David Lias

Sometimes I, and most unfortunately, my coworkers, receive negative feedback from some of the things that I write in my column. Some people, in particular, get angry if I express an opinion they deem to be critical of President Trump.

Today, I’m going to mention the president, but I’m not going to state an opinion about him.

I’m simply going to share this:

Back in July, the president told Townhall, a conservative news outlet, that Democratic governors could be sending millions of mail-in ballots to unknown people or dogs.

“Who are they sending them to? Nobody has any idea. They’re sending them to dogs. They actually have sent to dogs,” he said.

This evidently all started with, not a dog, but a dead cat named Cody, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The cat died 12 years ago, so his owners were shocked when, randomly, they received a voter registration application form for Cody Tims in the mail, as they told Fox 5 Atlanta in a newscast that went viral.

“How’d this happen?” asked Carol Tims, holding up the form and a tin of the cat’s ashes. “I mean, it’s not reality, he’s a cat. Here he is.”

To Carol and husband Ron, it was an amusing, albeit head-scratching mistake, which a spokesman for the Georgia secretary of state’s office said was probably the result of a third-party mailing list error not involving the state.

To the GOP, however, the Post reports, the error was a harbinger of voter fraud and cause for fear that our beloved Fidos and Rovers across the country may be voting in the 2020 election, dead or alive.

My wife has allergies, so we have a petless household, but I did grow up on a farm surrounded by pet dogs and cats. None of them ever received any mail, probably because they were terrible when it came at letter writing. Never once did I see them sit down after receiving a nice gift of a chew toy or a new litter box and compose a thank you note.

As far as Cody, the dead cat and any other pets that have received mail? Apparently, their owners do things that eventually get their pets’ names on commercial mailing lists.

Page Gardner, the president of the Voter Participation Center — one such third-party group that has accidentally mailed dead pets registration forms in the past — told The Washington Post in 2012 that the reason was likely because the pet owners had signed up for subscriptions in their pet’s name.

Gardner said none of this is indicative of voter fraud, and that it’s not a crime unless people actually try to register their pets by mailing in the form to elections officials. People have tried that too — and have ended up getting charged with voter fraud.

“The amazing thing about this to me when we dug into this data is that not only were the cases few and far between, they were all trivial, and they got found out,” Kamarck said of the voter fraud in general within the Heritage Foundation’s voter fraud database. “I mean, the dogs got found!”

Most cases of people trying to register their dogs to vote were politically motivated stunts designed to prove that voter fraud can happen. Although, sometimes the pet owners just confessed themselves.

In other words, people all over the country are trying to prove that President Trump’s fears about voter fraud are wrong related to mail-in voting and are succeeding in proving that those very fears are wrong.

In an April report from the Heritage Foundation about why Trump was justified in worrying about voter fraud, the group pointed to the case of Richard Davis, a California man who “was convicted of a felony in California after registering his four dogs to vote as Democrats over a four-year period.”

Davis had notified the Monterey County district attorney’s office of what he was doing all along. “We appreciate his political activism on this and told him not to do it again,” prosecutor Berkley Brannon told the Californian last year. “He went ahead and did it again.”

This means the dogs never made it to a polling place to cast votes for Nancy Pelosi.

Here in South Dakota, election officials who are overseeing the 2020 general election in South Dakota are highly confident that the vote for president, Congress, legislative seats and statewide ballot measures will be done fairly, accurately and in a timely manner without a risk of fraud.

Despite the president’s concerns about the legitimacy of widespread absentee voting by mail, all South Dakota county auditors who responded to a South Dakota News Watch poll say they believe the 2020 election in South Dakota will be fair and accurate.

The 25 auditors who responded to News Watch by email were unanimous in their answers on several questions, including their conviction that absentee voting can be done fairly, that in-person voting on Nov. 3 can be done safely, and that results from the election will be accurate. All auditors said they have experience in managing voting by mail, and most said they are taking extra steps to ensure an orderly and safe election. Many also said it is costing more to run the election this year.

Record numbers of voters in South Dakota and across the country are expected to cast ballots by mail this year, mostly over concerns about exposure to the potentially deadly coronavirus while voting in person in November but also for the convenience of voting early from home.

Hopefully this news from South Dakota and similar reports from other states have made it to the White House. Hopefully, the president’s staffers have read the stories and, in turn, told the president that mail-in voting during the pandemic is safe and that our elections are more likely going to be influenced once again by Russia rather than dogs.

Dogs do have a tendency to vote Democratic, though, so the president’s concerns likely aren’t laid to rest.

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