The Collegian
Saturday, January 16, 2021

18

Total cumulative cases

1284

Total COVID-19 tests

1.4%

Total positivity

14

Current cases

3.9%

Current monthly positivity rate

Students discuss mail-in ballots, election security

<p><em>Graphic by The Collegian</em></p>

Graphic by The Collegian

Election security has been a heavily discussed topic leading up to the November election, with more people voting by mail because of COVID-19 and President Donald Trump repeatedly commenting about his distrust in the security of mail-in ballots. 

A 2020 poll found that 53% of college students said they were voting in the election by mail. 

Junior Franklin Borre has been volunteering for the Biden campaign. 

"I feel like, because of obviously the pandemic, more people are voting by mail this year," Borre said. "So I think any concerns that people have about the validity of mail ballots in a normal election are going to be multiplied by 10 this year because of how many ballots there are, and therefore how big of a result they’ll play into determining the winner, so that is a big concern for this year." 

Borre thinks concerns about election security are being blown out of proportion, he said. 

"If you look at past elections, things like the percentage of mail ballots that were actually found to be fraudulent is actually really low," Borre said. "So if you look at historical data, there are reasons to be confident, at least from an election security standpoint, that everything will hopefully run smoothly and the results, for better or for worse, will reflect the will of the people." 

According to a 2017 study done by the Brennan Center for Justice, the rate of voting fraud in the U.S. is less than 0.0009%. 

Junior Meghna Melkote voted in her home state of Pennsylvania by mail, and would have done so regardless of the pandemic, she said. 

"Mail-in voting is secure," Melkote said. "Our election system itself is secure, whether or not it’s in person or by mail.

"But people should be vigilant about things like election interference by watching what they consume on social media and on news platforms," Melkote said. "[People should be] making sure they’re not exposing themselves to misinformation and making sure they think critically about what is being exposed to them online. A lot of election interference is to actually have us lose trust in our election process by saying that our elections are illegitimate, even though they are legitimate."

Borre works as a moderator on Biden's call crew, which is the campaign's national phone banking team. Political phone banking is when campaign workers or volunteers call potential voters to give them more information about the campaign's candidate and encourage them to vote. 

"I personally am not directly involved with the [Biden] election security team, but one thing we’ve been doing, in general, is pushing people toward the voter protection hotline," Borre said. "We have an email address that people can reach out to if they’re worried about election security issues."

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

Junior Emily Kingston decided to vote by mail after doing research on the security of mail-in ballots, but thinks that the high level of mail-in voting will cause people to question the election's legitimacy, she said. 

"I think the concept of so many people voting by mail will definitely change the perception of the outcome of the election," Kingston said. "I think the idea that your ballot is being transported by mail doesn’t seem like a secure way to do it and people might find that concerning, even if in reality it doesn’t change anything." 

Kingston has seen both positive and negative information on social media surrounding election security, she said. 

"Social media helps because it’s providing a lot more information for people to successfully mail in their ballots without them getting discounted," Kingston said. "But in a way, it also adds to that sense of fear, because I’ve seen things on my feed about mailboxes being burned and mail-in ballots being stolen. Whether or not it’s even true or if it’ll even have an impact is questionable, but it adds to that fear that people have that the results of this election won’t be valid." 

Although social media has contributed to concerns surrounding election security, Borre said that, from accounts he follows, he's seen more of a push to ensure people of the legitimacy of mail-in ballots.  

"President Trump and his tweets have been stoking the flames of, and offering legitimacy to, the perspective that the election might not be legitimate," Borre said. "That’s obviously reached a lot of the population, but for my own personal social media consumption, like my friends and the people I follow and all of that, it’s almost been the opposite. Maybe it's just because it’s younger people and we have more confidence in the systems."

Senior Rob Papandrea, president of the College Republicans, believes in the integrity of the election and urges students to vote, he wrote in an email to The Collegian. 

"While we hear news about actors from XYZ country trying to influence our elections basically every day on cable news, the evidence to prove this is borderline comical," he wrote. "The horribly misspelled, grammatically atrocious memes and fake emails that come out, while concerning, should not disparage anyone about our electoral system. If you feel safe in your vote, then vote. If you don't, there are numerous hotlines and points of contact for people of any affiliation. 

"The important thing is that your ballot is cast."

Contact news writer Meredith Moran at meredith.moran@richmond.edu.

Support independent student media

You can make a tax-deductible donation by clicking the button below, which takes you to our secure PayPal account. The page is set up to receive contributions in whatever amount you designate. We look forward to using the money we raise to further our mission of providing honest and accurate information to students, faculty, staff, alumni and others in the general public.

Donate Now