GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An elections expert from the University of Michigan says there’s no evidence of widespread mail-in voting fraud, as Michigan sees a spike in absentee ballot requests.
Last week, the Michigan Department of State reported a 350% increase in absentee requests compared to requests ahead of the August 2016 primary.
Many states are moving toward more mail-in voting in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think it makes perfect sense for Americans, especially older Americans over 65 in particular, but also over 50 to, at a minimum, consider their options,” political scientist and University of Michigan Professor Vincent Hutchings told News 8. “Different locals will have different circumstances, so it’s not necessarily the case that everyone should embrace this solution, but it is something every person should consider.”
On Twitter Friday morning, and several times previously, President Donald Trump stated the voting trend for the upcoming elections will become “rigged.”
“Mail-In Ballot fraud found in many elections. People are just now seeing how bad, dishonest and slow it is. Election results could be delayed for months. No more big election night answers? 1% not even counted in 2016. Ridiculous! Just a formula for RIGGING an Election….,” the first tweet said. “Absentee Ballots are fine because you have to go through a precise process to get your voting privilege. Not so with Mail-Ins. Rigged Election!!! 20% fraudulent ballots?”
Requesting an absentee ballot is what allows for mail-in voting.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has previously said the state’s signature verification check on returned applications and ballots prevents fraud, despite some arguing against her move to mail absentee applications to all registered voters in the state.
Hutchings agrees there’s no evidence to support the president’s statements on the matter.
“It’s fair to say we’re experiencing a very unusual set of circumstances because of the pandemic, as well as the economic fallout, and I suppose the demonstrations that have arisen over the last several weeks as well. So, we don’t really have a lot of precedent by which to assess how this upcoming election will unfold,” Hutchings said.
“Having said that, to my knowledge there is no evidence in the academic literature to suggest there’s widespread mail fraud ongoing. Some additional research that has just come out, just in the last few weeks, has again confirmed all of the other studies that I’m familiar with and found. Which is that it’s a minor issue at best, and that’s probably a bit of a hyperbole.”
Questions surrounding what the counting process will look like are valid, Hutchings said.
“It’s possible that our familiar practice of learning who the new president is or who controls Congress, various other ballot decisions,” he said. “That sounds to me, however, to be a small price to pay for people’s safety, and of course, to safeguard the integrity of the election. So if it turns out we have to wait a day or two or more, I would like to think Americans are mature enough to simply be patient.”
In May, the Michigan League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit asking that all absentee ballots be counted as long as they are mailed on or before Election Day and are received within six days of the election.
The suit alleges the state’s current law, which requires that absentee ballots must be received by the time polls close on Election Day, is unconstitutional.