For 40 some years, I have gone to the polls.
Initially, I voted only once a year, because I was registered non-partisan and thus was only permitted to vote in November’s general elections. Finally, after much hemming and hawing, I picked a party and registered with it, simply because I became aware that it was important to select from the slate of candidates running in the spring primary elections.
However, in all the decades that I have trudged to the polls, it never occurred to me that my vote might be sidelined or worse, thrown out. I mean, this is the United States of America — home of the free; land of the brave; the worlds’ leading democracy. (Well, technically, democratic-republic.) This was the nation that guaranteed its citizens the right to vote and, more importantly, ensured that each one’s vote would be counted. Right! So, no worries! Well, until this summer when the integrity of our election process was questioned. Some folks worried that the pandemic would increase the demand for mail-in ballots.
Since most states have limited experience with mail-in votes, that could pose a challenge.
There are five exceptions:
Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington all conduct what are known as all-mail elections. -Ballotpedia.
The other 45 states lack experience in dealing with mail-in ballots and have no practice in solving any glitches that might arise, thus, it seems like the fall election might face some difficulties. States that offered mail-in voting options this spring had a preview of what problems might arise and gained some insight into how to remedy those problems.
While lack of experience may slow the process, most issues can be handled.
However, last month The U.S. Postal Service announced that it might not be up to the job. Under the new Postmaster General, the USPS was facing restructuring which could interfere with its normal capabilities.
Fortunately, the new Postmaster General has halted the restructuring until after the general election.
Considering that the USPS handles billions of pieces of mail and packages every December — you know, all those letters addressed to Santa — it is likely that the service is up to the task.
Timing, however, may be an issue. Demanding that mail-in ballots that are postmarked on election day — Nov. 3 — arrive no more than three days later at county courthouses is unreasonable. Yes, the USPS is in the habit of delivering mail in a maximum of a three-day period, even cross country, but the election is a special situation where the arrival of each ballot is more critical than adhering to a time frame based on postmarked dates.
What is the all-fired rush? Besides, county election officials will require — even in the most efficient systems — some time to verify and to count provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are a safeguard to ensure that eligible voters who requested mail-in ballots but did not receive the ballots or who voted and mailed them in but cannot track whether the ballot arrived at the courthouse still have the opportunity to submit their vote. To guarantee that a mail-in ballot and a provisional ballot are not both counted, provisional ballots will only be counted after it is evident that the mail-in ballot was lost or destroyed.
Despite suggestions that mail-in voting is fraught with fraud, nothing indicates that voter fraud is an issue. Actually, given our usual rate of voter participation, it appears that it is difficult enough to get folks out to the polls once, much less get them to vote twice. Besides, in most states, voting more than once in an election is a felony.
Yes, this election may be more of a challenge than most of our nation’s past elections. Consider that this election has drawn more voter interest than most of our past ones. Also, consider that our nation is in the grip of a pandemic — and likely still will be on Nov. 3 — which means more folks will choose to vote by mail. Even with fewer people going to the polls, in-person voting may take longer since quarantine protocols increase the time required to accomplish most tasks. Thus, longer lines, longer waits!
All things considered, this does not seem a practical time to be in a rush for a final count.
Michael Waldman, of New York University Law School, told Chuck Todd, that we probably “...won’t have an 11 p.m. election result on the East coast. That doesn’t mean there’s a problem. It just means we’re being careful.” -Meet the Press, Sept. 6.
Again, I ask, what’s the hurry?
Just because we have become accustomed to minute-by-minute election coverage and to instant feedback and to projected winner predictions does not mean that we’re entitled to such speed, especially if the speed puts our election process in jeopardy.
As Waldman pointed out, “There should be access to mail-in voting to everybody who wants to do it. There should be early voting opportunities and safe in-person opportunities.”
Actually, the entire point of this electoral process is to ensure each eligible voter can cast his/her ballot without arduous effort. Plus, each voter needs to be assured that her/his vote is counted.
If we fail to guarantee voting rights and the integrity of the votes, we hazard putting this great nation in danger. We jeopardize this democratic-republic form of government.
Yet again, I ask, what’s the rush?
After all, the Electoral College members from each state do not even meet to cast their ballots until Dec. 14.
Now, at that point, the Electoral College representatives need to know the results of the presidential race in their states. Most Electoral College members pledge to vote for their state’s winner — the candidate who took the most votes. Occasionally, in some states that allow Electoral College representatives to cast the vote of their own choice, a member chooses to vote for the loser.
Assume that election results still aren’t ready by December 14, then given the fact that this election year is unusual and faced with its own set of difficulties, one would presume that an emergency extension could be arranged. After all, the Electoral College’s tabulation is not presented to Congress until Jan. 6, when Congress does its own recount. Also, the swearing-in of the winner does not take place until January 20.
Not to harp, but, what’s the rush?
We need to make certain every eligible voter does vote and that her/his vote counts.
Indeed, I was concerned that my vote might get lost; that I might be unable to track it. (I am not computer savvy, so that’s a possibility.) Then, if I ended up voting in-person — which I hope not to do — that my in-person ballot — which would have to be a provisional one — would, for some peculiar reason, go missing. Right, I tend to be a bit of a worrier. OK, that’s understated.
Right before lunch, on Aug. 21, I emailed Angie Crouse. Crouse is Adams County Director of Elections and Voters Registration. I asked about the status of my and my spouse’s mail-in ballot requests. Right after lunch, that same day, I received this email from her:
“Yes, you will receive a ballot for the November Election. We do not have a ballot yet. They should be mailed out by the end of September.”
Impressive response time, and talk about easing my voting worries!
There is no doubt that most states need to upgrade and modernize their entire election systems and equipment.
Indeed, it is possible that some of us — more likely some who are responsible for collecting and counting ballots — will face some complexities in this year’s election. However, together, we can handle those difficulties.
We do not think of ourselves as a nation that runs from challenges. Besides, officials like Angie Crouse and her office are definitely up to the task. Doubtless there are more election officials who are as committed to ensuring the validity of our elections.
Reminder: Submit your ballot request to your local election office as soon as possible. Please do not wait, although, the deadline to request a ballot by mail is Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Once you have your ballot, fill it out. Remember to sign it; then, mail it as early as possible.