George Pyle: The best election is conducted entirely by post

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Oliver Hansen drops off his ballot in the official ballot drop box at the Salt Lake County complex for primary election day on Tuesday, June 26, 2018.

“The perfect love affair is one which is conducted entirely by post.”

George Bernard Shaw

It should surprise no one that the Current Occupant of the Oval Office stands ready to twist the nation’s unprecedented suffering to his own advantage.

As demonstrated by the way Republicans at the state and federal level turned Tuesday’s primary election in Wisconsin into a trial-by-virus for anyone who was bold or foolish enough to go to the polls.

It was a primary election. The only big decision to be made, according to what I’ve been able to read, was filling a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. There was also that state’s Democratic presidential primary, which didn’t really matter that much because the race between surviving candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders was all but over. Sanders officially dropped out the next day.

Still. Wisconsin’s Democratic governor tried to accommodate democracy to reality. He moved to both delay the date of the election and make it an all mail-ballot process. But the state’s Republican-controlled Supreme Court denied the former and the Republican-controlled U.S. Supreme Court scotched the latter. So cheeseheads had a choice: Your democracy or your life.

Not all Republicans are as devoted to using COVID-19 as the ultimate voter-suppression tool. The Republican governor of Ohio did what the Democratic governor of Wisconsin wasn’t allow to. He made the Ohio primary an mail-only process and delayed election day from March 17 to April 28, giving election officials and voters a chance to catch up.

And then, there’s Utah.

The Beehive State has already been moving toward making elections a mostly or totally by-mail deal.

After Gov. Gary Herbert made some on-the-fly accommodations to the way candidates for public office can collect signatures to get their names on the Democratic and Republican primary ballots, the ability of Utahns to vote in a real election will be preserved by the fact that ballots will be sent to every registered voter, giving them the opportunity to either mail them back in or, if they are itching for an excuse to leave their basements, drop them off in one of the many official boxes that are scattered about.

So why is this state different from all other Republican states?

Four other states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington — are pacing or ahead of us in the mail-ballot race. They are blue to purplish states where the powers that be might be really OK with the fact that increasing voter turnout probably means more votes for Democrats.

In Utah, voter registration and participation is so overwhelmingly Republican that getting more people to vote is probably just as likely to lead to Republican victories in November. Although all-mail primary elections among Republicans may well skew the process from the far right to the center.

Of course, what this means is that the whole nation — this year for sure, but always would be a good idea, too — to make mail-in voting routine in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

And, in a time of coronavirus, that might be a no-brainer. Except the no-brainer in the White House, and his allies in Congress and some other Republican-led state legislatures, are doing all they can to block it. And they are being astoundingly honest — and dishonest — about why.

“Tremendous potential for voter fraud," the president tweeted, falsely. "And for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans,” he also tweeted, honestly.

There are just more Democratic-leaning voters than there are Republican-leaning voters, nationally, if not in Utah. That doesn’t mean Democrats are better. Just that there are more of them. And, most of the time, if more people vote, that means more Democrats will vote for more Democrats. Most of the time. (See: Reagan, Ronald; winning national elections by running the best campaign.)

There is no reason or history to suggest that by-mail elections lend themselves to fraud. None. It is another of the chief magistrate’s bald-faced lies. If anything, the opposite is true, as a mail-in election provides the most important thing a trustworthy electoral process can have — and that no electronic election can offer: A full and auditable paper trail.

And conducting all elections by mail might remind people that a government service as old as Benjamin Franklin is something that government can — and should — do well.

Democracy? The check is in the mail.

George Pyle

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, is getting used to doing a lot of things by mail these days.


Twitter, @debatestate.