Mail-in voting will not result in a “rigged” election, and here’s why

With President Trump and Attorney General William Barr ranting and raving about a “rigged election” because of phony ballots, I thought now would be a good time to resurrect this post about why it would be virtually impossible for that to happen.

President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr are warning Americans that we may see a “rigged” election this year if mail-in voting is allowed to continue. I dispute that, and, with facts, plan to show why it is very unlikely to happen.

But first, a comment about mail-in voting.  Because of the pandemic, and the fact that fewer polling places are now available, mail-in voting will be even more popular this year.

As a result, we may not have a clear winner on election day, Nov. 3. And that’s OK.

It may take a week, two weeks or even three to count all the votes. I’d rather we get it right than rush the tabulation and get it wrong, no matter who wins.

Americans need to be patient, something we’re really not good at.

This vote – actually any presidential election – is too important to not get it right.

It is so important that people vote in presidential elections, and not giving them the option of mail-in voting would be terrible.

Forcing people to put their health at risk by leaving them with in-person voting as their only choice on election day is just plain wrong.

And now back to the issue at hand.

Mail-in voting resulting in a “rigged” election has never happened in this country, and it won’t happen now for two reasons: design and logistics.

Here’s why it won’t be a problem.

We don’t have a national ballot in this country. While presidential candidates are listed on all ballots in each jurisdiction, no two ballots are designed in exactly the same way, although some may have similarities.

I have included a small number of ballots from previous elections to illustrate the differences.

No state administers elections in exactly the same way as another state, and quite a bit of variation exists in election administration even within states.

In fact, local jurisdictions, such as counties or parishes, design their own ballots. And they all are free to use different type styles and colors and vary the size of the ballots. Much of this depends on local regulations.

Many of the design decisions have to take into account how the ballots are counted. Smaller jurisdictions may count theirs by hand, larger ones may use computers.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “legislators are among an ensemble of characters who have a role in ballot-design decisions. Local election officials usually design the actual ballots; state election officials may offer technical assistance or regulate design; and makers of voting equipment indirectly control what designs can be processed through their machines.”

The US Geological Survey reports that the United States and the District of Columbia have 3,141 counties and county equivalents. And that doesn’t count territories, such as Guam and Puerto Rico.

Think of it. With all those jurisdictions designing their own ballots, how many different designs will we have come Nov. 3?

Add to that the fact that each ballot not only lists those running for president, but candidates for local positions, such as county supervisor, city council, judge, sheriff and even dog catcher.

Wait, not finished yet.

Voters also get to decide yea or nay on ballot measures, or propositions. And, as we all know, those could be plentiful.

To return to the matter of design, the NCSL says “various programs are involved with designing the perfect ballot. Legislative requirements for ballot design may include everything from font size to candidate order, and the software involved with designing the ballot must be able to accommodate a state’s unique needs.”

Layout choices, or how the ballot looks, are also a consideration.

Once an election jurisdiction knows which candidates and/or ballot measures have qualified for the ballot, the process of designing the ballot begins, according to the NCSL.

And sometimes, designers don’t have a whole lot of time to complete their work.

So it’s not as easy as just having a piece of paper with the candidates’ names listed and a spot where voters can simply mark an X.

Other things also have to be on ballots, including bar codes for security purposes, the registrars’ office address and contact information, voting hours and on and on and on.


Trump and Barr make it sound as if some entity, such as China or Russia, can simply print up a bunch of ballots and premark which candidate they would like to see win.

The logistics of this would be prohibitive and time-consuming.

Whoever wants to “rig” our election in this way would have to design, print and circulate millions of these phony ballots well in advance of election day, considering that early voting starts weeks and sometimes months before election day.

What a Herculean task. One that I doubt another country would be willing to undertake.

Maybe that’s why it’s never happened before.

Published by Mike Sturman

I am a retired journalist with nearly 30 years in the field, during which time I was a reporter and held numerous editor positions at local newspapers and a number of magazines. After I retired, I was a sub in my local school district, then did PR for that district. I hold a Bachelor's Degree in journalism, and as for my politics, that's simple: I'm a liberal Democrat. I'm married, and my wife recently retired after 25 years as a teacher. We have one daughter, who has earned her PhD and works at a UC. Through this blog, I hope to pass on some interesting thoughts and ideas, entertain with some lighthearted posts and generally quell my pandemic-induced boredom.

2 thoughts on “Mail-in voting will not result in a “rigged” election, and here’s why

    1. This is such a small sample. With more than 3,000 counties out there, there are probably thousands of different types, which is why i find it hard to believe will have a”rigged” election.


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