Voting by mail should be an option for every election, in every state and in every situation — not just when a potential risk of crowding into a Vote Center on Election Day is exposing yourself or others to COVID-19.
Prior to the 2020 presidential election, mail-in voting wasn’t as simple as it was this year. In fact, before the plethora of updates made regarding absentee ballots due to the pandemic, states were divided into three major categories when it came to voting by mail.
First, there were states that allowed mail-in voting without requiring an excuse. In these states, voters could request an absentee ballot and didn’t have to provide any reasoning for why they would not be voting in person on Election Day.
Second, there were other states that only allowed mail-in voting if an excuse could be provided. Excuses varied from state to state, but they included being absent from the state on Election Day, having an illness or disability or being over a certain age.
The third section was mail-in only, in which registered voters were only sent absentee ballots and do not vote in person. The only reason they would have to make a request was if they needed the ballot to be sent to a different address.
This year, several states made changes to the way they handled mail-in voting in order to keep abiding by proper safety regulations brought about by the pandemic. These changes led to more voters having the ability to request absentee ballots without having to give an excuse.
It has been extremely convenient to have more easily accessible mail-in voting this year, and this is an option that should be available for everyone regardless of location, health status or age. It may have taken a pandemic to allow more voters to utilize absentee ballots, but this option shouldn’t have to die out when COVID-19 does.
There are definitely concerns raised by those who oppose mail-in ballots, and those concerns range from an increased chance of voter fraud to absentee ballots tipping the scales in favor of one political party over the other.
However in a study done by Stanford, the main effect of offering no excuse mail-in voting is simply an increase in Americans voting, with no party benefiting more than the other. In a nation where people strive for ease of living and the ability to do more while exerting ourselves less, mail-in voting is a huge benefit. Anything that encourages eligible voters to vote will, undeniably, increase voter turnout.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit America, everyone was caught off guard and countless changes were suddenly made in order to keep systems running. If we let mail-in voting be a universal, normalized option, we won’t have to go through this struggle again if something as large-scale as a pandemic were to happen again.
Our nation would have a higher voter engagement if we let voters participate from the comfort of their own homes. If we made voting by mail a universal option, those who are at-risk, have busy work schedules and multiple jobs or just your average everyday American can have the freedom and ease to take part in something as essential and necessary as voting.