Unpacking Mail-In Ballots!


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Mail-in ballots can be mailed out at official drop-boxes or can be put back into the mail.

The upcoming 2020 Presidential Elections face a unique challenge never experienced before in US history: an international pandemic which has infected 6.61 million and killed 200 thousand of those. With these massive health risks, traditional voting at polling places across the nation is in question. Therefore, mail-in ballots are the best way to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a lack of safe access to in-person ballots and secure transport of mail.

The primary reason to shift to mail-in ballots for this election year is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes voting in person dangerous for public health. Envision a polling booth: long lines of voters touching the same few items and guided by the same few volunteers. This setup is extremely dangerous, since according to the CDC, COVID-19 can linger in the air via water droplets for over 6 minutes. Droplets can also linger for even longer on flat surfaces, potentially even up to 24 hours, and the larger the crowd the higher the risk of transmission. An estimated 138 million Americans voted in 2016, and if the virus is transmittable 1% of the time even with proper face coverings and social distancing, there would still be 1.38 million more Americans infected, and from that, roughly 40 thousand deaths. This number would be unacceptable and therefore changes need to be made to the voting system. 

Contrary to the belief of some, mail-in ballots are extremely secure. Many have the idea that these ballots could be hijacked by foreign influences or miscounted to benefit one political party over another, but this is simply not true. According to the Brennan Center for Justice in 2017, voter fraud is extremely rare (0.00004%-0.00009%), showing that the chances of a miscount or political hacking for one party is very low. Five states (Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii) already use mail-in ballots extensively, showing that there are very safe ways to implement it. These states claim they already have the infrastructure to stop foreign countries from intercepting ballots and their infrastructure can easily be used as a blueprint for mail-in ballots across the country. In addition, some cases of voter fraud are actually occurring because President Trump and other public figures who do not believe in the system are encouraging double voting, and those who are doing it are currently being prosecuted.

Perhaps the biggest argument against mail-in ballots is shifting the election back until COVID-19 passes. However, this is simply infeasible if the US wants to remain a democracy with smooth transfers of power at regular intervals. According to the Atlantic, the Chief Science Officer of Operation Warp Speed (President Trump’s push for a vaccine) says a vaccine will not be ready by November and distribution may take until summer of next year. This means that any voting that occurs in person before the summer of next year will trigger similar consequences to voting now. The US should not be delaying its elections almost 8 months because of baseless accusations of voter fraud. Therefore, mail-in ballots are the only safe option.

With a low risk of transmitting COVID-19, low chance of voter fraud, and a limited timeframe, mail-in ballots are the safest and most reliable option to get the presidential elections done by November. States across the US should follow the leads of Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii and implement this system not just for this year but for the future as well.