BY: SIDONIA CANNON STAFF WRITER
“Every society, all government, and every kind of civil compact therefore, is or ought to be, calculated for the general good and safety of the community.” – George Mason
Take the words of our founding father and namesake to heart. In the wake of the recent coronavirus outbreak, safety is of the utmost importance; however, it shouldn’t have to be sacrificed for the sake of democracy. The U.S. is faced with a new challenge: ensuring the health of the public while maintaining voter participation. Mail-in voting is the best way to balance health and democracy.
In addition to the obvious public health benefits, voting by mail is a much more relaxed process — which, in a time of high stress, is warmly welcomed. Waiting in long lines and rushing to fill out a ballot in a stuffy church basement can’t hold a candle to voting in your dining room while sipping a cool glass of sweet tea. Also, practicing your civic duty at home gives you the opportunity to research and think over candidates on the spot. The only thing better than a voter is an informed voter.
Some worry, though, about mail-in voting’s potential problems: lack of infrastructure and voter fraud. Mail-in voting is not a novel idea. In fact, five states already do so: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington. They’ve already paved the way for the rest of the country to follow suit.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan have called for the expansion of absentee ballots and all-mail voting for upcoming elections. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill into law last Sunday which allows citizens to vote absentee without providing an excuse.
Additionally, Congress is working to expand the nation’s absentee ballot systems. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ron Wyden recently introduced the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020 to Congress. The act ensures 20 days of early in-person voting and no-excuse absentee vote-by-mail in addition to funding for the associated costs.
While governments are preparing for mail-in elections, some still worry about ballot security. After the North Carolina 2018 fiasco, when the election results were overturned by the state after an investigation into absentee ballot fraud, it’s understandable why many have grown wary of absentee ballots. However, this type of fraud is highly uncommon.
“Election fraud committed with absentee ballots is more prevalent than in person voting but it is still rare,” said Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. Additionally, a News21 database shows that between 2000 and 2012 there were only 491 reported prosecutions of absentee ballot fraud out of the billions of votes cast.
Despite these worries, Americans are strongly in favor of mail-in voting. In fact, a 2020 Reuters/Ipsos poll found that the majority of Americans support mail-in voting in order to curb further spread of COVID-19.
Additionally, the Virginia Department of Elections is encouraging residents to vote by mail to “protect their health during [the] COVID-19 outbreak.” Find the link to apply for an absentee ballot here.
In a time of uncertainty, we Americans must heed the warnings of health officials and stay at home while still exercising our right to vote. We are civically engaged Patriots, whether we are casting our vote at the polls or from the safety of our homes. So, know that by doing your part to keep the community safe and democracy alive, George Mason would be proud.