Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020

Opinion | Election Problems, and Solutions

To the Editor:

Voter suppression techniques are legion and beyond belief. Some election theft attempts include slowing the mail, allowing only one (!) ballot drop-off box per county as in Ohio and Texas, voter intimidation threats (“stand by”), eliminating hundreds of polling places largely in African-American and Hispanic districts, as was done in Texas, and fraudulently claiming that mail-in ballots will be illegitimate.

As a clinical psychiatrist, I try to help people understand and evaluate the validity of their anxieties. I believe that Americans are creating a phobia, an irrational fear, of voting in person. If we can go to food stores, doctors’ offices, hair salons and gyms, and send children to schools, then many millions can vote in person. If we don’t, Joe Biden’s litigious opponent will file lawsuits in an attempt to steal the election, most likely by disenfranchising millions who vote by mail.

Yes, there should be mail-in ballots for the old and the vulnerable who wish them. For those of us who can, vote in person. Take a mask or double mask, and gloves.

My wife and I are 74, and we’re going to vote in person. Somehow we must bring our beloved country back from the brink of authoritarianism. Please, let us think clearly and drop the phobia.

Daniel E. Bendor
Waterford, Conn.

To the Editor:

Re “Vote in Person, New York” (editorial, Oct. 1):

I was deeply saddened to read about the absentee ballot debacle in Brooklyn, in which voters received defective ballots. Events such as this call into question how accessible voting truly is. How well is the Board of Elections doing what it is meant to do? While we are told that voting is a right for American citizens, it has become much more difficult to exercise that right.

As the editorial points out, long poll lines and illegal voter purges have kept many people from voting in past elections. These people are disproportionately people of color and from low-income communities.

While it is important to vote early and to have a plan, we cannot forget to shed light on the institutions that are making voting much more difficult than it ought to be. I am now hearing people talk about how they want to vote in person to ensure that their vote is counted even if it is higher risk. While it is great to see voter enthusiasm, I cannot help but ask why people must go to such lengths to ensure that their vote is counted. Voter suppression is surely hard at work in the 2020 election, and we need to be prepared.

Kaitlynn Slattery

To the Editor:

Among the many obstacles to the coming election is the dearth of poll workers, because those with experience average “around 70 — a demographic that is more vulnerable to the coronavirus” (“Michigan: It’s Not Easy Being a Local Clerk This Year,”, Sept. 19).

Unlike other roadblocks (iffy mail service, selective denial of voter IDs, etc.), this issue should be easy to resolve. There are thousands, perhaps millions, of college students sitting at home, taking online classes. Surely some can take a break to serve their country and earn a little pocket money. Properly trained and masked, they should be able to do a creditable job at election sign-in tables.

Call it a civics lesson.

Harriet P. Epstein
Santa Monica, Calif.

To the Editor:

Here is one way to ease the mail-in ballot problem created by the White House. Let’s ask our elected officials and the media to call on businesses to agree to a bulk-mail moratorium beginning two weeks before Election Day. Given the daily amount of promotional offerings in my mailbox, a two-week moratorium on nonessential mail will result in faster processing of mail-in ballots.

Theresa G. Waivada
Garrison, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Re “Ransomware May Threaten Election Night” (front page, Sept. 28):

Sorry if I sound like a Luddite, but on Election Day, I want to enter a little booth with a curtain, perhaps at my local school, move a big mechanical lever to the right to close the curtain, vote and then move the lever to the left to open the curtain, fulfilling one of the most important responsibilities I as an American have.

Oh, one more thing: Can I have a receipt, please?

Brant Thomas
Cold Spring, N.Y.

To the Editor:

A Defense Department official stated last month in The Washington Post that it would be “‘virtually impossible’ for the Russians or anyone else to penetrate voting systems in the roughly 8,000 jurisdictions around the country.” And yet ransomware attacks are reportedly “clobbering” American networks and threatening our election security integrity.

People are already voting. The Senate failed repeatedly to vote on countless bills that would have provided adequate funding to local governments to secure their voter registration systems and election security infrastructure.

As it appears that the federal government has been unable to neutralize the ransomware attacks that appear likely on Nov. 3, it is time for our government to level with the American people. Public trust in the integrity of our election systems is crucial, but public trust in our government is essential.

Andrea Flink
Chatham, Mass.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Fordham Law School Center on Law and Information Policy.

To the Editor:

The solution to combating cyber-interference with our elections lies in returning to simpler, far less vulnerable election mechanics.

For many decades in New York, for example, voting machines were simple, lever-operated mechanical devices. The machines were self-contained, not linked to an invadable network.

You selected your voting choice with a small manual switch and recorded it with a large lever. When the polls closed, the machines were opened in the presence of representatives of both parties and verified on the spot. There were hardly ever any claims of irregularities and rarely was doubt cast on election results.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the coming results were reported without having to mention “ransomware,” “cybercriminals” and “perception hack” and, yes, even Russia?! This is not rocket science!

Jay Adolf
New York
The writer is a lawyer.

To the Editor:

The owners of Facebook and other social media companies are mostly pretty well off. Rather than having to subject their teams to the task of constantly monitoring the misinformation that is likely to be spread on social media before and during the election, why don’t they just shut down for 48 hours up to and including election night?

It would give this country a nice break from the bombardment of information (truthful and otherwise), and if they planned it in advance, it shouldn’t cause the stock market to go down because of any uncertainty.

Probably not realistic, I’ll admit. I am a Facebook fan like many others.

Anthea Darling
Hillsborough, N.C.

To the Editor:

Re “Presidentially, Two Parties Is Plenty” (column, Sept. 17):

While I share many of Gail Collins’s views about policy and politics, and enjoy her columns, I cannot support her assertion that we would be better off without third parties. Who besides the two major parties benefits by restricting voter choice? Almost no one.

In fact, it is a major factor leading tens of millions of Americans not to cast votes at all. Fortunately, there is a better way.

Ranked-choice voting allows citizens to indicate their first choice as well as other candidates in order of preference. If their top candidate is from a third party and does not achieve a minimum viability threshold, their vote goes to their second choice. The risk of candidates being “spoilers” and voters “wasting their votes” disappears, while allowing everyone to signal who they believe to be the best suited for a given office.

This common-sense approach is being used in a growing number of localities across the country, and there is no reason it shouldn’t be how we conduct future presidential elections.

Alex Counts
Hyattsville, Md.
The writer is a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland College Park.

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