Republicans have invested heavily in promoting the canard that mail balloting is riddled with fraud. That isn’t true, but this campaign has taken its toll. Like so many elements of politics these days, there is myth and reality. Massachusetts and Rhode Island have both established what seems like reasonable provisions amid the pandemic. You can vote early at your town or city hall. You can vote by mail. Or you can go to the polls in the traditional election-day balloting.

 In Rhode Island, a mail ballot is checked twice for accuracy, one by the local canvassing board and again by the Board of Elections.

Public opinion surveys show a steep decline in trust for mail voting. An April poll by NPR and PBS found about 75 percent of respondents favored universal access to absentee ballots. That had dropped to 35 percent in a similar survey completed last week.

Social media has been suffused by chatter about bloated voter rolls and applications mailed to people who don’t live at an address anymore. There is fear that the postal service isn’t up to the task of delivering millions of ballots. There will always be some bloat in voter registration lists. That’s because federal law bars states from wiping voters off rolls until they haven’t voted in two federal elections, or four years.

If someone in your household who no longer lives there got a mail ballot application, you should send the application back to the secretary of state’s office so they can begin the process of cleaning up the rolls. Then make your own plan to vote --early voting begins Oct. 14 in the Ocean State and Oct. 17 in the Bay State. Details are online at and at

You can also vote in the traditional manner on Nov. 3 at your local polling station. If for some reason your mail ballot doesn’t show up in time, you can vote in person. This happened to me during the presidential primary so I simply voted in person. Make sure to bring your voter i.d. and wear a mask.

We all need to be on guard during this pandemic. The same president who has roundly ignored mask-wearing and social distancing has now tested positive for the virus. So we need to ignore his debate rant where he suggested “bad things happen’’ with mail ballots. He and the first lady vote by absentee in Florida. The president did say recently on Fox News that Rhode Island’s system appears fine.

The other crucial aspect is the election night count. Let’s count the reasons why this pandemic plebiscite will be different. Millions of mail ballots will take longer to count. Social distancing may make lines longer at polls. There is the possibility of computer hacking by foreign interests. 

We all need to take a deep breath and embrace patience. This is particularly true of the media. Reporters love to be the first to call elections. But this time they should embrace patience and caution. Let’s not have a repeat of the Florida 2000 count, when networks ended up battling over who could be wrong first. Or in 1994, when Channel 10 WJAR--in the race to be first-- called the RI governor election wrong.

The voting booth is arguably the last place in our society where everyone is equal. The vote of a newly naturalized immigrant counts the same as that of a Mayflower descendant. The millionaire’s vote is equal to that of a minimum wage worker. So develop a plan to make your voice heard.

Scott MacKay’s commentary can be heard every Monday morning at 6:45 and 8:45 and at 5:44 in the afternoon.