Voter Suppression: Voting by Mail in 2020

This year has presented many challenges-- one of the most substantial of these has been  being the difficulty of managing a key presidential election in the midst of a global pandemic. A simple solution could be to implement a mail-in voting system, which has already been adopted by states such as Oregon and Washington. However, certain comments by the President and controversy surrounding the abilities of the United States Postal Service force us to question the possibility of an inaccurate count of votes for the 2020 Presidential Election in the United States. 

Voter suppression through mail-in voting is a notable issue. Some may argue that requesting an absentee ballot is already a solution to these issues; however, many states that use absentee ballots require an valid excuse, and this often deters people from requesting a ballot. For example, in Texas voters are required to provide a reason such as being out of town or having a medical excuse in order to request an absentee ballot.  This mechanism makes it up to the state’s discretion whether or not the voter’s request for an absentee ballot will be accepted or denied. During the primary elections in 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in Republican National Committee Et Al. v. Democratic National Committee Et Al. that despite the pandemic, people in Wisconsin who did not request an absentee ballot before the deadline must go vote in person if they wished to vote at all-- in other words, to go out and quite literally risk their lives, and potentially the health and lives of their families, in order to vote. This ruling prevented a large number of the voters in Wisconsin from going out to vote, since they are having to decide between their safety and having their voices heard. A nationally implemented and standardized vote-by-mail system would solve these issues of late absentee ballot applications and missed deadlines.

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There are many benefits to a vote-by-mail system. It can be much more convenient for voters, as they are able to vote from home and take their time researching the pertinent issues, allowing for the voters to be more informed about specific issues. A more informed electorate allows for a better representation of views and an understanding of the implication of their vote. More States also can save money by implementing a vote by mail system, because they would not need to pay for staff to work at the polling stations or voting machines. The long-term effects of the implementation of this type of system would trend towards enfranchisement of eligible voters due to the convenience of voting on their own time, and not having to take time off of work to stand in long lines sometimes for hours. In Georgia, the primary election in 2020 represented the clear disadvantages of voting in person-- there were people standing in lines for hours before they were able to cast their vote, and the polling locations were forced to extend their hours due to the lines of people waiting to vote. The positive effects of mail in voting have been shown by the success of Washington, Oregon, and Colorado. Implementing a mail-in voting system in all states is not possible for the 2020 election cycle; however, it is a future solution to many voter suppression issues and has shown positive results in other states. 

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The issues of (and the controversy surrounding) this election are unprecedented.The president is actively making commentary to encourage his supporters to commit voter fraud by voting twice, which jeopardizes the integrity of the election. He has recommended to his constituents to cast a mail in ballot as well as go in person to vote for him again. He also tweeted that mail in voting was a “catastrophic failure,” and the 2020 election would be “the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history.” As he did encourage his supporters to commit voter fraud, that may be entirely possible. 

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States such as Washington and Oregon show the success for a mail-in voting system. However, this election is fast approaching and it seems that voter suppression through refusing to allow or count absentee ballots is likely. If you are planning on voting by mail, request an absentee ballot as soon as possible and make sure to track your application status. Cast your ballot early: DO NOT WAIT until the last minute. There have been significant delays in the postal service in past weeks. The Postal Service urges voters to act early if they are planning on voting by mail to make sure that their votes are counted. If you are not planning on requesting an absentee ballot, then vote early.  Look up polling locations in your state and make sure that your vote is cast. Your vote matters, and it is needed to ensure real change for this monumental election.

Sources: 1, 2, 3

Photos: Her Campus Media