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Voting and Absentee Ballots

Voting and Absentee Ballots

The application, the ballot, the primary, the election

One of our inalienable rights is the right to vote.  Voting in local or national elections is the right that separates us from dictatorships and other authoritarian regimes.

As we are living through this terrible pandemic, voting has become a major issue.  In Wisconsin during the recent primary, the state supreme court mandated that a normal election be carried out in March, despite the pandemic.  This clearly disenfranchised voters, and ultimately became a public health concern, as voters lined up for hours to cast their ballots.  As primaries and elections across the country roll on, do does controversy surrounding absentee ballots and applications.  

When Jocelyn Benson was elected in 2018 as Michigan’s Secretary of State, her goal was to increase voter turnout. Recently, she stated that local clerks will be issuing absentee ballot applications to every eligible voter in the state.  This means that if you want to vote, you must fill out the form and request an actual ballot for the upcoming primary in August, and for the general election in November.  It does not automatically mean that you can vote - it is an application.  Many other states are doing this as well, including those with both Republican and Democratic leadership.  It should not be a matter of politics, but sadly, it is becoming a hot button political issue.

One of the biggest concerns of the upcoming election is poll worker shortages.  Now more than ever, it is essential to encourage and inspire family, friends, and anyone who is able to work at the polls this year so as to not put older citizens at risk.  In general, fewer people 61 and older are signing up to be a poll worker this year, but when election day comes, those who have signed up may change their mind at the las second if theydeem the crowded environment unsafe.  In Michigan, Jocelyn Benson's 'Democracy MVP' campaign aims at engaging healthy and adept election workers to assist the process of absentee ballots and other tasks. In accordance with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), enticements such as increasing poll worker pay or splitting shifts may also help recruit more poll workers.  

Our history is filled with many instances of voter suppression.  Pole taxes and literacy tests are two prime examples of those in power trying to disenfranchise minorities, or those who they disagreed with.

Many countries have national holidays on election day, or hold national elections over multiple days. The U.S. has never had the voter turnout that many other democracies around the world have. According to the Pew Research Center, in the 2016 election, the 55.7% voting-age participation (VAP) put the U.S. behind most of its peers in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), most of whose members are highly developed, democratic states.  The U.S. placed 26th out of 32 countries.

As we live through this pandemic, many people are isolated, unable, and unwilling to go to the polls.  The elderly, those that are ill, medical health care workers, police and firefighters, and all essential employees, will have access to an absentee ballot, without any questions being asked. According to Pew Research, older Americans traditionally turn out to vote at higher rates than younger adults.  In the 2016 presidential election, roughly a quarter of voters (27%) were ages 65 and older. Additionally, 56% of all poll workers were 61 and older; some data suggests the number was in fact much higher than this. In the 2018 general election, 31% of the poll workers were age 61-70, and 27% were age 71 and over.

College students who may be voting for the first time, and do not know where they will be living in the fall, will be able to vote by absentee ballot without providing a reason. This year especially, it is vital to push young citizens to head to the polls because they are not considered high risk for the Coronavirus. 

Arguing that more absentee ballots will lead to election fraud is unfounded. In this tumultuous time, making absentee ballots more available is a workable and healthy solution, and should be welcomed by everyone, no matter what your political party or affiliation.  In the upcoming 2020 November election, we may still be social distancing, and we do not want to disenfranchise anyone.

The right to vote is one of our most precious rights as citizens in a democracy. It should be encouraged and not discouraged. To learn more about absentee voting throughout the country, visit the U.S. government site on absentee and early voting.

Share your thoughts and comments with us about this voting issue, we look forward to hearing from you.

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