The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon- at least in the US. And that means that health experts and voting officials alike are gearing up for a second wave in the fall.
The 2020 primary elections ended amid the pandemic’s first wave, so both political and non-partisan groups have been searching for voting solutions that prevent the spread of the Coronavirus while preserving the integrity of democratic elections.
Increased Numbers of Absentee Voters
So far, the answer to this problem seems to be absentee voting. Experts predict that many people–perhaps most people–will vote by mail in the upcoming presidential election.
For example, in the state of Georgia, more people registered to vote by mail during the June primaries than ever before. And because more people vote in presidential elections than primary elections, the demand for mail-in voting is only going to increase.
Problems with Current Absentee Voting Procedures
Currently, every state in America has some form of absentee voting procedure. However, every state’s election rules are different and many are still trying to decide how to handle voting in November.
But right now, some states have more complicated and burdensome regulations than others when it comes to mail-in ballots. For instance, nearly every battleground state including Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida, offer voters “no-excuse absentee voting.” This means they don’t need to provide proof of a credible disability or illness as an excuse to vote through mail.
However, some regulations, like requiring a witness’ signature on the ballot or that the ballot be received by Election Day, preclude some people from easily participating. For instance, those who live alone are not likely to be able to find a witness willing to sign their ballot during a global pandemic. These regulations have the potential to lead to mass disenfranchisement during the election.
What This Means For Elections
Led by President Trump, many Republicans are against increasing the availability of main-in ballots. They argue, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, that mail-in voting increases the likelihood of voting fraud. However, studies have shown that mail-in ballots can actually reduce the likelihood of voter fraud.
Increase Voter Participation with Direct Mail
Along with being more secure, mail-in voting also increases democratic participation. Experts predict that groups who have traditionally been disenfranchised, including young people, senior citizens, low-income people, minorities, and those without easy access to transportation, will be more likely to participate if mail-in voting is allowed.
You can encourage your voters to participate in mail-in voting with an informational postcard sent through direct mail. Many people simply don’t know how to request a mail-in ballot, or are confused about the changing rules surrounding mail voting. Send out a postcard to your voters to keep them informed and remind them of your stance of the issues that matter to them.
For those campaigning during 2020, the switch to mail-in ballots may be yet another challenge to face in this unprecedented election season. In order to maximize supporters’ voting turn-out during a pandemic, those campaigning should seek to educate their constituency on both the benefits and the regulations of mail-in voting. Every state has different laws and procedures, so make sure to visit your state or local election office website for more details.