Voter fraud, accessibility: The arguments for and against voting by mail in Texas during pandemic

Episode 2 of KSAT Explains dives into debate over voting by mail in Texas

Supporters say we should all be allowed to drop our votes in the mailbox so we can stay away from crowds and protect our health during the pandemic. Those who oppose the idea argue that opens the door to voter fraud. There are also concerns mail-in voting favors one party over the other.
Supporters say we should all be allowed to drop our votes in the mailbox so we can stay away from crowds and protect our health during the pandemic. Those who oppose the idea argue that opens the door to voter fraud. There are also concerns mail-in voting favors one party over the other.

SAN ANTONIO – The debate over voting by mail in Texas is getting a closer look because of the spread of COVID-19.

Supporters say we should all be allowed to send our votes through the mail to avoid standing in lines with crowds to protect our health. Those who oppose the idea argue it opens the door to voter fraud.

In the latest episode of KSAT Explains, we spoke to two local professors and party leaders to get their assessment.

“If going to the ballot means that you might expose yourself to a potential disease or you might get sick from or make somebody in your household sick. You’re likely to think twice about voting,” said Dr. Katsuo Nishikawa, Center for International Engagement at Trinity University.

“The reasons for are simply a case of making it easier to vote, accessibility. Particularly for people who do not have the ability to get away from work, who don’t have the ability to go out because of it for either being infirmed, being a caregiver,” said Dr. Jon Taylor, UTSA chair of political science.

RELATED: Your questions answered about mail-in voting controversy in Texas during coronavirus pandemic

Five states can vote entirely by mail. Under current Texas law, a pandemic is not considered a reason to get an absentee ballot.

“The other side of the argument is that this can be rife with corruption,” said Taylor. “How can you possibly trust the U.S. Postal Service to do this? Look how they deliver the mail now. Ballots are going to get stolen. We’re going to have a tainted election.”

But Taylor and Nishikawa said there is no evidence to back up those claims.

“To say that we’re going to have an election stolen as a result of mail-in ballots, making it easier for people who are scared about getting out because of a pandemic, I think is kind of is disingenuous,” said Taylor.

“It’s very secure,” said Nishikawa. “It’s very convenient and now it’s safe, and it’s going to save lives.”

VIDEO: TIMELINE OF LEGAL BATTLE

The coronavirus pandemic brought the state to a screeching halt in March, and that immediately led to questions about the safety and health of Texans headed to the polls to vote.
The coronavirus pandemic brought the state to a screeching halt in March, and that immediately led to questions about the safety and health of Texans headed to the polls to vote.

There’s also the argument voting by mail favors one political party over another.

A study published in June by the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that universal vote-by-mail does not affect either party’s share of turnout or either party’s vote share.

“There’s nothing that suggests that mail-in balloting favors one party over another. The same argument was used in 1971-72 to oppose giving 18-year-olds the right to vote, going back to 1920, giving women the right to vote,” said Taylor. “There’s no evidence whatsoever that this is going to be a partisan tool.”

But it has become very much a partisan issue.

Weston Martinez, a local leader within the Republican party, spoke to KSAT at a San Antonio cemetery that he claims was used as a return address for multiple voters several years ago.

Martinez believes allowing more people to vote by mail would open the door to voter fraud.

“When I look at what has been done in the past here in our own city and I look at what has been misused, I have grave concerns because the evidence points to it,” Martinez said.

“I don’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat. I don’t want any illegal votes to count and I don’t want anybody to be taken advantage of because the same people that we’re trying to protect from COVID-19 are the same people that wind up being taken advantage of a lot of times in the absentee ballot world,” said Martinez.

Monica Alcantara, the chair of the Bexar County Democratic Party, said the partisan rhetoric surrounding the issue of mail-in voting is an effort to suppress the vote.

“To say that we’re going to have an election stolen as a result of mail-in ballots, making it easier for people who are scared about getting out because of a pandemic, I think is kind of is disingenuous,” said Taylor. “It’s very secure,” said Nishikawa. “It’s very convenient and now it’s safe, and it’s going to save lives.”

Below is the full episode of this week’s KSAT Explains where we look at the controversy over voting by mail in Texas.

A battle is brewing in Texas over how elections should be done during a pandemic. What’s safe and what’s the risk for people, not only when it comes to your health, but to your vote. We answered some of the biggest questions about mail-in voting in the newest episode of KSAT Explains.
A battle is brewing in Texas over how elections should be done during a pandemic. What’s safe and what’s the risk for people, not only when it comes to your health, but to your vote. We answered some of the biggest questions about mail-in voting in the newest episode of KSAT Explains.

About the Authors:

RJ Marquez has been at KSAT since 2010. He's covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area, and is the lead reporter for KSAT Explains. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms. You can see RJ regularly on KSAT Explains and Good Morning San Antonio. He also writes a weekly Spurs newsletter.

Lexi Salazar produces KSAT Explains, a weekly, in-depth streaming show that digs into the most important issues facing San Antonio. She previously produced the News at 9, San Antonio's first streaming-only news program.