Lessons From New York's Mail-Vote Mess
Facts allow you to make decisions in unpredictable times get the facts you need from the Wall Street Journal from pre corona virus updates to daily deep dives and our podcasts videos. WSJ is a trusted source in uncertain times visit wsj.com. From. The opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal this is Potomac. Six weeks after New York's primary elections. Some vote totals were still up in the air and the July jobs report shows one point eight million added workers welcome. I'm Kyle Peterson with the Wall Street Journal sitting in today for Paul, Zhigo, we are joined today by my colleagues editorial board member, Alicia, Finley highly. Kyle and editorial writer Jason will, Capi Friday Jason it to be here. On Tuesday elected officials in New York certified that Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney who represents parts of Manhattan Brooklyn and Queens had won re election in the Twelfth District during that June twenty third primary But what's a little alarming is the vote totals. There are still a still unknown final vote counts on Monday. A federal judge ruled that some ballots that arrived after election day must be counted even if they don't have a postmark showing when there remained. State officials say they're going to appeal that. So I thought we could just hash out a little bit about what went wrong and what we can learn for November. Two and to start just with the LAX deadlines The US Postal Service says that voters should give allow for a week for completed ballots to come. In New, York allows seven days before the election to request a ballot. And last week in that federal lawsuit. The Co Chair of the State Board of elections testified that the state has told the legislature that seven days is unrealistic and fourteen days would be better. But political leaders quote have rejected that because they don't want to be perceived as doing something that's not voter friendly unquote but Jason I mean. It seems like they've set the system up for failure by by allowing deadlines that are so close to the day of the actual vote. Right I mean you want I mean what's the purpose of elections part of the purpose of the election is to? Give everyone a voice in their government. Part of the purpose of the election is to deliver an outcome that everyone can agree on and if you don't have an outcome that's clear and decisive, and soon than you undermine the faith people have. In their election. So it's not just about making sure that everyone can vote. That is the making sure that it's as convenient as possible for everyone to vote. That's important. It's also about making a process that everyone feels confident in. So I don't understand why. We can't set up processes that enable counting to get done earlier. So we don't have to wait weeks and weeks with lawsuits and a fog of confusion allegations that undermine our democracy will the the issue of convenience seems is allowed to trump a lot of other considerations I mean just to take that seven days as an example, imagine your New Yorker and your temporarily in Florida you mail an absentee ballot requests and yet say takes three days to get there and maybe they process it in two days It takes three days to come back. Maybe, there's a Sunday in there. So if you if you our mailing the request seven days before the deadline, you get your ballot, you know a day after the election maybe I mean there's there seems like there were examples of that the day before the June twenty third primary The board of elections put thirty, four thousand items in the mail stream presumably a lot of those ballots, Lucia and people I'm sure didn't get some of them in time. Right. And you know that the post office is not a model of efficiency even in normal times and during the pandemic as Democrats or mouth loving to point out male is even slower. To know some states in Washington Colorado have had. The universal. Mail in ballots for years and they haven't had. Each problems but that's because they do require the doubts actually arrived before election. Or by election day or people, drop them off at the precincts or wherever going states. I mean what other call me cynical but I think this is basically wasn't just intended to or voter convenience. It was intended for Democrats Mount last minute motor organization bribes young people are notoriously late. In sending in ballots engaging registered so this allows like Democrats and then their allies to register voters very late in the game. One one difference I would adult. So on states that do universal mail in balloting is they are prepared to handle that level of volume that was one of the other the alarming. Things that came out of this federal court hearing was the co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections said there is a borough office in Manhattan that had something like thirty thousand or forty thousand pending applications for absentee ballots a about a week and a half before the election and he said he was told they could only process five thousand a day and so his reaction is here's a quote from visas. Basically, my view is that they threw up their hands and said, well, there's nothing more that we can do unquote and so Jason I mean it seems likely what happened at one of the things that happened in this primary and certainly a worry concern. For November is that states that are not prepared for that volume of absentee ballots are just GonNa be overwhelmed. Right I mean this is the challenge of voting in a pandemic under these unusual circumstances normally, we have a system that works pretty well where I think about a quarter of ballots are mailed in the postal service and the relevant authorities are can handle that are used to handling that and the rest of the people are showing up at the polling place in voting by if we're going to set up a system where a much larger share than a quarter of ballots are going to be cast by mail adjustments need to be made we've already seen how. You know all our institutions have come under strain from the requirements of this pandemic and the election is no different than it's silly to be just sorta blythe about it and say, Oh, well, you know we can do this with no problem when we when we've seen how all of our institutions have been creaking under strain, WanNa, make sure that this that this works. The last thing we need in a pandemic is uncertainty about the election outcome and then to bring up the the postal service which we mentioned a few minutes ago the efficiency of it. Then the next problem here in New York was there appear to be thousands of ballots that arrived. To election officials without postmarks on them and that matters because New York is a state where as long as you mail, your ballot is long as it's postmarked by election day, it can arrive up to a week late and still be counted. So the election day passed and you know you're getting two, two, one, two, three days after the election and mail is still coming in but a lot of these ballots don't have postmarks on them and That's what that's what the federal judge ordered that some of those need to be counted and The, the just the the fact that that's a possibility, a risk I don't think is being discussed very much. I mean election officials. In my view. One of the things they they ought to be saying is we go into November is that if it's a day before the election, you know maybe you would be better off maybe it would be wiser to drive over to the county office and put that ballot in the dropbox yourself. Right. I mean that's a great point to Kalemie. There is nothing really stopping these places are like in the states where we mentioned earlier, do have dropped off booting. So when you're thinking that, we may not have an answer some these whether. Congress I mean no doubt Democrats over Shirley, you maintain control the House. When you don't know some of Senate, he'll close Senate elections, and Ludlow for the presidency. You have you know in some of the key swing states. You may not have. An outcome for potentially weeks. I would just add that. was looking at this. This potential confusion around the election it is nice that we have an electoral college. So the outcome is such that you know even if certain states have outcome that is unknown, we may wellstone though the overall outcome of the election. Thanks to the electoral college however that's also Being, criticized and and their calls to replace it hang tight. We'll be right back. You're listening to Potomac Watch from the Wall Street Journal. When the world is at a standstill facts, can move us forward facts help us make decisions and bring us together even as were apart the Wall Street Journal has the fax in these uncertain times get the latest on the corona virus outbreak with free coverage of the crisis and its impact on the economy politics culture and daily life. Find the clarity you need with America's most trusted news source visit wsj.com and stay informed. From the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal this is a thome watch. Welcome back another interesting piece of news on Voting Front is the trump campaign has sued saying it will soon, Nevada. Over a recently passed election law there. Jason. Give us a little sense of what the controversy is in that case. While Nevada has. Passed a law that aims to expand well intentioned to be sure aiming to expand a mail in voting. Because of the pandemic, the most controversial at peace is making it easier for third parties to collect a people's ballots and deliver them either through the mail or to. An election office that known as ballot harvesting of especially by by critics but that's the most controversial part of the bill. and. That's an interesting case because state laws very a whole lot. There are some states like California where paid political staffers essentially can go door to door. In neighborhoods. Knocking on the door hello I'm with this voter. Advocacy group or whatever were going around picking up absentee ballots. I'm happy to take your absentee ballot and return to the Office for you There are other states where that's completely banned and people have been charged with fraud essentially for doing that and then there are states in the middle where they they want to allow caregivers, for example, to do that, but it's It's a restricted on who can do it or the person who's bearing the ballot has to sign the ballot or no one. No single person can have you know two ballots or five ballots are can help more than ten people per election. So there's a whole range. Of State Laws and how different states handle that but. At least I mean, do you do you see ballot harvesting as a a real issue real potential for fraud or or? Just. Casting doubt on the results there. There is some room for mischief appear I mean you can understand why Democrats like it because it does allow them to Their turnout, a increase, their turnout operations in California, which does have been very. Lenient voter harvesting law. That has been attributed to their ability to some districts especially with large numbers of college students thinking basically go door to door or apartment department in these areas where large clusters of a young liberal voters and harvest does and then just drop them off or urge you know helping people sign make sure that they go out the ballots Maybe, this euro, that might be a little harder to do of college some colleges don't reopen, but there are still areas of the country where there are large concentrations of democratic voters meal in the urban areas in particular that the event. They're also in swing state where you're going to see Democrats really try to focus in concentrate their energies in Increasing, their turnouts. I guess in my mind. Whenever you break the chain of custody between the voter and the ballot. You're creating opportunities for things to go wrong whether it's intentional or not whether it's a fraud or whether it's someone who's doing ballet harvesting who forgets a box box in their back seat and discovers it a month after the election I mean, you're you're creating opportunities for problems to. Arise that said Jason I guess in my mind, the president is not being very effective messenger on this issue because he is constantly focusing on the issue of fraud instead of some of these larger problems like with the post office without rejection rates i. think he could have a stronger argument if you would focus on some of those other things. Yeah I think that's right. I think there's a risk. For Republicans when they're talking about voting politics in the Baltics voting, they basically sound like we want people to vote were afraid of facing the voters You know we were going to and I think that you know obviously that's politically fatal as it as it should be an end. You know it is unfortunate because that enables this polarized narrative where the president talks about fraud and people rightly say there isn't evidence of widespread fraud but then that enables them to take the high ground in ignore the way that we're actually undermining democratic legitimacy if we don't have. A tight and and rapid process. So I think it's unfortunate. The way that the issue is polarized I think that both you know it's a classic example, the president and his critics. Each bring out the worst in one another. And just to add a few more specifics there. So in two thousand, sixteen, a more than three hundred, thousand male imbalance absentee ballots were rejected, and this is not because of any fraud or alleged fraud, it's because. The ballots were not sealed correctly or the signature is on them. If the voter has to sign them, don't match the signature is on that person stayed ID and You know people who are election election people who are volunteer sometimes are eyeballing those signatures, and if you have an election where there are a lot of people who've never voted by mail before are going to try using these ballots that number could be way higher in November, and then there's also a study in Florida that suggest that black voters are. About twice as likely as white voters to have their mail imbalance rejected. So again, even just putting fraud aside, you add all those things together and I you you you create a real opportunity for a crisis of legitimacy. If for example, the deciding state in the Electoral College Wisconsin and it is decided by a narrow number of votes and far more votes than that are rejected for one reason or another and campaigns go through and they look at those rejections and they find disparities in in which neighborhoods had higher rejection rates. For me my for my part I mean I can only hope that this election is not a photo finish. I think everybody for these reasons should want a clear victory show. You know whether regardless of which side wins. Right. You don't want be waiting because as you mentioned this does cast legitimacy on the election process. You WanNa Jason had also pointed out earlier of podcasts This is an important bird democratic outcomes and and the credibility of the process. You don't want people questioning it was not ideal in two thousand one you had people still debating the the hanging chads and then the supreme court had to intervene and. You'll Democrat dispute today that George. Bush. Won The election error he's legitimacy as president. Right well switching gears a little bit. The the Friday jobs report had a bit of brighter news at least. At least looking at those top line figures, one, point eight, million jobs gained the unemployment rate ticked down to ten point two percent. Lucia, can you give us a sense of what the story is beneath those headline numbers right so it's a bit of a mixed bag. The unemployment rate did. Did. Did the Labor Force Participation Rate Hiring is you know it's it's slowing some wide of the the best news probably is that a retail our? Jobs that loss or industries like retail eastern hospitality care that loss a lot of jobs during the lockdowns are still adding jobs even though the some businesses have imposer, some states have re imposed some restrictions on businesses like Arizona, Texas in such a closed out bars and California as basically closed out. Most everything again So the fact that there is still continue to be growth in these industries is that's a good news. On. The other hand long-term unemployment those. Unemployed more than fifteen weeks has increased significantly. So people who lost their job. They're still large numbers of people who lost their jobs during lockouts and even some people lost their jobs before the lockdown probably in January and February that are still on the sidelines This raises some questionable why obviously the congress slow. But. It seems in businesses have been reporting this that they're struggling to hire workers, Rehire workers that were laid off because then they can make more unemployment on unemployment benefits. Some two-thirds of workers, Warranty University of Chicago study one earn more not working than they did work. one in five or twice as much not working than they did working now those the enhanced unemployment benefits Of will be expired a week ago now Congress and the president, and they're trying to negotiate whether there should be extension but it'll be interesting next couple of weeks if there isn't a whether Java spouts backer. Actually in the weekly payroll numbers at decline then you are bigger decline than actually seeing in recent weeks because there isn't this incentive to work. Right, and so part of. Part of the question of how the recovery proceeds will depend on the virus but part of it seems like Jason will also depend on what Congress does I mean Democrats and Republicans have been at loggerheads on a phase five corona virus relief package for a while now and Democrats want to extend that six hundred dollar federal supplement for unemployment insurance and Republicans suggested a lower weekly amount targeting about seventy percent of wage replacement. But as Alicia indicates I, mean I agree I think it will be interesting to see what happens because This jobs report doesn't include the expiration of that, and so it'll be interesting to see what the next jobs report shows, but it also depends on whether Congress comes to any dealer not. I, mean I think the first wave of corona virus when it struck struck the northeast. And unemployment surge. One part of that was also that a congress had passed the most generous unemployment benefits ever. So that made it easier for more people. To be off of were those restricted that if those benefits are restricted in a deal with Republicans. Than there's going to be more pressure on people to get back in the Labor Force Democrats would rejoin than there will be less demand. You know this this money in people's pockets boosting demand ordering the economy but I think the evidence is that a lot of it is being saved but at least you just to do a quick thirty, thousand foot read I mean is your view of this jobs report that it looks like the recovery is stalling or at risk of stalling here in the next month or two? No I don't think it's GonNa. The gun stall out I think in all. Of anything we're starting see a tale of two two economies with the blue states that lockdown longer having a much slower jobs recovery. Than, states that maintain lesser add maintain less rigid or strict restrictions on business. Rooms inches if you look at the Latest unemployment claims data eighteen point one percent in California versus something like three, four percent in Utah and Idaho where you really have it where you've seen much less of a virus resurgence than you have in California. So I think it'll really depend on what states do on in next couple months. Interesting. All right. Well, thank you, Alicia. Thank you, Jason. Thank you all for listening. Will be back next week with another addition of Potomac Watch.