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Q: Should States Increase the Use of Mail-In Voting in the 2020 Election?

yes

“Mail-in voting is not only a right to US citizens, but a fundamental aspect of our democracy in that it facilitates voting to members of our society who struggle with mobility, transportation, or health complications. The option has existed before COVID-19, and to repeal or restrict it before a historical election may skew the votes by determining our nations leader off of a small percentile that had the ability to vote in person. Of course, with any form of ballot, there is the real and possible concern for fraud. Reconciling fraudulence with election freedoms is also an old issue portrayed in a new light during this time period; however, with the technology available to us and the US government I believe that there can be a series of checks and balances put in place to not only recognize and count the most possible votes but do so in accordance with identity confirmation and other fraudulence checks. Politicians against mail-in voting argue that there can be no way to do this or ensure the safety of the ballot; however, other equally or more important documents such as ID, driver’s license, or birth certificates have been allowed and encouraged to be sent via mail to government agencies in lieu of visiting their respective offices with little to no public backlash. The problem then is not with the integrity of the USPS or the agencies consulted to process ballots, but instead with the voters and their choices themselves. The truth is that mail-in and absentee ballots are the best possible answer to the COVID-19 crisis. It offers the option to vote to the most remote citizens who would struggle with voting even without the pandemic.”

Molly from Kentucky

no

“Not long ago, there was a unilateral consensus that mail-in voting was a poorly constructed system that needed further development before it was fully implemented. All of that changed — as is true for many other areas of public life — with COVID-19. The notion of a mostly or totally remote election where no one has to stand next to each other is a pleasant one during a global pandemic. In reality, however, such a system would present a nightmarish slew of managerial difficulties that easily outweigh its benefits. Firstly: late ballots. In a host of state primaries these past several months — most notably Virginia and Arkansas — thousands of ballots have arrived late, some only just missing the cut-off. These ballots were subsequently “thrown out” [1]. Undoubtedly, the ballots were sent in by people who would have been able to utilize the gifts of democracy had the other options been presented to them. Solely because they were unable to follow the strict procedural protocol of mail-in voting, Americans — some through no fault of their own — were stripped of their voice. The same will happen on the national level if mail-in voting is embraced this November. More devastatingly, voter fraud has also plagued the mail-in system. Earlier this month, the state of Michigan had to discount over 10,000 absentee ballots which they received for the election [2]. This alone is disconcerting, but the fact that 846 of the discarded ballots were rejected “because the voter was dead” is downright disgraceful. As several news outlets correctly identified, this is an example of the system doing its job; corrupt individuals acting as deceased people were not allowed to vote. However, it does make you consider how much fraud is going undetected. Despite claims to the alternative, voter fraud is indeed a problem in America generally [3] and with the mail-in system specifically. The Heritage Foundation identifies 4 different elections that were “stolen” due to the vulnerabilities of mail-in voting [4] and a recent local election in New Jersey is heatedly contested due to similar concerns [5]. The latter situation is so precarious that a complete redo has been issued. The very possibility of this occurring on the national scale ought to be avoided at all costs. Encouraging remote voting would also be a low-blow at the integrity of our electoral system. Generally, the people have the ultimate power to decide on the next president. The votes are cast by the citizenry and counted under rigorously-enforced standards. With mail-in voting, this is not the case. When absentee voting is employed, the post office and its immediate affiliates have the final say. I certainly do not trust the USPS to superintend an election as I barely trust them to deliver packages on time! Additionally, absentee ballots are cast outside the supervision of electoral monitors and officials. This opens the door to theft, coercion, and even more controversially: “ballot harvesting,” wherein operatives are paid to collect the absentee ballots from voters. Worse still, Congress — led by a questionably-motivated Speaker Nancy Pelosi — is currently making an effort to compromise the states’ ability to regulate their own electoral process, including a mandate that ballot harvesting be allowed [6]. The final problem presented by mail-in voting is one that is unique to this specific referendum. The upcoming election is assuredly going to be heated, and neither Donald Trump nor the DNC would go down quietly in the event that they lost. With a system as unrehearsed and unproven as absentee voting is, both parties are given leeway to dispute the results providing that they are not to their liking. A good rule in life is to keep the stakes low on the first several attempts; when you’re learning to walk on a tightrope, you start near the ground. The first time we try something, it generally should not be on the big stage. That is precisely the scenario that an increase in mail-in voting would create: it would thrust an inexperienced and flawed system onto the biggest stage of all. As for voter turnout, it is undoubtedly true that more people would vote if they were presented with additional options to do so. If we let people vote by email or text, then everyone would cast a ballot. But this misses the point. In the electoral process, security, accountability, and integrity must take precedence over ease-of-access. One day, the flaws of mail-in voting may well be smoothed over, in which case it should be adopted. In the mean-time, we should not elevate it to a position that it is presently unable to assume. Ultimately, I find no compelling reason to believe that states should actively incentivize or encourage mail-in voting. The system would isolate a considerable percentage of people from their inherent right to vote, it would motivate fraudulent behavior, it would upset the rightful distribution of the voting power, and it would almost certainly cost significantly more [7] to boot. Because of the resultant procedural difficulties, dishonest activity, and logistical dilemmas, mail-in voting is unready for such a momentous and fateful election. Some states have effectively utilized it in the past and that is worthy of applause, but in the states that have yet to do so, now is not the time to start. Individuals should certainly be allowed to vote by mail as they have been previously [8] — particularly those who are at risk from COVID-19 — but states should not proactively increase or incentivize the process. Doing so would create more problems than it would solve. CITATIONS [1] https://www.npr.org/2020/07/13/889751095/signed-sealed-undelivered-thousands-of-mail-in-ballots-rejected-for-tardiness [2] https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2020/08/14/secretary-state-benson-6400-michigan-absentee-ballots-rejected-late-arrival/5584613002/ [3] https://www.heritage.org/election-integrity/commentary/database-swells-1285-proven-cases-voter-fraud-america [4] https://www.heritage.org/election-integrity/report/four-stolen-elections-the-vulnerabilities-absentee-and-mail-ballots [5] https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-mail-voting-redo-in-new-jersey-11598050780 [6] https://www.wsj.com/articles/beware-the-fall-ballot-harvest-11592607662 [7] https://fortune.com/2020/07/20/2020-election-mail-in-voting-ballot-postage-stamp/ [8] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/10/21/for-many-americans-election-day-is-already-here/”

Patrick from Massachusetts

Think the Vote helps you to understand controversial topics and current events. Thinking through your vote is more than showing up on Election Day and picking the person that you like the best—it’s showing an interest in the world and the issues that surround you every day.

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– President John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961