Mail handling is critical during the pandemic
Have you picked up your mail lately? Did you wear gloves? Did you set it aside for a few hours so it could self-decontaminate, or did you wipe it down?
Handling our mail is among the little things in our regular routines that get more attention in these days of the Covid-19 pandemic. That virus could be anywhere, lying in wait to lethally ambush us.
Vote-by-Mail comes under attack
The virus outbreak was not the concern of Trump when he recently expressed worry over voting by mail. Mail fraud and its vulnerability for voting fraud were his chief concern. Wendy Weiser and Harold Ekeh of the Brennan Center for Justice noted Trump’s False Narrative of Vote-by-Mail Fraud claim:
I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting … Mail in voting is a terrible thing. … I think if you vote, you should go.
The Brennan Center for Justice responded:
Trump’s claims are wrong, and if used to prevent states from taking the steps needed to ensure public safety during November’s election, they will be deadly wrong. Mail ballot fraud is incredibly rare, and legitimate security concerns can be easily addressed.
Michael Steele, former RNC Chairman, co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Times, saying “Conservatives need to get behind vote-by-mail options for the 2020 election”:
The current emergency demands expanded use of vote-by-mail, [and that] … democracy depends on it.
Wisconsin should consider vote-by-mail
Our mail and its relation to voting came into sharp focus last week in Wisconsin when the state’s Republican lawmakers insisted on an election while the pandemic raged across the country. The New York TimesEditorial Board commented on how Wisconsin Voters Faced an Impossible Choice. They noted:
The state’s Republican leadership insisted on holding an election in the middle of a pandemic and a statewide stay-at-home order, knowing that the dilemma it posed would hit minorities and other Democratic-leaning voters hardest.
Some lessons were learned through the experience, one of which was reported by Chris Khan in Reuters:
[A] poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday found that 72% of all U.S. adults, including 79% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans, supported a requirement for mail-in ballots as a way to protect voters in case of a continued spread of the respiratory disease later this year.
The Brennan Center for Justice added:
voting by mail is safe and secure, and enjoys bipartisan support across the country. In five states, including deep-red Utah, voters cast all or nearly all ballots by mail. In 28 other [states], including most of those considered swing states in the presidential contest, voters can request an absentee ballot for any reason.
Mail services are under attack
It seems strange that when global leaders, political and scientific, are scrambling to find solutions for how best to cope with the virus pandemic, that our mail services are seen as a risk. According to the Federal News Network, as reported by Jory Heckman, our national postal service volume is down by a third and may lose $13 billion in lost revenue. The financial losses are one concern. A willingness to cast the service aside is another.
The New York Times Editorial Board addressed the essential services of the Post Office, saying:
In the new world of social distancing, mail-in and absentee voting are crucial to ensuring that Americans do not have to risk their lives to cast their votes. If the Postal Service collapses, it will take with it the infrastructure needed for millions of Americans to participate in the most fundamental act of self-government. … Lawmakers know that voters cherish mail service.
Vote-by-Mail serves us best
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recently reported on the nation’s vote-by-mail program:
Five states currently conduct all elections entirely by mail: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah. At least 21 other states have laws that allow certain smaller elections, such as school board contests, to be conducted by mail. … all registered voters receive a ballot in the mail. The voter marks the ballot, puts it in a secrecy envelope or sleeve and then into a separate mailing envelope, signs an affidavit on the exterior of the mailing envelope, and returns the package via mail or by dropping it off.
One of the goals we should all strive for is voter inclusiveness, simplicity, and safety – both for the voter and for ballot security. Pat Dooris, reporting for KGW8 of Portland, Oregon, tells us that Oregon Governor Kate Brown thinks other states should make the switch [to vote-by-mail]. Brown says:
It’s very secure, it’s very cost-effective, and it’s extremely accessible to our voters. It’s one of the reasons we have one of the highest voter turnouts in the entire country. Because folks like to vote from their kitchen tables. It’s very, very accessible.
Contrary to Trump’s insistence, vote-by-mail has been shown to be a safe and convenient way to vote. Additionally, the process encourages voter turnout, especially desirable when social contact is now limited.
We put a lot of trust in the mail. It connects us. Whether the concern is to stay in touch with each other or being able to vote in the safety of our own homes, the mail delivers on its promise. Let’s keep it that way.
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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team