While Texas A&M's recognized student organizations are working to register voters and to present individual perspectives about candidates and issues, the lead up to November has been different than other elections.
The one point all groups agree on is that getting out to vote during COVID-19 against the backdrop of one of the largest social justice movements in U.S. history has presented unique challenges. Leaders of Aggies For Joe, Texas A&M College Republicans and Texas A&M Moderates all expressed concerns about mail-in vs. safe, in-person voting, as well as concerns about voter fraud in Texas have affected the groups in different ways.
Amidst a nationwide debate about expanded mail-in voting in states that restrict eligibility, Texas A&M College Republicans Chairman Gary Frankel said he believes there needs to be a line drawn between absentee and mail-in ballots. He said his organization has security concerns regarding mail-in ballots.
“We need to make the difference between mail-in voting and absentee voting clearer,” Frankel said. “Absentee voting has security protocols, and it’s just a lot more consistent.
“It’s important, especially in states where the election is going to almost certainly be very close, where just a couple thousand votes can mean one candidate or the other winning,” Frankel said.
Patrick Mann, president of Aggies For Joe, said their group holds a different view on security risks and cited the safety that mail-in voting provides for the at-risk community as the primary reason the group supports expanding mail-in voting eligibility in Texas.
“We believe that voting is a sacred right in America,” Mann said. “Everybody has the right to vote once they’re 18. And since it is an important right, we need to have access and right now there is a pandemic that has killed over 180,000 people.
“So already, there are people that might not show up to a polling place because they’re worried about their health concern,” Mann said.
Texas A&M Moderates president Sunjay Letchuman said he believes there is merit to each side’s claims.
“There’s been pushback on mail-in ballots from the Republicans, citing that there is sometimes fraud and for example, we’ve seen someone get a ballot who hasn’t been alive for 20 years,” Letchuman said. “We don’t want that.
“But generally, the concept of mail-in voting is very safe so that’s the evidence that the Democrats are using,” Letchuman said. “As a result, we don’t know how prevalent mail-in ballots are going to be in the next election, so that’s been a big topic that we’ve talked about.”
All three organizations said they have struggled since fewer students are on-campus due to the online class option making it harder to reach people with messages and opinions.
Mann said it’s especially important for political organizations to be able to talk to individuals, canvass and go door to door in the lead-up to the election, all of which are more difficult due to COVID-19.
“We’re trying to create tabling in the MSC and go around with our iPads on campus registering people to vote,” Mann said. “So it’s been tough for my org because we’ve had to adapt to that.”
Letchuman said members of Texas A&M Moderates are still figuring out how to overcome challenges.
“We do have a pretty close-knit group though,” Letchuman said. “So the members who were with us these past semester are still with us. But yes, it’s been hard.”
Frankel said Texas A&M College Republicans have changed how they use their social media to reach a larger audience.
“In the past, we’ve been more hands-off of our twitter,” Frankel said. “But recently we’ve been using it more extensively by making statements, disseminating material and using social media as a medium.”
For voter registration and turnout, all organization leaders said they agree that those who are legally allowed to vote should, no matter their party affiliation or opinions. Some members are training to be poll workers, while others are focused on registering people to vote.
“This is a bipartisan issue, not a Democrat/Republican issue,” Mann said. “It’s a ‘safety of Americans’ issue.”
Letchuman said quite a few members of Texas A&M Moderates are training to be poll workers.
“It’s your civic duty to vote,” Letchuman said. “I don’t even care who you vote for.”
“If you can vote by mail, then vote by mail if that’s the best option for you,” Letchuman said.
Texas A&M College Republicans have people who can register voters in Brazos, Harris and Victoria counties, said Frankel.
“We hold the civic responsibility of being an American citizen and the civic responsibilities endowed upon us by the Founding Fathers, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights,” Frankel said. “Voting is an essential component to that, so yes, we do believe that everyone should be able to vote by some mechanism, and everyone should vote in whatever way they can as long as that method is safe and secure.”
Editor’s Note: Texas A&M College Republican’s Chairman Garion Frankel is an opinion writer for The Battalion.
No Evidence of Widespread Mail-In or Voter Fraud in Millions of Ballots Cast
Carnegie-Knight News21, a national reporting initiative headquartered at Arizona State, published a database covering 2000-2013 data on election fraud in America. It found that 24% of all election fraud cases were absentee ballot fraud, with 491 confirmed cases of absentee ballot fraud in the U.S. since 2000 out of the millions of votes cast over the last 20 years. Evidence showed of the 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000, while fraud has occurred, the rate is “infinitesimal.” Evidence cited showed in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tough voter ID laws, is “virtually non-existent.”
Read the full report and data at VotingRights.News21.com.
Earlier this year, The Washington Post analyzed and reported on data collected by three vote-by-mail states with help from the nonprofit Electronic Registration Information Center. The Post article said officials identified just 372 possible cases of double voting or voting on behalf of deceased people out of about 14.6 million votes cast by mail in the 2016 and 2018 general elections, or 0.0025 percent. The Post analysis also quoted local officials in those states who pointed to sophisticated systems in use to detect and prevent fraud.
This story is a collaboration between The Battalion and upperclassmen in Texas A&M's journalism degree. To see the online copy of the "All Things Voting" print edition, click here.