Voting: The mail-in dilemma

By Devyn Shea (TheLorian)

As the election approaches, many Americans are confused about the rhetoric behind mail-in voting. Many wonder what mail-in voting is and how it works. It seems like questions like these would have a simple answer, but sadly they don’t; the process is actually quite complex and, depending on the state, very confusing. Here, I intend to demystify the process of mail-in voting, the argument against it, and the argument for it.

Mail-in voting was introduced nation-wide in 1864. The U.S. was in the process of fighting the Civil War and Republican President Abraham Lincoln was being challenged by the former General of the Army (that Lincoln had fired years earlier) George B. McClellan. Many of the soldiers fighting on battlefields miles away from their homes had no way to vote. Because of this, a nationwide mail-in voting system was introduced. Mail-in voting has been used ever since, although mostly to a much lesser extent than we’ve seen in recent years. According to “National Geographic,” “33 million votes–almost one-quarter of the total–were cast by mail” in the 2016 Presidential Election. This is quite a large number and for this year it’s likely to be even bigger. The way mail-in voting works varies from state to state. According to “The New York Times”, in nine states (plus Washington D.C.), ballots are automatically mailed to registered voters. The first state to do this was Oregon in 1998. Most other states (34) can request an absentee ballot due to COVID-19 or for no reason at all. In 11 states, you need an additional reason to request an absentee or mail-in ballot.

The opposition to mail-in voting has been growing in strength as we approach the election which is now less than two months away. President Trump has called mail-in voting a “nightmare.” Those who argue against mail-in voting cite voter fraud as the reason they oppose this voting system. In one of his rallies last week in North Carolina, the President also cited a loophole in the mail-in process, telling voters to vote twice. Once by mail and again by person, which is a felony in many states. In Georgia, however, 1,000 people double voted in their state’s primary this year.

When it comes to the argument for mail-in voting, proponents state that voter fraud is not a problem and that it helps increase voter turnout. The first state to have an all-mail-in election was Oregon in 1998. In national elections from 1996 to 2000, voter turnout increased roughly 2%. In Oregon within the same time span, it increased from 71.3% to 79.8% (8.5%), according to the Oregon Secretary of State office. “The Washington Post” cited that out of 14.6 million votes in 2016 and 2018, 372 votes were found fraudulent. That is 0.0025%.

I will let you, the reader, decide if voting-by mail is right. I have just given the facts. If you wish to request a ballot, you should visit your state’s election website, check that you’re a registered voter, and follow your state’s instructions on how to request a mail-in ballot.

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