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Amid coronavirus concerns, political leaders from both sides of the aisle are weighing their states’ options for mail-in voting for the 2020 presidential elections. Advocates for mail-in voting argue that it will be impossible to practice social distancing when voting in person, and thus to protect public health, mail-in-voting is a necessity. This is mostly a politically driven ploy.
Mail-in voting is vulnerable. Case in point: I live in Maryland. I received my mail-in ballot and a ballot for the previous owners. There’s a big warning on the form threatening a $1,000 fine and up to two years in prison. Do you think that’s stopped anyone that wants to mail in a ballot that wasn’t theirs?
Fraud, missing ballots, and accuracy are just some of the problems that result from mail-in voting. As Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh stated, “Sending everyone a ballot opens up wide possibilities for ballots to be intercepted, for ballots to be stolen from mailboxes, or for vote harvesting to occur.” Voting in person minimizes the risks of individuals getting their hands on ballots belonging to others. The only way to avoid this dilemma is to vote in person, where poll workers can verify voters’ identities and reserve mail-in-voting such as absentee voting for specific circumstances and with a careful process.
The negatives that come with mass-scale mail-in voting vastly outweighs almost all possible positives. In just the last four presidential elections alone, more than 28 million mail-in ballots went missing. This means 28 million American’s voices were not heard. These votes can be the very thing that makes or breaks an election. Data collected from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission showed that millions of mail ballots were never counted as completed votes. These unaccounted ballots can be the margin between candidates that change the entire result of an election, which is exactly what a 2016 commission report proved. The report revealed that more mail ballots were either lost or sent to the wrong addresses than the margin of votes between then-candidate Hillary Clinton and now-President Donald Trump.
What we need to be doing is working on solutions that will make in-person voting possible in a way that voters safely practice social distancing. Why aren’t we discussing options such as expanding the number of voting locations so we can limit the number of voters at each location? For example, polling locations can expand their hours and designate specific time slots for the elderly and vulnerable. If we are able to stand in lines outside the bank or grocery store and wait patiently for our turn, then we can do the same to vote. We need to start working on these logistics now instead of looking for loopholes that would make mail-in voting the norm for future elections.
Let’s follow the example of DeKalb County, Georgia. Instead of looking for ways to expand mail-in voting, DeKalb County officials are working on solutions to make in-person voting safe. Officials say they are “following [Center for Disease Control] and state guidelines regarding gathering sizes and social distancing in early voting. They’ll also be sanitizing voting machines and pens on an "hourly basis.”
If we are able to practice social distancing at the grocery store, then we can stand in line — six feet apart, of course — to vote in person. The integrity of our representative democracy hinges on it.