Smart Ideas: Will Voting by Mail Survive North Carolina-09?

Plus: More congressional testimony should be private.

Election workers sorting ballots at the King County Elections office in Renton, Wash., on Nov. 5. Voters in Washington all vote only by mail.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
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Dec. 13, 2018, 8 p.m.

North Carolina race could imperil vote-by-mail

Miles Parks, writing for NPR

“When it comes to election fraud, the ‘voting twice by dressing up with a different hat’ tactic that President Trump talks about almost never happens. What actually does happen, as allegedly illustrated in the race for North Carolina's 9th Congressional District, is vote-by-mail fraud.” The contested election could hurt the vote-by-mail cause, which like in-person voting sees a “minuscule” amount of fraud. “Supporters say it increases turnout, because it is significantly more convenient for most voters. With voting by mail, there are none of the long lines that were seen across the country this year, as turnout for a midterm reached 50-year highs. Voters also get weeks to mull over and fill out a ballot in the comfort of their own home, with research resources handy. All of this sets up a quintessential question about American elections: how much security are the American people willing to sacrifice to make voting convenient and accessible for everyone?”

Not all jihadism is the same

Sam Heller, writing for International Crisis Group

Contrary to a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “there is no standing army of 230,000 Salafi-jihadists … around the world.” The think tank arrived at that figure because its definition of Salafi-jihadism is overbroad: It includes anyone “who believes armed jihad is an individual duty and who is also Salafi.” In fact, Salafi-jihadism “fuses borderless revolution with Salafi-inspired iconoclasm. It wants a war of all Muslims against illegitimate, idolatrous Muslim rulers and to ultimately erect a utopian Islamic state.” This transnationalism is what makes it unique, and why Salafi-jihadism presents “a special threat” to the international system and the United States. The definition should not include regional groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan and Ahrar al-Sham in Syria. “Combining all jihadists into a few huge numbers may be alarming. But … eye-popping, inaccurate estimates of jihadist strength work against the complex, informed solutions that keep people safe.”

In defense of closed-door questioning

Eric Felten, writing for The Weekly Standard

If you turn on a camera in Congress, lawmakers are bound to “strut and preen for the audience.” That’s especially true if they’re questioning a high-profile witness, like James Comey or Hillary Clinton. The format of the public setting is also debilitating. “Five minutes isn’t enough time for the average Foghorn Leghorn to clear his throat, let alone put together a coherent series of probing questions.” Compare this to the type of questioning conducted behind closed doors, where “the practice is for professional committee investigators to do the questioning, switching between the majority and minority staff not every five minutes, but every half-hour.” To make these meetings more transparent, committees could simply release transcripts. The Senate Judiciary Committee has already done this for interviews with Donald Trump Jr. and Michael Cohen. “No one, after all, can leak information that has officially been released. That’s real sunshine, the sort that gets at crucial information rather than providing lawmakers and witnesses a platform for grandstanding.”

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