With the presidential election looming ever closer, the pressure on legislators to produce a solution for crowded polling places amidst a global pandemic mounts. As the Democratic and Republican parties spar on the Capitol floor over whether or not the country should completely transition over to mail-in voting this November, many Americans are left wondering whether or not they will be able to vote at all in this election.
Republicans claim that mail-in voting will allow voter fraud to run rampant through this election, with President Trump tweeting out on April 8th that with mail-in voting there is a “Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” Meanwhile, Democrats claim that not instituting the universal option to submit a mail-in ballot is a suppression of many Americans’ right to vote. However, regardless of the potential risks that come along with doing so, it is increasingly clear that not only should the United States institute universal mail-in voting, but that it must make systematic bureaucratic changes in order to ensure that this policy will not inhibit a free and fair election from taking place.
Of course there are numerous risks that come along with this policy – but we should expect some growing pains from the process of moving an entire national election to the post. The first issue, which has led President Trump and the Republican party to decide that blocking this policy is the hill they wish to die on, is that of the possibility of fraudulent votes being cast. Though this is unlikely to be the case because a lot of personal information would be needed to cast a fraudulent mail-in vote (in most states you need to include the last four digits of your social security number, your driver’s license number, and your signature must match the one already on file), there is some truth to the notion that the vote count will not be entirely accurate.
This is because a certain number of legitimately cast votes will not be counted for trivial reasons – perhaps someone’s hand slipped on election day and their signature was not close enough to the one on file, or maybe they filled out most of the ballot and forgot to sign it at all. This is obviously problematic because it will silence millions of Americans who wish to exercise their right to vote for the next leader of their country. Even more so when we consider the fact that votes cast in poor communities and in communities with large populations of people of color are disproportionately thrown out for such reasons.
However, by not instituting the universal mail-in vote, we are still infringing upon certain Americans’ right to vote in the election. The elderly, those with chronic illnesses, and the family members who live with them will be put in a difficult position due to their vulnerability to covid-19. They will be forced to decide between putting themselves or their loved ones at risk in order to cast a vote at their polling place, or staying home on election day and not voting at all. It doesn’t seem fair to ask citizens of this country to put their own health or the health of their families on the line in order to exercise their right to vote.
For these reasons, it is clear that not only must the universal mail-in policy be instituted, but also that systematic changes must be made to the way that mail-in votes are counted in order to ensure that every American is able to properly exercise their right to vote this November.