• Kayla Peterson

Absentee Ballots: America’s Secret Weapon Against COVID-19

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The ongoing pandemic has highlighted major areas of Americans’ day-to-day lives that need reassessment. As an election cycle looms over us, one of the most pressing issues for American’s to figure out is how we remain civically engaged while protecting our health. Since we are about halfway through June primaries are beginning to take place and we are gearing up for the presidential election in November. That makes civic engagement even more crucial than usual.

Due to the current health climate vote by mail is becoming even more essential. It will protect voters from possibly being exposed to the virus or exposing someone else at the polls. Some states’ residents have already had to face these tough choices as their primaries continue to occur, but as we move forward we must view mail-in ballots as an essential tool to be utilized for public health.

There is a lot of hesitation towards using mail-in ballots. Many individuals feel that it heightens the likelihood of voter fraudulence and question how these ballots could affect the legitimacy of elections. An analysis was done by the Washington Post which, found that officials identified just 372 possible cases of double voting or voting on behalf of deceased people out of about 14.6 million votes cast by mail in the 2016 and 2018 general elections, or 0.0025 percent.” This study supports the ideas held by election officials nationwide who believe that with the appropriate safeguards mail-in ballots could be a huge step forward for the American election system.

Vote-by-mail and other forms of absentee ballots are not new to American history. We have been utilizing forms of mail-in ballots since the Civil War when we used them to allow soldiers to vote. Vote-by-mail had been becoming an increasingly popular option for American voters until President Trump cast a shadow of doubt across the practice ahead of the 2020 election. Mr. Trump went as far as to threaten Michigan’s federal aid when they decided to send out absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. Michigan is not the only state that is making a push for greater access to absentee ballots. Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington already utilize all mail-in voting. They do this by sending ballots to registered voters and opening limited polling places for those who want to vote in person. The pandemic has also pushed other states to take a look at their own absentee voting practices. “The pandemic has prompted a total of 17 states to postpone their presidential primaries and expand their mail ballot access, with some states, like Rhode Island, Georgia, and Maryland, sending out ballot application forms to registered voters,” says CBS News.

Despite Mr. Trump’s claims that mail-in ballots are “illegal” and “asking for fraud,” most voters are highly in favor of the option given the extra safety they can feel during these uncertain times. Mail-in voting is not a new option and in 2018 one in four voters chose to use this option. A Pew Research Center poll found that 70 percent of Americans believe that any individual wanting to vote by mail should be able to do so. Election officials are also in agreement that if utilized properly this option is not only plausible but helpful.

With elections being held while people are working and polling places being plagued with huge lines, absentee voting options are useful not just in today’s pandemic plagued world, but in America’s busy everyday lives. As we continue to move forward absentee ballots can act as a resource for increasing voter turnout and accessibility. One of our main priorities, as we progress, should be to educate American citizens on how to successfully utilize absentee ballots so that we can continue to foster a more politically engaged environment.

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