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Iowa caucus shows integrity of in-person voting

The fact that none of the losing candidates complained about the legitimacy of the voting in Iowa’s presidential caucus shows the merits of maximizing in-person voting.

Because a caucus requires electors to be present in person, there was no mail-in balloting. It eliminated any possibility of voter fraud, ballot harvesting or any other compromise to the integrity of the election system.

The first controversy over absentee ballots involved an incumbent president running for re-election and being challenged by a former leader he fired. Abraham Lincoln, who was the first president from the Republican Party, was seeking a second term in 1864. After the Democrats regained a House of Representatives majority in the November 1862 midterm elections, Lincoln removed George McClellan from his position as the commanding general of the U.S. Army. McClellan obtained the Democratic Party nomination for president in 1864 and ran against Lincoln.

Civil War historians can debate whether the Union would have won the war earlier had McClellan been more effective. Although the war was tilting in favor of the Union by November 1864, it was still being waged. As the president at the time, Lincoln was tagged with the burdens of the war.

In addition to the casualties and economic sacrifices, the Civil War also brought unprecedented governmental measures including military conscription and paper money. The merits of the wartime measures became issues in the election along with the hardships of the war.

The conscription also meant that the Civil War was being fought by citizen soldiers as opposed to professional soldiers who dominated the Army during the War of 1812 and the Mexican War which included 1848 campaigns. Many of the soldiers in the field desired to vote in the 1864 presidential election, so the issue of absentee ballots for deployed military was added to the other Civil War controversies.

The soldiers were allowed to vote from the field. Lincoln received 55% of the popular vote and carried every state except Kentucky, New Jersey and Delaware. The margin of difference was at least 1% in every state except New York and at least 1,000 votes in every state except Delaware.

Absentee voting for soldiers and other deployed military members was accepted and continued in 1918 during World War I and in 1942 and 1944 during World War II. The peacetime draft maintained the need for absentee voting for armed forces members.

The draft caused a controversy during the Vietnam War when those who were being called upon to fight weren’t even old enough to vote for those who made that decision. Eventually the 26th Amendment which lowered the voting age to 18 was added to the United States Constitution in 1971. Before that most college students couldn’t even vote until their junior or senior year, so absentee voting for college students wasn’t an issue. Absentee voting was eventually permitted for college students who maintained their residence in their home state rather than in their college state. Those in hospitals or otherwise medically unable to travel to the polling station were also given the right to vote by absentee ballot.

Now absentee voting is often allowed for any reason. The allegations of voter fraud have intensified as absentee ballots are more common. Faith in the integrity of the electoral system has been compromised, and civility by supporters of the losing candidate has deteriorated.

A caucus prevents residents in the military, in college or medically unable from voting. It is not perfect. A caucus, however, does not subject the election process to allegations of voter fraud.

The results of the Iowa caucus – and the aftermath of the decisions about who won the election – should show the need to minimize absentee balloting to only where it is necessary. Even in a winter storm with sub-zero temperatures Iowa residents were not deterred from voting in person. A return to limiting absentee ballots to military members, college students and the medically compromised would restore faith in the integrity of the election system.

Author Bio

Joe Naiman, Writer

Joe Naiman has been writing for the Village News since 2001


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