Ann Althouse flagged this tweet by “Dilbert” cartoonist/Trump-whisperer Scott Adams, and as is her wont sometimes (unfortunately), uses it to get tangled up in the logical conundrums she finds amusing. I’m not sufficiently amused: Adams is wrong, but he did put his finger on one of the problems with mail voting that advocates for the process refuse to acknowledge.
There is only one way to complete a vote: the voter does something that directly registers his or her choice without any intervening agency or process. No voting procedure that permits voting with intervening agency or process is sufficiently secure and reliable. Those who advocate such systems are to be viewed with suspicion and presumptions of either bad intent or faulty reasoning.
Both Adams and Althouse seem to be laboring under the misconception that someone who accepts the responsibility of mailing someone’s vote has a choice. Such an individual is, under the law, a gratuitous bailee, meaning that they have accepted an obligation without compensation. That means that if they fail the obligation, the one whose task they defaulted on usually has no legal recourse, but it doesn’t change the ethical situation at all. The gratuitous bailee promised to do something for someone, that individual relied on their promise, and the “friend” engaged in betrayal.
Not mailing the vote isn’t an option, any more than kicking the voter in the face and burning down his home is an option. Deciding to do the only honest and fair thing possible isn’t a “vote.” It’s mandatory, not a choice.
Now, it is entirely the responsibility of a voter to complete the process that results in a vote being registered and counted in his or her name. Just checking a box and leaving the ballot in the envelope without a stamp isn’t a vote. Neither is, in my view, handing off the potential vote to the post office. Letters aren’t always delivered, just like gratuitous bailees sometimes screw up. That fact alone should be enough to rule out voting by mail. However, the fact that someone might engage in an outright illegal or unethical act to block your vote does not equal an option to vote twice. If I trust someone to mail my water bill and they decide to harm me by not doing so, they have not exercised an “option.” Choosing to be a corrupt and untrustworthy member of society isn’t an option.
It’s a perversion.