Vote by Mail, Now

Jake Miller, Copy Editor

The novel coronavirus has been dubbed by many as “the great revealer.” Indeed, it has exposed just how vulnerable so many of the systems we as a country rely on are, from healthcare to unemployment benefits to the very heart of our democracy: access to voting. The problem is obvious; in a time when a majority of states are mandating orders to stay at home in hopes of containing the spread of the virus and keeping essential workers safe, holding normal elections is not a viable option. Yet, states have been handling this issue in vastly different ways and Congress has yet to include any mention of protecting voting rights in the recent coronavirus aid bills. The answer to this problem is extraordinarily simple: enact a nationwide vote-by-mail program.

Voting by mail has routinely been proven not only to be secure, but also increase voter turnout. Here in Washington, the state has conducted a majority of elections by mail since 2011. Eligible citizens are mailed a ballot and given a certain amount of time, generally around two weeks, to mail their ballot back to the state government. We are not the only state either. Four other states, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, and Hawai’i, also conduct the majority of their elections via mailed-in ballots. All of these states report little-to-no attempts at election fraud, and any attempts are easily detected by election security protocols already in place. Washington also reported a 9% increase in youth voter turnout with voting by mail, a sign that the system is not only the safest option, but increases civic engagement among populations that have significantly lower rates of voter turnout. This makes sense, as voting by mail makes the process more convenient for everyone. Instead of having to wait in egregiously long lines, take off from work, or find someone to look after dependents all in order to cast a ballot, voting by mail makes our sacred democratic process accessible to all. The system is also popular among Americans, earning support from around 67% of the population.

Yet, with all this in mind, the effort is receiving significant backlash from Republicans and has yet to receive wide support among Democrats in Congress. Georgia, a state that has a troubled history with voting rights, has resisted efforts to use vote-by-mail. One state politician called the effort “devastating to Republicans,” saying that it would “drive up voter turnout.” President Trump derided the system, calling it a “tremendous potential for voter fraud,” despite having himself voted by mail in the 2018 midterms. In defending himself, he simply claimed “I’m allowed to.” The most disastrous example of an effort to endanger voting rights during this pandemic comes from Wisconsin, after Governor Tony Evers’ order to postpone the election was blocked last-minute by the state Supreme Court. This put the state government in a contradictory position, mandating that everyone remain indoors yet holding an election that requires one to leave their house. The decision should raise alarm not just in Wisconsin, but across the country. Why are Republicans asking citizens to choose between their safety and their constitutional rights?

The good news is, it is not too late. Congress is in the middle of negotiating a new coronavirus aid package. As constituents, we must demand that our voting rights are not ignored or rescinded. Americans should not have to choose between putting themselves in danger and having a say in our elections. We must enact universal vote by mail, now.

You can call your representative and leave a message telling them why you support vote by mail at (202) 225-7761 (8th district) or (202) 225-8901 (9th district).