As COVID-19 continues to impact the lives of many, concerns have arisen regarding how the virus will impact the upcoming November election. With divisive discourse rising about issues such as mail-in voting, voter suppression, and election security, many Americans find themselves at a crossroads as to how they can vote during this pandemic.
How to Vote
With the November election on the horizon, many voters are preparing to cast their ballots in favor of a presidential candidate. However, before this is possible, Americans must register to vote within their state’s timeframe and requirements. This is especially crucial for younger voters who will be turning 18 close to election day, often having to register through mail or online. Once this step is completed, researching candidates and political issues beforehand will ensure that the casted ballot matches the voter’s values and priorities.
“If voters are poorly informed about government policy, they will often make poor decisions,” said George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin. “They often support counterproductive or contradictory policies…delusion makes it very hard to do budget policy in a rational way.”
Universal Mail-in Voting
There are two ways to cast a ballot in the United States via mail, either absentee ballot or universal mail-in voting. Due to nine states and the District of Columbia making universal mail-in voting an option for the 2020 election, controversy has arisen regarding these ballots’ security. Those in opposition to mail-in votes argue that the method compromises democracy.
“I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots,” President Donald Trump said in a press briefing. “[T]he ballots are out of control. You know it. And you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else.”
Those who are in favor of expanding mail-in voting argue that the service is crucial for a fair and safe election.
“Voting by mail is safe and secure,” said former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in a tweet. “And don’t take my word for it: Take it from the President, who just requested his mail-in ballot for the Florida primary on Tuesday.”
As lawmakers continue to debate the logistics of the election, legislation, such as The Natural Disasters and Emergency ballot act, has made its way to the Senate. This bill would allow all registered voters to vote by mail or no-excuse absentee ballots, amongst serval other benefits.
“We don’t know, as much as we’d like to, what’s going to happen in November,” said the author of the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act, Senator Amy Klobuchar. “But the safe bet is that this will still be around in some form, and we need to plan ahead and allow people to vote safely at home.”
As concerns of the legitimacy of mail-in ballots continue to spread, some representatives have brought to light the phenomenon of double voting, with President Trump urging South Carolina rally attendees to vote twice in the November election, once by mail and once at the polls.
“You have to make sure your vote counts,” Trump stated. “Because the only way they’re gonna beat us is by doing that kind of stuff.”
Contrary to the president’s suggestion, double voting is illegal nationally, with punishments differing by each state. Despite the concern raised, there is limited research to suggest that double voting is a current threat to the 2020 election. According to voting expert and Loyola Law School law professor Justin Levitt, when voting fraud occurs, it’s usually due to a singular individual committing the act, rather than a large scale phenomenon.
In fact, after investigating all claims of voter fraud, Levitt found that since 2000, only 31 ballots have been linked to voter fraud. Nonetheless, voter rights activists are concerned about the rising skepticism of the American electoral system, especially since in the 2020 election more people will vote by mail than ever before.
“Even in the middle of a pandemic,” said Aunna Dennis, Director of Common Cause, in her statement. “Perhaps especially in the middle of a pandemic — voters should be able to rely on the systems that select our elected officials.”