Congress must deliver states the resources to allow voting by mail
Some warnings are only obvious after the event. The 2008 financial crisis is in this category. Other warnings get in your face and dare you to ignore them. “We will have the coronavirus in the fall,” stated Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at the White House earlier this month. There you have it. The second wave of the pandemic is coming, just as it has in South Korea and Singapore.
The unspoken but invariable corollary to this prognostication by Fauci is that the pandemic will disrupt our election in November. Americans were rightly concerned that the election this year would be marred by foreign interference and misinformation campaigns, but the larger threat to the integrity of this process will now come from the coronavirus.
Any campaign rallies, knocking on doors, national party conventions, and voting this fall are all headed for mass confusion, if not outright calamity. One need only review the shambolic Wisconsin primary for a preview. As protectors of the oldest constitutional democracy, prudence dictates that Americans demand the government now take all necessary precautions to protect the right of every citizen to vote. The pandemic means that each of us must now be concerned not only with the level of preparedness in our own states, but with the level of preparedness in all states.
Ohio should care about how Florida conducts its election. Arizona should worry about the ability of Michigan to provide residents with the ability to vote either in person, by mail, or with a no excuse absentee ballot. Public confidence in the outcome of the election, and therefore acceptance that the results are a true and accurate expression of the will of the people, is entirely dependent on our collective perception that each state conducts its election in a fair, safe, secure, and competent manner.
The irony in the debate over mail voting and absentee ballots is that these methods will happen regardless. It does not matter much which party will benefit, as it will be a wash, when tens of millions of Americans are going to vote by mail anyway. Since 1992, mail voting and absentee voting has grown steadily across the nation. Before the pandemic, about one in four people in the country had voted by mail or absentee ballot.
So with the likelihood of a second wave of the coronavirus, the number of voters wishing to exercise their right from the safety of their kitchen table is likely to grow exponentially. Americans are rightly worried that we will probably not have a vaccine by November, and that it may not be safe to go to their local polling places in person. They are rightly worried that the chaos they saw in the Wisconsin primary will result in their having to wait for hours at too few polling places, staffed with too few election workers, and all while standing too close to their friends and neighbors.
States need resources today to ensure that more Americans can vote by mail or by absentee ballot this fall. This should not be controversial since 70 percent of voters agree with taking this approach. Some Republican governors are embracing expanded mail voting or no excuse absentee ballot programs despite vocal opposition by President Trump.
Congress must continue to help states prepare for the election. So in the next stimulus package, lawmakers need to complete the funding process to give states the resources they need to hold an election that is fair, safe, and accepted. We have been warned. Now is the time to act.
Chris Gagin is an attorney and adviser to Republicans for the Rule of Law.
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