Mail-in ballot toilet display declared a crime

At at least one residence in Mason, Michigan, the 2020 elections are really going down the crapper… literally. The unidentified homeowner put up a comical display in their front yard featuring a toilet and a large sign reading “Place Mail In Ballots Here.” (You can see the full-size Associated Press photo of the display here.) Depending on your personal opinion of mail-in voting, you may or may not find the display amusing. But is it a crime? That’s the opinion of one local Democrat who works as the County Clerk and she wants the police to do something about it.

A Michigan resident’s apparent joke showing disdain for voting by mail is no laughing matter for one election official.

The resident put a toilet on their lawn with a sign that says, “Place mail in ballots here.”

Barb Byrum, the Democratic clerk of Ingham County, filed a complaint with police over the display, saying it could mislead people who aren’t familiar with the voting system.

“It is a felony to take illegal possession of an absentee ballot,” Byrum said Friday.

So what law might this guy have broken? Granted, the homeowner hasn’t been identified yet, but I’m going to assume it was a man. I mean, come on. This is just such a quintessentially “guy thing” to do.

The County Clerk is talking about stealing ballots, which is obviously a federal offense. But laws must also be enforced with some common sense being left in play. In order for anyone to mistake this for an actual ballot collection station, they would have to be willing to walk up onto someone’s private property and literally place their completed ballot in a toilet. Just how stupid does the Clerk think the voters in her county are, anyway?

Ms. Byrum went on to point out that “many people who are voting by mail for the first time this election.” That’s certainly true, but don’t you think that pretty much all of them are at least familiar with how the mail service works if they are old enough to vote? And if so, they’re equally likely to be aware that the process generally doesn’t involve bathroom fixtures. And if they aren’t by this point, do you really want them voting to begin with?

More to the point, the County Clerk seems to be making the homeowner’s argument for them. If she’s this concerned that first-time mail-in voters will be so confused over how to participate in this fashion that they might literally put their ballots in a toilet bowl on some guy’s lawn, isn’t that really an argument against going to an entirely mail-in voting system?

In the end, the real question here is whether this display was an actual attempt at voter fraud or an “artistic” (for lack of a better term) display of someone’s right to free speech and commentary on the relative merits of mail-in voting. I’m hard-pressed to imagine a judge that would actually hear such a case, to say nothing of finding against the homeowner on a serious felony charge. This was obviously a joke, but one intended to comment on a controversial decision regarding how the vote will be handled.

On a related note, a court decision on Friday declared that Michiganders sending in absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 can have their vote counted if it’s received within 14 days after the election. And all of the mail-in votes will need to have their signatures inspected and validated before they are counted. Considering how close some analysts think the vote may be in Michigan, we may not know the results from that state (and potentially the entire presidential election) until well into November or possibly later. This is all looking like it’s just going to work out wonderfully, isn’t it?