Updated: Oct 18, 2021
The United States presidential election is more than two months away, and public gatherings continue to be a health risk throughout the country. Amid the rising death toll, health experts warn that the virus will resurface in the fall. Across the nation, government officials are taking precautionary measures to ensure that Americans can vote safely in November. While states are “spending more money this year on cleaning supplies to disinfect polling areas,” they are also preparing election systems for voters who choose to vote-by-mail. This November, more American’s will use absentee balloting than ever before.
Approximately 44 million voters in nine states and the District of Columbia are receiving ballots mailed directly to them ahead of the upcoming election. The Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act introduced in the Senate, if passed, will provide the U.S. Postal Service $25 billion to cover losses caused by COVID-19, which have hindered mail delivery. The bill was initiated by Democrat leaders to ensure that postal-voting is available to voters for the upcoming election.
Like most other public policy decisions, mail-in voting has been subject to the ongoing conservative-liberal war. Blue and Red America have split into two rival groups that have managed to politicize the increased use of mail-in ballots.
Unlike Democrats, Republicans are fighting the expanded use of vote-by-mail, and President Trump is fueling their fire. The president has been voicing his disapproval for mail-in balloting for months because he fears widespread or systemic voter fraud. Trump has also told Fox Business News Network that he is planning on holding the U.S.P.S.’s funding as a way of “limit[ing] mail-in voting.” However, he contradicted this statement by claiming that he would not veto legislation to increase the Postal Service’s funding.
While Trump’s Tweets suggest that mail-in voting is advantageous to Democrats, there is no evidence that vote-by-mail is affected by widespread fraud or systemic bias. A Stanford University research paper found that vote-by-mail “modestly increases overall average turnout rates” and doesn’t result in any partisan advantage. A report by the Brennan Center For Justice called “The Truth About Voter Fraud” also concluded that voter fraud is scarce with “incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent.”
History of Mail-In Voting
Mail-in voting dates back to the Civil War when soldiers used absentee ballots to cast their votes. Additionally, in the late 1800s, states began passing absentee ballot laws for citizens who weren’t able to vote in person on Election Day due to being absent or ill.
Absentee ballots are available in every state and allow Americans to cast their vote outside of polling places as long as they provide a justifiable “excuse.” Absentee voters can provide a “variety of acceptable excuses.”
Every state’s election rules are different; therefore, voters should visit their state’s local election office website. However, numerous states allow “no-excuse” absentee voting as well. California was the first state to allow voters to request absentee ballots without providing an “excuse.
In the 2012 presidential election, almost 36% of voters cast their ballot by way of “nontraditional” voting methods, and in 2016, “millions” of Americans did the same.
Absentee vs. Universal Mail-In Ballots
Trump has often claimed that “universal mail-in voting” and “absentee ballots” are two different voting methods. He has sided with absentee ballots, but he has long opposed mail-in ballots and disapproves sending registered voters ballots before they can request them.
There isn’t much difference between the two voting methods, and “as election policy has grown more complex over time, the terminology surrounding absentee and vote-by-mail has begun to blur.” The only distinction between the two is that absentee voting, unlike vote-by-mail, can be done via mail or email and in seven states requires a justification. The vote-by-mail process, on the other hand, entails that voters are sent ballots without prior request. Oregon is a state that has adopted “universal mail-in voting” after absentee voting “worked for decades.” Colorado, Washington, Hawaii, and Utah have all done the same.
States Warned About Mail-In Ballots Not Being Counted In Time
In the five states that have moved to all-mail voting, voting in person is a fall-back option that voters can use if they don’t receive their ballots. For states that require or encourage in-person voting, mail-in voting is the emergency alternative. More voters may choose to vote-by-mail this election year because of the pandemic, which will be a “logistical nightmare” for states that aren’t prepared.
According to The Washington Post, the U.S.P.S. has warned 46 states and Washington, D.C., that mail-in ballots may not be delivered to voters in time for the election deadline. Hence, states may need to make sure that ballots are requested earlier and sent on time.
Reminders for Voters Planning to Vote-By-Mail
Americans can also drop their ballot off in person if they are worried about delayed mail deliveries. If voters consider this option, they can Google their state’s deadlines and ballot drop box locations.
Through Teen Lenses: Will you be using mail-in voting to cast your ballot for this presidential election? Why do you think President Trump is condemning vote-by-mail?
Unfortunately, I won’t be eligible to vote for this election but otherwise, I probably would use mail-in voting for my safety and the safety of others. I do not think that mail-in voting favors one party, it just allows more people to vote which should be the goal of both parties. Everyone deserves to have a voice and voting is a huge part of that. Mail-in voting is especially important this year because it is not safe for many people to go to the polls in person due to the pandemic. I do believe that the President is afraid that mail-in voting will hurt him. He has already lost many voters during the Pandemic and is trying to prevent mail-in voting so that less people are able to vote. Hannah Haledjian, 17, Senior at Thomas S. Wootton High School, Rockville, Maryland
“Yes I will be using mail-in voting in the upcoming election because of the coronavirus. I don’t think there should be a big difference, the only impact I could see is in states where the state has to approve your reason for requesting an absentee ballot. In states where the local governments are making a push to reopen or if they don’t think the virus is a threat (usually Republican), they might be able to deny the request if they don’t see fear of the virus as a legitimate reason. Those who would be more affected by this would be Democrats in Republican states. I don’t see any reason for the president to be making such a big deal out of how people vote or trying to stymie mail-in voting if he didn’t think it would hurt him.” Rida Khan, 18, Freshman at the University of Maryland, College Park, Gaithersburg, Maryland
“If I were old enough to vote this year, I would choose to vote via mail. I do think that mail-in voting favors the left side more because the president is very anti-USPS and has said many demeaning things about it. I believe he fears how easy it is to use mail-in voting and I think he is trying to make it harder to vote this year to delay the possibility of the people choosing to vote him out.” Amna Khan, 17, Senior at Folsom High School, Folsom, California
“Yes [I will be using mail-in balloting]. If there is no need to go to a very crowded place, I’d like to avoid going to one so that I don’t risk getting the virus or infecting others. Not inherently, no [I don’t think mail-in voting favors one candidate or political party over another]. The only sort of corrupting that concerns me is the president attempting to sabotage mail-in voting; he’s certainly trying to put the odds in his favor. Most of the people using mail-in voting are the people concerned for their health and the people around them, and frankly, the president’s supporters don’t fall within that category. I believe most of the people using mail-in ballots will vote against him, and he’ll do what’s in his power to impede them.” Rubina Hasanat, 18, Sophomore at the University of Maryland, College Park, Clarksburg, Maryland
“Unfortunately, I am not old enough to vote yet, but if I could I would do the mail-in. I don’t think the mail-in favors one party, as it will allow for both senior citizens to send in votes if they’re too ill to go in person, as well as allowing younger people who prefer to vote in a group, send in their absentee vote. The president is working harder to restrict our mail-in votes over protecting us from the coronavirus, which is very worrying that he is more scared for himself not winning the election over our safety.” Lauren Ullman, 17, Senior at Thomas S. Wootton High School, North Potomac, Maryland