Attorney General Barr's false claims about voting by mail

www.washingtonpost.com
7 min read
fairly difficult
On CNN, Barr made two consecutive false claims about the risks of expanding mail-in ballots.
Both statements are false. No one was indicted on a charge of casting 1,700 fraudulent ballots, and voter fraud is so rare in the United States, researchers describe it as a statistical blip whether the ballots are cast in-person or by mail.

President Trump has warned for months that malign forces could corrupt the November election by exploiting mail-in ballots. The president falsely portrays some states' voting procedures during the coronavirus pandemic as an urgent security breach.

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The reality is states are expanding vote-by-mail this year to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at traditional polling locations. Election experts say voting by mail presents a slightly bigger risk of fraud than in-person voting, but both methods are considered trustworthy because of the safety measures state officials use to verify ballots.

In his CNN interview, Barr defended Trump's ominous warnings about the risks of an expansion in mail voting. But if the attorney general's best defense relies on falsehoods, how good can it be?

The Facts

Experts said it was false for Barr to assert that "elections that have been held with mail have found substantial fraud and coercion."

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"There is, of course, evidence of some absentee ballot fraud, just as there is for in-person fraud, although in both cases it is quite minimal — a handful out of hundreds of millions of votes cast over the last two decades," said Richard Briffault, a professor and elections expert at Columbia Law School.

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Five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — use mail ballots as the primary method of voting. In 2018, more than 31 million Americans voted by mail, representing one-quarter of election participants.

"Despite this dramatic increase in mail voting over time, fraud rates remain infinitesimally small," according to the Brennan Center for Justice. "None of the five states that hold their elections primarily by mail has had any voter fraud scandals since making that…
Salvador Rizzo
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