Mail-in Voting: We’ve Done It Before

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Sarah Miller, Writer

The Presidential Election of 2020 has been widely anticipated since the announcement of results from the previous election held in 2016. However, the voting procedure for this year’s election looks a little bit different than what normally ensues during the months leading up to the election itself. With the still rampant coronavirus pandemic present in the United States, all 50 states are offering options for mail-in or absentee voting. It is important to note that many states in the U.S. used some form of mail-in voting or distribution of ballots through the mail prior to the outbreak of the Covid-19.

Mail-in voting has a long history in the U.S. including several waves of laws regarding policies for absentee voting, permittance of mail-in voting, and integrity of systems used to pursue those voting options. According to the MIT Election Lab, in 1980 California became the first state to not require an excuse to request a mail-in ballot. By 2018, 26 more states had adopted those same policies. Some states, such as Oregon, Washington, and Colorado even went as far as to issue all of their ballots by mail. Voters then had the option to return their ballots either by mail or using dropboxes and local election offices. 

Despite our nation’s history using reliable forms of absentee voting, there is a great deal of discourse surrounding policies for mail-in voting this election.

According to a recent Pew Research study, a large portion of that discourse and anxiety is regarding certain state’s demands for an excuse to request a mail-in ballot, with concerns for coronavirus safety not being an eligible excuse. An interesting correlation is shown between Biden voters and Trump voters levels of concern for this election process is shown repeatedly in studies. The most concerned party appears to be Biden voters in states where it is hardest to vote by mail, as it is shown that Biden voters are much more likely to want to vote by mail. Approximately 39% of Biden voters expect voting to be easy this year, while 64% of Trump voters expect the same. The numbers show an even more apparent preference when you look at Trump voters who specifically define themselves as “very conservative” with only 11% of said voters planning on voting by mail.

According to NPR, here are the voting deadlines for Alabama:

Needless to say, there is a great deal of interest in if mail-in voting will preserve the integrity of the election and if in-person voting is endangering citizens during uncertain times.