Our state of political polarization has come to a point where leading officials must calm fears and reassure the public of the integrity of a pillar of American democracy -- free and fair elections.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, ranking member of the Senate’s Rules Committee, visited with our editorial board this week to offer just that reassurance.
Citing a report produced by Senate Democrats to counter claims undermining public faith in the elections, Klobuchar noted that mail-in voting has a long and successful history in the U.S., only seems to grow in popularity, and has been found to be almost completely fraud-free.
Whether for sake of convenience or to avoid crowds at the polls on Election Day, in Minnesota, fully 1 in 4 voters has embraced mail-in voting in previous elections. In some states, more than 9 in 10 voters cast a ballot by mail. “These states are red, blue and purple,” Klobuchar said.
In fact, even as President Trump and others have cast doubt on the integrity of mail-in voting, the Republican Party of Minnesota itself has been seeking to catch this wave of voter interest, mailing out absentee ballot applications this summer and fall to prospective voters. Trump himself cast his Florida ballot by mail.
The upshot of this is that Election 2020 is in line to produce the largest voter turnout in U.S. history. That’s a positive by any measure. Democracy works best when all citizens -- or at least as many as possible -- are engaged in it.
Of course, this all makes a big job for local-level elections officials, who, working through extraordinary challenges presented by the pandemic, are “doing an incredible job all over the country, not just in Minnesota,” Klobuchar said. “It’s hard to do in a very divided political time.”
Intimidation tactics to dissuade some voters from voting are illegal -- and can be prosecuted, the senator said. Claims that the elections are being conducted fraudulently give rise to unrest and disbelief in the election results -- particularly if, as seems likely to occur, the final results are delayed by the time it takes to tabulate and verify the many millions of mailed-in ballots. In some states, those early ballots can’t be counted until Election Day. (Minnesota counties can begin to tabulate ballots more than a week ahead of Nov. 3, and some, including Olmsted, are already well underway.)
We have grown accustomed to immediacy in our lives, election results included. But if we have learned anything this year, it should be how to deal with setbacks and unexpected challenges. We have learned -- or should have -- how to be patient and forgiving with others who are doing their best in hard circumstances. Acts of charity and compassion have shown us the best in our friends and neighbors.
Let’s bring those lessons with us into Election Day and the days that follow. Let’s set aside our fears and confront the real challenges that face us. Let’s remember what it means to be Americans, one nation under God, indivisible.