What the 2020 Election Could Look Like
By: Ethan Mathieu
Voting is integral to any Democratic system. It allows the government to reset and ensure that it is representative of the people that it seeks to manage. It holds legislators and bureaucrats accountable for the decisions they make; it's what differentiates us from an authoritarian state. But with COVID-19 spreading through the US, killing thousands each day, with little sign of stopping by November, an integral institution to our republic is under threat. Cancelling elections sets a dangerous precedent. It is often the first step on the road to dictatorship. That’s why the national presidential election has never been cancelled, despite events like the 1918 Pandemic and a civil war. The safety of the American people, however, remains paramount. Is it possible to maintain our Democratic legacy while keeping our population safe? Yes, but we need to act quickly.
Firstly, let’s address the elephant in the room. Voting in person is theoretically possible, but would have to be in extremely limited capacity. State governments should advertise it as an option for those who really need it, like people who rely on same-day voter registration. In addition, the government should expand the early in-person voting process to ensure that large groups are less likely to form. If the aforementioned was to happen, precincts should limit the amount of people that are allowed inside the building at any given time while others wait in their car or offsite, 6 feet apart. In-person voting, in a situation like this, is not ideal, but is a necessity to confirm the viability of our democratic process by making sure everyone can participate.
The real focus for states, though, should be mail-in ballots. They are the safest and most efficient means of voting during this pandemic. The individual in question can fill it in from their home and would need no direct contact with people as they submit it, since they would simply place it in their mailbox. There would be a larger window of time for voters to submit as well; weeks instead of 1 day.
However, there are concerns that mail-in ballots could cause mass voter fraud. While, yes, it is possible to simply take someone’s ballot out of their mailbox and change their vote, this would have to be done at a large, almost impossible scale to affect the overall election. Furthermore, states can employ tactics like sealed envelopes and vote tracking. The envelope that someone would submit their vote with would come with a seal; if that seal is broken, which someone would have to do in order to change the vote, the ballot is set aside. The voter would receive a notification on their phone or computer as to the issue and they could easily re-vote. Voting by mail is safe and our only wide- scale option.
The pandemic requires us to remain sheltered, but it should not threaten this fundamental aspect of the American republic, especially when there are safe ways to carry it out.