Sixteen million mystery ballots demonstrate the need for vote-integrity efforts

A new report from the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a conservative group specializing in voting laws, makes abundantly clear why widespread mail-in balloting is a horrible idea.

In sum, election officials nationwide mailed out 14.7 million ballots in 2020 that, one way or another, went unaccounted for. And that’s just the start of the problems.

PILF mined numbers compiled by the federal Election Assistance Commission , an entirely neutral outfit set up by Congress to provide voting guidelines and a clearinghouse for election information and statistics. The numbers are reported to the EAC by the states themselves, and PILF did no extrapolations of its own. In other words, these are not biased guesstimates but hard numbers, virtually irrefutable.

By “unaccounted for,” PILF means that EAC reports the ballots “were not returned as voted, were undeliverable, or were otherwise ‘unable to be tracked.’” Nobody knows whether someone actually tried to vote with those ballots only for the Postal Service to lose them or whether would-be voters decided not to bother or whether the ballots were mishandled by “ballot harvesters” (including well-intentioned ones) or whether some were part of a fraud scheme.

PILF isn’t claiming some massive vote fraud, and it is not trying to relitigate the presidential election. Its point is that a combination of human error, systemic sloppiness, and perhaps even a bit of skullduggery together make it almost impossible to know if some close election counts actually were accurate.

“We shouldn’t be allowing the Post Office to determine who our elected leaders are,” said J. Christian Adams, president of PILF and also one of the eight members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights .

Additionally, another 1.1 million ballots were returned to election officials as undeliverable, meaning the addresses on file were wrong, and another 560,814 were “rejected” as otherwise invalid. These are huge numbers. These 1.7 million ballots and the other 14.7 million together show massive potential for future election results to be tainted and for more controversy and chaos of the sort this nation experienced (some of it for valid reasons, some based on lies) in the 2020 elections.

The first lesson is that mail-in voting should be limited, not encouraged, and certainly not seen as the main way to cast ballots. For years and years, through several bipartisan study commissions, the dangers of widespread mail-in voting came to be understood. Before mail-in systems became a favorite of national Democrats, the New York Times was reporting as basic fact, not opinion, that “votes cast by mail are less likely to be counted, more likely to be compromised and more likely to be contested than those cast in a voting booth.”

The second lesson, at least equally important, is that efforts to maintain accurate voter lists and to scrub them of ineligible voters are absolutely necessary. The political Left tries to portray even legally mandated voter-list maintenance as “voter purges” or “vote suppression,” but that is nonsense. If the fate or accuracy of more than 16 million ballots are a mystery, that means many poll commissioners are using outdated or inaccurate information. This isn’t systemic fraud, but it would be a massive systemic failure not to update voter lists.

To ensure both accurate results and public confidence in our election system, thorough and regular list maintenance is a necessity, and mail-in voting should be a last resort.