Vote harvesting, which has been legalized for example in California, allows anybody to show up at your front door to pick up your ballot and deliver it,” he explained. “It means candidates, people who work for candidates, party activists, political guns for hire, can show up at your door and obtain your ballot and you’re supposed to trust them to deliver it?”

The Heritage scholar pointed to the 2018 ballot harvesting scandal in North Carolina. A Republican political operative allegedly tampered with ballots in the 9th congressional district election. Republican Mark Harris led in the unofficial vote tally, but the state overturned the election results after an investigation into an absentee ballot operation suggested that Leslie McCrae Dowless had improperly collected and possibly tampered with ballots. McCrae Dowless faces felony charges.

The Trump tweet Twitter decided to “fact-check” came shortly after the California Republican Party’s lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.), who used the coronavirus crisis to unilaterally change his state’s election system. Trump attacked the California governor in his tweet.

Trump Twitter vote by mail fact-check

Twitter screenshot.

The lawsuit acknowledges that “vote-by-mail can be a legitimate feature of a state’s election process, when coupled with adequate procedural safeguards to deter fraud.” However, it does cite many studies to warn that absentee balloting is vulnerable to abuse in several ways.

Like Spakovsky, the lawsuit notes that absentee voters may be more susceptible to pressure or intimidation at home, in the workplace, in nursing homes, or at church. It also notes that vote-by-mail systems enable ballot harvesting.

Indeed, mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic has created situations ripe for abuse. Clark County, Nev., is administering the state’s first all-mail primary. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that evidence of ballots “tossed in trash cans and littering apartment mailbox areas” emerged within the first week of voting.

Similar problems reportedly took place in Paterson, New Jersey, in the May 12 election for Second Ward City Council. More than 800 mail-in ballots were set aside due to suspicion that they were gathered illegally. In one case, 366 ballots were picked up from the same mailbox.

“Democrats pushed these changes long before COVID-19 because they believe that the resulting free-for-all will help their electoral prospects. Unable to persuade legislatures to adopt these changes, Democrats have turned to the courts, arguing that COVID-19 means that their preferred changes are now mandated by the Constitution,” the suit alleges. “But COVID-19 does not warrant throwing out longstanding safeguards that protect the integrity of elections. In fact, it makes those safeguards more important.”

California is not ready for a transition to mail-in voting. Last year, Los Angeles County had to remove up to 1.5 million ineligible voters due to a court settlement in which the county admitted it had a registration rate of 112 percent. Los Angeles County is not alone in having more registered voters than adults living in the county, however. The Election Integrity Project California has reported that as of February 18, 2020, 13 California counties — which represent about 46 percent of the state’s population — have more registered voters than eligible citizens.

It is bad enough that Twitter decided to “fact-check” Trump’s tweets and then pushed left-wing opinion as “fact.” Yet Spakovsky has revealed that these opinions are “completely false.”

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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