How We Vote Could Make You Sick, And We Shouldn't Accept That
Voting is a right; This shouldn’t be a controversial statement but it is. The struggle to ensure that every adult United States citizen has the right to vote has been going on since the founding of our country. Right now, our right to vote is threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic and by apathy in some state legislatures.
I am an intern for an organization called "The People.” We are proudly nonpartisan with members from all walks of life and different backgrounds. To quote our website, "The People are everyday Americans working to find common ground and take action to create a more responsive government of, by, and for the people.
The People’s Voting Rights Committee is engaging in an effort to make sure every American can vote safely and securely from home this November. As the COVID-19 pandemic is once again surging in all too many states, this is a critical effort and we are glad to be working with many other national and state organizations.
This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. This is an issue of the integrity of our democratic republic, public safety and fairness. The failures of the Wisconsin primary have clearly shown that in-person voting puts health and lives at risk.
Studies have shown that vote-by-mail programs do not favor either political party over the other (The Neutral Partisan Effects of Vote-by-Mail: Evidence from County-Level Roll-Outs). Our state and federal elected leaders need to make sure every American can safely and securely vote this November and expanding voting my mail is the proven way to get there.
In Texas you need to meet one of these criteria in order to vote-by-mail in the general election:
- be 65 years or older;
- be disabled;
- be out of the county on election day and during the period for early voting by personal appearance; or
- be confined in jail, but otherwise eligible.
The Texas mail ballot restrictions are unnecessarily restrictive in the best of times. During the pandemic, they are downright dangerous, as we saw in the primary runoff this week. Even for those who currently qualify for vote-by-mail,, the Texas runoff elections were marred by confusion about how to access an absentee ballot.
In addition, the ballot application itself has unclear wording. Many voters were unsure whether they successfully applied to get a ballot in the runoff election or if they had accidentally applied to vote in an upcoming election. At the poll sites, many poll workers left because they felt unsafe when others working the polls refused to wear masks. Texas needs to expand vote-by-mail, fix its accessibility issues, and ensure better safety standards at the polls.
Joining Texas in the absentee ballot restrictions club are Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. While five states (Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) have been using full vote by mail programs for years, many other states have modified their processes in the primary period to make voting from home easier and more accessible, including New York, Kentucky, and Alabama.
Last week, Massachusetts became the first of these states to act to make vote-by-mail accessible to all voters in November. Unless other states follow suit soon, voters will be forced to choose between the health of their persons and the health of our democracy. Among the most vulnerable will be minority voters who are more likely to experience the most severe symptoms of Covid-19. We must join together to protect everyone in our communities.
The People has launched the S.A.F.E. Challenge (Secure and Fair Elections). The S.A.F.E. Challenge is twofold. It calls on our elected officials to make sure all Americans can vote safely from home. It is also a pledge to each other as Americans to come together, put party loyalty aside, and work state by state to fix our democratic Republic. Join us and sign the S.A.F.E. Challenge today.
Let's make sure every voter can participate fully, securely, and safely. Surely, in 2020 no American should be forced to choose between their health and exercising their right to vote.