The Daily Beast’s Eleanor Clift came out with a piece today on absentee ballot requests in North Carolina. While most of the piece is ensconced behind a paywall, you can get the gist of what they are getting at from the headline: “North Carolina deluge of absentee-ballot requests shows why Trump’s terrified of mail-in voting.” They believe this justifies the headline:
So from roughly even starting numbers in 2016, Democratic and Unaffiliated voters’ requests are both up about 580 percent, while Republicans are up just 37 percent.
There is a fundamental error in the piece’s reasoning: a belief that more absentee-by-mail votes are the same thing as more total votes. However, it is likely that the bulk of those additional absentee-by-mail applications represent shifts from other modes of voting rather more votes.
For example, while many assume that one-stop early voting in North Carolina benefits Democrats (who do tend to vote early more often than do Republicans), research has found little evidence of a partisan advantage for Democrats in election results due to early voting. Rather, the relatively higher rate of Democrats voting early is balanced by a corresponding drop in Democrats voting on Election Day.
The same dynamic is likely happening with absentee-by-mail, with the increase of white Democrats and unaffiliated voters representing a shift from other forms of voting rather than a significant increase in the actual number of votes. The relative rise in Democrats voting by mail will only hurt Republican candidates if the State Board of Elections screws up on Election Day by not doing enough to keep all precinct polling places open.
So, there is no reason for anyone to be terrified of mail voting other than the problems we have seen with absentee-by-mail voting recently:
- Undelivered ballots in Oregon
- A mail-voting debacle in New Jersey last May that caused a local NAACP leader to proclaim “These kinds of acts make people not want to vote anymore.”
- Late and missing mail ballots in recent primaries
- North Carolina’s own experience with ballot harvesting in Bladen County
If anything, it is the party that will have more of its voters voting by mail that has something to be terrified about.