by Nicole Silverio ’22
With the 2020 presidential election less than two months away, the nominees are preparing to enter the final stages of their campaigns. Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Republican nominee President Donald Trump have both officially selected their running mates; Biden will be on the ballot with California Senator Kamala Harris, and Trump will be on the ballot once again with Vice President Mike Pence.
Although Election Day is on Nov. 4, early and mail-in voting are available options in many states. Early voting begins as early as September in several states, including Minnesota, South Dakota, Illinois, and Michigan. Many other states open for early voting in October. In addition to early voting, the majority of Americans are eligible to vote by mail.
To vote by mail, the United States Postal Service (USPS) recommends that voters request their ballots by Oct. 19 in order to ensure that they are delivered on time. Some states, however, have earlier deadlines for voters to request their ballots (including Rhode Island, which has a deadline of Oct. 13). Specific deadlines and guidelines for early and mail-in voting for individual states can be found online at states’ websites or at Vote.org.
There has been some national discourse on the validity of mail-in voting. President Trump has raised concerns about the security of the process, tweeting: “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” (July 30) and “There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone…” (May 26).
Despite these concerns, the evidence seems to show that mail-in voting does not tend to lead to or allow for more fraud. The USPS and several other independent organizations, including the New York Times, NPR, and the Associated Press, have released findings stating that mail-in voting is largely safe, secure, and valid. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, states with the highest rates of mail-in voting report low rates of voter fraud. Judd Choate, director of elections in the Colorado Department of State, says, “There’s just very little evidence that there is more than a handful of fraudulent (vote-by-mail) cases across the country in a given election cycle.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the voting process for many Americans. With widespread uncertainty on the safety of in-person voting due to the pandemic, the demand for safe and secure early and mail-in voting is far higher than it has been in previous elections. While submitting votes might be more complicated this year, the country has still made voting accessible to all people regardless of the circumstances, giving all Americans the ability to vote this upcoming November.
Voters should request mail-in ballots by Oct. 19 to ensure timely delivery. Photo courtesy of kunr.org.