stasavage2_George FreyGetty Images_USmailballotvote George Frey/Getty Images

Trump’s Ancient Ballot Lie

Claims by US President Donald Trump and others that mail-in ballots increase the risk of electoral fraud are not new. Since the 1400s, those seeking to limit the franchise have sought to achieve their goals by citing the need to maintain the “integrity” of the electoral system.

NEW YORK – As the United States heads toward its most significant and contentious presidential election in a very long time, there is much talk about voting by mail. Some see this option as necessary to ensure ballot access for all amid the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly blue-collar workers and minority groups, who have disproportionately high infection rates. But others, including President Donald Trump, vociferously oppose mail-in ballots, pointing to a purported risk of fraud.

Their argument is bogus – and not exactly new. For the last six centuries, those seeking to limit the franchise have sought to achieve their goals by citing the need to maintain the “integrity” of the electoral system.

Consider England in the early fifteenth century. At that time, each English county sent two “knights of the shire” as representatives to Parliament. And because there was no formal law governing how these knights (a largely honorific term) would be selected, it fell to each county’s sheriff to organize an election.

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