SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Rebecca Rolfes believes in your right to vote and it doesn’t matter what political party you belong to or if you belong to one at all. “Voting is your chance to make a difference so make sure you make use of that chance,” she told me.
Rolfes is the president of the League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia. We talked about the increase in absentee ballot applications, much of that due to the pandemic. She also commented on charges from President Trump about mail in ballots.
During Tuesday night’s presidential debate, Mr. Trump repeated charges about what he refers to as “universal mail in ballots.”
“They’re sending millions of ballots all over the country. There’s fraud,” said the president.
Rolfes believes from the nation’s leader are serving to errode trust in the integrity of the process. “My concern is that it undermines confidence in the vote,” she said. “There almost no fraud. I’m talking one in a million cases of people tampering with this, it just doesn’t happen and so this is a lot of alarm bells ringing with nothing to back it up.”
She says the lack of confidence from some quarters (including the White House) seems specifically to be in the universial mail in voting states. “But even in those states, the incidence of fraud is miniscule compared to the number of ballots that are cast,” said Rolfes.
There are nine states sending ballots to all registered voters. But most states (like Georgia and South Carolina) are what Rolfes refers to as “request” states, i.e. you must ask for an absentee ballot and follow the process in your state for legally obtaining one.
“In Georgia, there is not a giant warehouse with blank ballots anywhere that invites people to steal them,” she said. “You request the ballot and the ballot is generated with your name and a specific bar code tied to your name and that is mailed to you ,” she said.
She says mail in ballots are “safe to use and safe right now” in terms of those who don’t want to vote in person because of the pandemic. The constant criticsim about mail in ballots is worrisome to her. “It has this corrosive, indisidous effect. You hear it over and over and over that the election will be rigged, that absentee ballots are not safe,” said Rolfes. “Whatever it is it is this constant drum beat of bad news and that can lead some to believe that something is going to to wrong.”
“There’s a theory as to why people vote? They vote if they think they can make a difference. If you think that you’re more likelty to vote. But if you beleve you if I undermine your confidence that you’ll make a difference you’ll stay home,” said Rolfes.
Rolfes says the League of Women Voters has been a non partisan organization since its inception.
“The League of Women Voters was founded when women won the right to vote so our whole reason for existing has always
been registering voters, educating voters and helping them get to the polls, that is what we do,” said Rolfes. “So, anything we can do encourage that we do but also anything we can do to counter (misinformation about the process.)”
President Trump has also raised doubts about how the millions of extra mail in ballots this election year can be counted saying in Tuesday night’s debate that it “may be months before the results of the election are known.”
Election officials have said that nationally, it won’t take months, but that it will likely take weeks to record the many absentee vote case by mail. In terms of those ballots, officials say if received on time and if the voter has followed proper procedures that the mail in ballot is as real as if someone cast their votes in person and therefore that ballot deserves to be counted.