Written by Randy Larsen
Few things are more important for a healthy democracy than elections. This November will be the first national election during a pandemic in more than 100 years. And please don’t think there won’t be a pandemic in November. Trust me. There will not be an effective vaccine in November, so there will be a pandemic. Therefore, the time to prepare is now—we can’t afford to kick this can down the road. But who do we look to provide us a safe and effective means of voting during a pandemic?
Today, many Americans are having difficulty looking past the next week’s challenges: the rent or mortgage payment, car payments, utility bills, credit card bills, food bills—particularly challenging for the 26 million who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
Our national, state and local government leaders are understandably focused on responding to the daily demands of pandemic response—providing the safest possible environment against the threats of an invisible enemy while also trying to build plans for restarting the economy and getting people back to work.
So who is responsible for ensuring we have a safe and effective means for conducting a national election during a deadly pandemic? You are–particularly if you live in one of the 17 states listed below.
This will not be the first election during a national crisis. We held national elections during the War of 1812, in 1864 during the Civil War, in 1918 during World War I and at the height of an influenza pandemic that killed 600,000 Americans.
The good news is that 33 of our states have the means to safely and effectively cast your votes in November—mail-in ballots.
Some people may prefer to don a mask or scarf and while maintaining social distancing protocol, vote the old fashion way. I have no objections to this, but it is a fact that most polling stations in America are manned by volunteers, many of whom are retirees—those folks who are at highest risk for COVID-19. I think 2020 will be a good year for mail-in ballots.
It is always best to check your state’s website, but this is what my research discovered:
- Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Utah are classified as “all-mail” states. In the 2018 election, 90 percent of voters from these states used the mail-in option. This year, Hawaii joins this group of all-mail states. In the all-mail states, registered voters are automatically mailed a ballot.
- In 28 states, mail-in ballots are available to all registered voters who request them. These are known as “no fault” states. No reason has to be given for requesting an absentee ballot.
- In 17 states, a reason is required for absentee voting. Age, disability, military service and students attending college out-of-state are typical exemptions for voting in-person, but it appears that no determination has yet been made in these states regarding a “pandemic exemption”.
- Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia
If you live in one of the 28 “no fault” states, you should apply for an absentee ballot.
If you live in one of the 17 states that require a reason for absentee voting, you should reach out to your state elected officials to encourage them to get absentee voting requirements sorted out before the issue gets tied up in the courts.
Bottomline: you are the one responsible for making sure your vote is counted. Start working on getting your mail-in ballot now, so you won’t have to go to a polling station in November–an American tradition that will likely become a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
State election officials–now is the time for you to get busy ensuring vote-by-mail will be a secure system for America in 2020. This is a national security issue of highest priority.