Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, like most right-wingers sees voting by mail as a horrible idea even if it means millions of people can’t vote. On a recent blog post, he claimed that voting by mail is a plot to let Democrats take over. Conservatives love to talk about the wonders of democracy, but only if it doesn’t involve actual democracy.
“When a federal elections commission started asking questions, not one person had any explanation for the 28.3 million mail-in ballots that have gone missing since 2012,” Perkins claimed in the post that was republished Thursday in the Daily Signal, the publication arm of the right-wing Heritage Foundation. “As far as they’re concerned, one in five absentee votes just vanished. No one knows if it’s fraud, system failure, general ineptitude, or a combination of all three. What we do know is that Democrats want us to trust this same process — on a national scale — this November. Thank you, but no thank you.”
That 28 million number Perkins cited originates from the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a right-wing activist group whose president J. Christian Adams is well known for advocating voter suppression measures, including threatening states and counties with lawsuits if they do not purge their voter rolls. In 2013, The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen described Adams as “a longtime conservative critic of many facets of the Voting Rights Act, whose claim to fame as a federal lawyer seems to be his penchant for accusing black people of discriminating against whites.”
Contrary to Perkins’ claim that no one knows what happened to those ballots that PILF claimed were “missing,” the Washington Monthly reported that the organization included those in which they knew just what happened. PILF itself notes that some ballots never arrived at their intended addresses, which could be due to outdated addresses; some were never returned, including those who simply decided not to vote; and others were rejected, often as a result of signature match errors. PILF’s inclusion of ballots from the last category, the Washington Monthly notes, is ironic, because checking signatures against voter registration rolls is an election security measure for voting by mail. And while Adams suggests that his group’s report shows there were 28 million opportunities for fraud, even Mark Hemingway, a writer Perkins cites, notes that “there is no evidence that the millions of missing ballots were used fraudulently.”
Even by the Heritage Foundation’s own numbers, over the past 20 years, there have been only 143 criminal convictions of fraud with mailed ballots. And that’s out of the roughly 250 million votes that have been cast by mail nationally over the same time period.
So he has to make up “facts” in order to make his case. That says all you need to hear.