Cover: USPS in Tulsa, United States
You’ve Got (Vote By) Mail: As the 2020 general election inches closer, serious consideration is being given to what voting will look like on Tuesday, November 3—especially if there is a second wave of coronavirus infections. Calls have increased to broaden voter access by expanding vote-by-mail or absentee ballots. Unsurprisingly, the issue is pretty clear-cut in terms of party line divisions and ideology. For a quick example of how this is playing out, look no further than the Golden State. On May 8, the Democratic Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, signed an executive order that mandated every California voter be sent a mail-in-ballot. The Republican National Committee (RNC), National Republican Congressional Committee, and California Republican Party have subsequently sued to block the order from being carried out. Here’s how the debate is playing out across the country:
On the Left: Democrats and left-leaning outlets are vocally advocating to allow voters to submit their ballots by mail this fall. Many believe President Trump and the Republican Party are attempting to suppress voter access because they think it will benefit their reelection chances. Fred Wertheimer, the founder and president of Democracy 21, challenges the Republican assertion that mail-in-votes would lead to widespread double-dealing. He states that both red and blues states have carried out the practice before with no statistically significant cases of voter fraud. Wertheimer also points out that preventing mail-in-votes would require voters to choose between their civic duty and their lives (again, if there is a second wave.) Chris Cillizza of CNN adds that “Trump himself had voted absentee—by mail!—in the Florida primary last month [and that] Trump also voted absentee in New York in the 2018 election.” In summary, Democrats view the President’s actions as hypocritical and part of a larger plan to suppress voter turnout for political gain.
On the Right: Conservatives’ primary argument against vote-by-mail is that the method inherently lends itself to large-scale fraud, and it will unjustly favor the Democratic Party. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has explicitly stated that these are political maneuvers by Democrats seeking to manipulate the electoral process. She says, “Democrats continue to use this pandemic as a ploy to implement their partisan election agenda.” On multiple occasions and in different ways, Trump has also argued that these measures would ensure a Republican could never be elected again. The Editorial Board at the Wall Street Journal adds that broadening mail-in-voting would be a procedural nightmare, especially in the case of a close election. They explain that absentee ballots are often thrown out because of missing or mismatched signatures, which creates serious questions about “ballot security and democratic legitimacy.” It bears noting that some conservative figures do not appear to accept the claims of “fraud.” Christopher Wallace, at Fox News, maintains “there really is no record of massive fraud or even serious fraud from mail-in voting. It’s being carried out in Republican [and] Democratic states, there’s no indication that [it] favors one party over another.”
Flag This: One argument against mail-in voting maintains that, “In federal elections, there should not be 50 different standards. There should be one. If it is good enough for New York it should be good enough for Florida and vice versa.” It’s interesting to note that this logic is reversed for reopening certain segments of the national economy. Meaning Florida should be allowed to reopen before New York if coronavirus infection rates are lower. Are the two topics connected? Not directly, but we probably wouldn’t have seen the second one play out had there not been a global pandemic. Therefore, is the vote-by-mail debate only resurfacing because of the Covid-19 outbreak? And is it a way for Democrats to stage a power-grab as Republicans claim? Or has the passionate push back by the RNC intensified because they feel like the President’s chance for reelection has dwindled in light of his response to the virus, as Democrats allege. Zooming out, this is another topic that has been thrown into the brewing cauldron of culture wars. As always, we try to lay out thoughts from both sides, but any real progress and understanding will be made through genuine talks between you and someone you disagree with. If you do happen to entertain one of these uncomfortable conversations rather than listen to Sean Hannity or Don Lemon, let us know how it goes.