In some of America’s darkest moments, our right to vote has been one thing that remains constant. Even during the Civil War, when hundreds of thousands of Americans were dying, we held the 1864 election, reelecting Abraham Lincoln. Now as we face a new war, this time against a deadly virus, Americans should still be able to exercise their right to vote. Unfortunately, there are already signs that this election may be more difficult to carry out — not because we are incapable, but because some people may not want to hold a fair, safe election.
To set things straight, I understand the difficulties of voting as the coronavirus continues to spread. Under CDC guidelines, Americans should only be leaving their homes for necessities or for their jobs. So, how are they supposed to vote? Universal vote-by-mail is the most realistic solution. It would prevent us from having to choose between carrying out our cherished right to vote and risking our own or our family’s health.
Oregon, Washington, Utah and Colorado all have some form of universal vote-by-mail. So, yes, any state, blue or red, can accomplish it.
Especially in times like these, where Americans’ health is at risk, everyone should be able to agree that voting by mail would allow everyone to vote while also keeping them safe. Yet, somehow, many politicians are against voting by mail because they’re scared it would affect their reelection. Astonishingly, Wisconsin is holding a critical Supreme Court election, along with their Democratic primary, today — with almost no efforts to increase voting by mail.
After weeks of uncertainty surrounding the safety or carrying out an election in-person, Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, cancelled in-person voting on Election Day, instead moving the deadline for (mailed) absentee ballots to April 13, as opposed to the previous April 7 deadline. The Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Assembly disagreed, arguing the election should still be held in-person. So, they argued to the Wisconsin Supreme Court that the election must be held in-person on April 7 and the deadline for mail votes moved back to April 7. The United States Supreme Court agreed, reinforcing the April 7 voting deadline and allowing in-person voting, in a 5-4 vote.
Regardless of this confusion, as I speak, thousands of Wisconsinites are lining up in long lines to cast their votes. Milwaukee, which usually has 180 polling stations, now has 5. They expect 10,000 people to vote at each of those polling stations. How can we trust our own government to care about the health of its citizens when it requires risking infection to cast a ballot?
The thousands of Wisconsinites who requested an absentee ballot but never received one are out of luck. They can either vote in person or face getting infected — even though they requested mail ballots before the deadline.
We are lucky in Florida, where our elections were held earlier in the year. We also have a more robust vote-by-mail system. In fact, in 2016, 22.2% of Florida voters voted by mail. Now, we just need to expand that system, and do so in other states, as well.
Florida’s next primary election is August 18, where voters will vote in primaries for non-presidential primaries and school board. To request a vote-by-mail ballot, Call the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections or visit SarasotaVotes.com.