ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF VOTING BY MAIL
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF VOTING BY MAIL

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF VOTING BY MAIL

DVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF VOTING BY MAIL.

On Tuesday, Ohio’s delayed primary election took place largely by mail-in ballots, delivering a ceremonial victory to Joe Biden, the Democrat already presumed to be the party’s presidential nominee.

The election was originally scheduled for March 17, but was postponed at the last minute by Governor Mark DeWine out of health and safety concerns, as the coronavirus had just begun forcing states into lockdown around that time. Though it was not an ideal situation, Ohio created enough time for those who wanted mail-in ballots to get them.

In contrast, chaos ensued in Wisconsin last month when voters were forced to cast their ballots in-person despite the health risks. They waited to vote in long, socially-distanced lines wearing surgical masks.

Now, as uncertainty still looms about what our world will look like in November, vote-by-mail initiatives have become a hot button issue which, while already permitted in most states, will need intense financial support if it is to replace in-person voting for the general election. Let’s consider some of the pros and cons of voting by mail.

Why It’s Important

The nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has already warned that the coronavirus will likely “strike again” this fall, meaning that normal voting conditions, where people wait in lines in small, confined spaces for polls manned mostly by senior citizens, could be quite hazardous. There is undoubtedly a need to find a safe alternative.

Voting by mail is nothing new. In fact, five states—Hawaii, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado—have already decided they will run all elections this year through mail-in ballots. And in 28 states plus the District of Columbia, voters can opt for a mail-in ballot for any reason.

And it’s popular, too. In 2016, twenty-three percent of cast votes were mailed-in while in 2018, that number increased to twenty-six percent. Voting by mail is also likely to increase participation in the election, as it gives people a longer period to fill-out their ballot compared to the specific day and limited time of an in-person vote.

Recently, Colorado Senator Michael Bennett addressed a false claim by President Trump that voting by mail could lead to fraud. “Mr. President,” he tweeted, “we’ve had vote-by-mail in Colorado for years. We don’t have fraud. But we do have the second highest turnout in America.”

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF VOTING BY MAIL
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF VOTING BY MAIL

Finally, voting by mail has the potential to make elections more democratic, because it provides equal and easy access to the franchise to all people, regardless of zip code. Some under-resourced communities already have to deal with limited polling places that are far apart, forcing those who want to participate in the democratic process to travel far distances and wait in long lines. Voting by mail delivers a ballot directly to a person’s home without such inconvenience.

What are the risks?

While more than half the states already allow voting by mail, there are still several that either have no infrastructure at all and others that require voters to have a specific reason for requesting a mail-in ballot. If all fifty states are going to offer the service to voters by the November election, they will need to set the groundwork as soon as possible. And that’s going to require steep funding.

Even for the states that currently offer mail-in voting for all, they are unlikely to have enough ballots or postal service man-power to support such a massive influx of mail-ins. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) currently sponsors a bill that would make voting by mail available to Americans in all 50 states, but it comes with a thick price-tag. Klobuchar’s Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act would compel the federal government to provide $3 million to the Elections Assistance Commission to cover the costs. And this doesn’t take into account that the United States Postal Service is on the brink of insolvency.

A massive mail-in election would require a sense of collective patience. Results of a mail-in general election may not be available until a few days after Election Day, as mail-in ballots are counted individually rather than by a machine. Furthermore, waiting for a ballot to arrive in the mail and getting it postmarked and shipped in time will require trust in a system that, in many states, has never been tested.

Takeaway

At the end of the day, voters should have as many safe and accessible options as possible to take part in our democracy. While a national voting by mail operation will take time and money to prepare, there is still enough time to get it done before November. And, as proven in states like Colorado, the program increases voter participation while making elections easier and safer for all.

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