Voting by mail could be dangerous, according to Donald Trump, but as with so many things he says and tweets he’s wrong, but in an odd way, he’s also right. I say that as someone who filed an absentee ballot for the first time in my long voting career. This is embarrassing to admit, but I found out that I am an uninformed voter – like the many, many voters in the elections I have covered as a reporter. Before I get into that, let’s deal with the questions Trump has raised.

Complaint: It results in fraud
Fact: There have been few examples of actual voter fraud in the history of voting. Oddly, one of the few examples of fraud involved a Republican race in North Carolina.

Complaint: It will help Democrats and hurt Republicans.
Fact: Higher income Republicans did vote absentee more than lower income Democrats in the past. But Trump’s appeal to lower income, less educated Republicans means that group is expected to result in more such votes than in the past.

Mr. Trump may be dismayed to find out that voting by mail or absentee ballots is proving popular and being used by Secretaries of State in both Republican and Democratic states. In Georgia, there has been a record 1.4 Million absentee ballots provided in a state with 7.2 Million registered voters. If you’re confused about the difference between absentee ballots and mail voting, you’re not alone. Absentee ballots and voting by mail are basically the same. The difference is that some states require excused absentee ballots — as in you’re unable to vote in person, while others just say you can vote absentee by mail.

Back to my point: My “Official Absentee/ Provisional/ Emergency Ballot” from Georgia had 11 partisan races, 13 non-partisan races and six party questions on the ballot for the Democratic Party primary. I should say, for the record, I have been registered Independent my entire journalism career, and I have voted for both Republicans and Democrats. I only got this ballot by default.

Let me do another aside. The six “party questions” were somewhere between facile and funny. The questions were along the line of the old joke questions: Does a bear poop in the woods? Is the Pope Catholic? EG:

Question: Should Georgians work to stop climate change and listen to the scientific community? Proposed Answer: No, let’s all just move to Mars.

Question: Should every eligible Georgian be allowed to register to vote? Proposed answer: No, they should have to pass an IQ test first.

Anyway, sarcasm over, you get the point. There were four more questions like those. Now, back to my point:

I, of course, knew all the candidates for president even though there is now only one ‘real’ choice. I knew ‘of’ the two Democratic candidates for the House seat, but although I knew of them, I didn’t know details. Warning sign – number one. And I was familiar with four of the seven candidates for U.S. Senate. Ding. Ding. That was my second warning sign. I only knew four of the seven. It got worse.

I didn’t know anything about the two candidates for Public Service Commissioner. I didn’t know anything about the four candidates for the two seats as Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia. And, frankly, I didn’t know much about many of the candidates for the various offices in which there was only one contender. Sixteen of the seats were uncontested. So, you could either scratch the box or ignore them.

That’s what I would have done in the past. Not this time. I decided I needed to educate myself. It took much longer than I expected and, as I said at the start, I found out just how uninformed I was. One of the legislative candidates was basically a professional politician. Nope. Won’t mark that tab. One of the court candidates was endorsed and supported by The Federalist Society which warns against the “orthodox liberal ideology.” No way, I’m voting for her.

And, no, I’m not going to tell you which is which. Do what I did, please. Before you make that letter “signed, sealed and delivered,” make sure that you have really signed off on them before sealing your commitment and making sure they will deliver on what you believe in.


Image credit: the photos of the absentee ballot was provided and taken by the author © Michael Castengera; the feature image of the DIY I voted by mail was created by Doctor Popular via flicker and using a Creative Commons license.

Michael Castengera

Michael Castengera

Michael Castengera is a newspaper reporter, turned television reporter, turned news manager, turned news consultant, turned university teacher.

He started out as a newspaper reporter, first while living in Australia, and then for newspapers in Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida.  He made the cross over into television reporting in Jacksonville, going to work for Post-Newsweek’s WJXT.

Since then he has worked in virtually every position in the newsroom, including reporter, assignment editor, producer, managing editor, assistant news director, news director and, finally, station manager.  His career has covered markets large (Miami and St. Louis), medium (Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Oklahoma City and Lexington, Kentucky) and small (Beaumont and Corpus Christi, Texas).

He cites as career highlights, investigative reports into police abuse, tornado coverage in Oklahoma and riots in Miami, being at the birth of the first 24-hour news station (KMOV) and heading up what was, at the time, the highest rated news affiliate in the country (WINK).

It was while he was station manager and news director in Fort Myers that he made the cross over into consulting, working with Audience, Research and Development of Dallas as a senior strategist with a variety of stations around the country.

He now is a senior lecturer in Digital and Broadcast Journalism at the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia.  In addition to that, he runs his own consulting company, Media Strategies and Tactics.  Clients include media groups in America as well as in India.