The rejected vote count is what matters

The challenge to the 2020 presidential election is based not on unlawful voting, but on ineligible ballots.  There is a narrative put out by the Democratic party and their media allies that to contest the election, the Trump campaign must produce enough evidence of fraudulent voters to make up the difference in the vote count.  That has very little to do with the bulk of the challenges.

States have a variety of laws to deal with absentee ballots that are put in place to ensure the integrity of the process.  These laws are there because it is a lot easier to cheat with mail-in voting.  Everyone knows this, though for the last six months, there has been a serious effort to deny it.

As a point of comparison, consider how teachers prevent cheating on exams.  They sit in front of the room as students take their exam.  They watch them to make sure the students are looking at their own papers.  This is enough to prevent most cheating.

Now, imagine a teacher, after several years without incident, deciding that since she has seen no cheating, there is no real reason to watch the students.  Instead, after handing out the exams, she leaves the room, returns to her office, and returns an hour later to collect the exams.  (If you needed to give an exam without a proctor, you would have to go to great length, such as producing completely different exams for each student, to ensure the integrity of the exams.)

The Democrat party has long promoted mail-in voting, as Democrats believe that their supporters are less likely to vote in person than their opponents' voters.  The pandemic presented a unique opportunity to massively increase the number of mail-in ballots and urge their followers to vote by mail.   As Election Day 2020 neared, the Democrats realized there was a hitch — namely, that regulations needed to certify mail-in ballots can be strict and many are rejected — this led them to turn around and start urging their voters to vote in person.

By the time they spotted the problem, millions of voters had submitted mail-in ballots either by mailing them in or leaving them off at drop boxes.  A report from ABC 6 in Philadelphia from October 22, 2020 gives data on ballot rejections from previous elections that include rejection rates from Philadelphia County of 4.3%, Chester County 7.6%, Montgomery County 8%, and Delaware County 8.4%.  The same report outlines the cumbersome steps needed to be taken in order to validate a mail-in ballot.

Applying these percentages to the current election totals would suggest thousands of such ineligible ballots in these four counties alone.  What's more, since the bulk of mail-in voting this year is coming from people who have never before done so, the likelihood of disqualifying errors is considerably higher.  Add to that the fact that the Biden campaign did no in-person canvassing, no direct assistance to make sure its voters correctly followed the procedures, and it is clear that the push for mail-in ballots had the potential to cause them more harm than good.

This raises two important questions:

  1. How many mail-in Biden ballots were rejected?
  2. Among rejected mail-in ballots, what percentage were Trump ballots?

If the percentage of rejected Biden ballots is, say, less than 1% of the total counted Biden ballots, that would suggest that thousands of ineligible Biden votes were fed through the system.  On the other hand, of the total mail-in Republican and Democrat returned ballots, 26.3% were Republican, and 73.7% were Democrat.  If the number of rejected Republican ballots is about the same as the number of rejected Democrat ballots, that suggests that the vote processors were favoring Democrats.

The statements of Pennsylvania's election officials are not reassuring.  They have stated throughout the process that they intended to count all votes.  At no time did they make any distinction between eligible and ineligible ballots.  More generally, Democrats around the country have made it clear that they intend to count all votes.  The procedures for handling defective ballots differ from state to state.  Some states do have procedures for contacting voters to let them "cure" their ballots so they can be counted.  No such rules apply in Pennsylvania, which has strict regulations, and election officials are specifically barred from doing this.

A popular narrative has been floating around the media that President Trump has accused the Democrats of voter fraud.  That would be almost impossible to prove in large enough numbers to overturn the election in any of the close races.  What is being challenged is the eligibility of the ballots.  Here, the president has considerable grounds for a challenge.  The argument is a statistical one.  If the number of rejected Biden mail-in ballots as a percentage of all Biden mail-in ballots in this election is far smaller than the percentage of rejected ballots in past elections, an argument can be made that it is very likely that enough ineligible ballots have been counted to swing the election in several battleground states from Trump to Biden.

If the stats turn out to be suspicious, then the behavior of the election boards in barring Republican poll-watchers meaningful access to polling places puts the integrity of the vote count in further doubt.  These issues will be adjudicated before the courts.  The American people deserve a transparent hearing on the evidence in order to assure that whatever the outcome, the election results can be trusted.

Image credit: Pixabay license.