WIRED: Vote by Mail Isn’t Perfect. But It’s Essential in a Pandemic
WIRED: Vote by Mail Isn't Perfect. But It's Essential in a Pandemic
ELECTION SECURITY HAS become a more prominent (and urgent) topic in the United States over the past few years, but as the Covid-19 pandemic rages, a different type of crisis is also presenting itself: how to carry out voting in a way that maintains both social distancing and electoral integrity. With less than seven months before November 3, too many states still don’t have a full-fledged contingency plan—and haven’t yet embraced the expansion of absentee voting by mail.
Health care professionals recommend mail-in voting as the safest approach during the pandemic, but Republicans have consistently disparaged it. President Donald Trump has spent the last week railing against it, both in news conferences and on Twitter, despite mailing in his own vote in the 2018 election. And the issue came to a head this week when Wisconsin held its primary on Tuesday without adequate protections for poll workers or voters, who stood in crowded lines for hours at a handful of open polling places.
Universal vote-by-mail remains a relative rarity in the US. But every state offers absentee mail-in voting in some form. Ensuring voter safety and turnout would require only a temporary loosening of requirements of who qualifies for absentee voting. That way, anyone who feels unsafe going to the polls can mail in their ballot instead. If the threat of Covid-19 somehow completely disappears months before the election, go ahead with the status quo. …
Secure voting advocates agree on what that pandemic voting infrastructure should look like. Every state will need to double down on accepting as many types of voter registration as possible, including online and same-day registration if possible. Districts should consider adding more days of in-person early voting to reduce crowds, and officials will need to set up polling places that enable social distancing. Voting districts will also need to recruit and pay more poll workers to support expanded in-person voting and equip them with personal protective equipment. And every voter should have the option to request a ballot and vote absentee by mail.
“Right now we’re focusing on making sure that no voter is disenfranchised during this health crisis,” Karen Hobert Flynn, president of the nonpartisan pro-democracy group Common Cause, said on a call with reporters.