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Mail-in ballots for the presidential election raise concerns

by Juliana Walter

COVID-19 has changed almost every part of life as we know it. One of the most highly debated issues now is determining whether the 2020 Presidential primaries and election should all be switched to mail-in ballots.

In the midst of dealing with the issues involved with enforcing social distancing, temporarily closing businesses, and providing adequate healthcare during this pandemic, the U.S. faces another issue of how to continue voting for both primaries and the upcoming election in November. Almost every state that had primaries scheduled after Sunday, March 15 are continually pushing back in-person voting or even cancelling them completely in favor of mail-in ballots.

Mail-in ballots bring up many issues like voter fraud, voter security, and delays in results. Although most states postponed their primaries in order to give themselves time to come up with an adequate plan, most states’ primaries have officially been switched to mail-in ballots.

States like Ohio, who’s original Tuesday, March 17 primary was postponed, opted for an absentee-only election due by Tuesday, April 28. Ohio’s law also maintained that all registered voters must have the opportunity to vote. The state allowed a limited number of in-person voting centers for the homeless, disabled, and those who did not receive their in-mail ballot in time.

Wyoming and Alaska were the first two states to carry out mail-in voting for these primaries. For many states, (Maryland, D.C., Indiana, Delaware, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Dakota) ballots will be sent out in mid-May with a Tuesday, June 2 deadline.

But with the democratic nomination’s only option being Joe Biden, do the presidential primaries still need to happen? New York cancelled their Saturday, June 27 democratic presidential primaries completely after Bernie Sanders’ drop from the presidential race. According to The New York Times, officials from the New York State Democratic Party defended this decision.

“We shouldn’t have nonessential primaries. There is only one candidate who is running,” New York Democratic party chairman, Jay Jacobs said in response to The New York Times.

In order to avoid unnecessary contamination during a time of social distancing and complications with access to voting, all states should consider cancelling their presidential primaries. While Presidential primaries should be reconsidered, it is important that states with local elections during this voting period still create plans that allow this to be done effectively.

For the 2020 primary elections, which already in essence have their results, COVID-19 has complicated the voting system. But, local elections should still be held with contactless voting. Mail-in ballots at this point should only be appropriate for states with necessary local elections. Oregon, who has done mail-in ballots during elections for the past 20 years, has had time to perfect this system. Although states can learn from their strategies, quickly switching to this system causes many issues for the majority of Americans and states who have not voted in these elections yet.

The Democratic National Committee suggested a multitude of ways to carry out voting, one of these being curbside voting. This helps to limit contact with others while helping to relieve the issue of voter fraud.

Ultimately, our state governments should be concerned with our safety. With the presidential primaries already determined, New York State serves as a good example of understanding that the risk outweighs the importance of these elections. But as a democracy, we understand that elections to determine our leaders are vital to our nation. Voting to elect officials should always be in the forefront of our democracy, but primaries should not fall in this category. Without these complications for the primary elections, it will make it much smoother for officials to make plans for a remote 2020 Presidential election if the war against COVID-19 is not yet over in November.

Juliana Walter can be reached at juliana.walter@spartans.ut.edu

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