As streets empty and cities close down due to the coronavirus pandemic, the United States has been left with a democratic dilemma in regards to the 2020 election. Uncertainty and claims of unsafe in-person voting capabilities by infectious disease experts across the country fill daily newscasts. As a result, many constituents fear for their voting rights and their health.
Flaws in the absentee voting system have already come to fruition in Wisconsin, where thousands of Americans waited in line at polling places despite health risks. Many Wisconsin voters did not receive absentee ballots despite a surplus, and thousands of votes were left uncounted due to being postmarked after deadlines, reports the New York Times. This forced even regularly registered absentee voters to become poll voters, as they never received ballots. Seven COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin have been tied to the Election Day lines.
However, Republicans and Democrats are engaged in a fierce battle regarding vote by mail measures. Republicans argue that creating vote by mail legislature invites voter fraud and would give more support to a generally disenfranchised Democratic base, and therefore hurt Republican chances across the electoral ticket. President Trump stated on Twitter that enacting measures to guarantee absentee voting would ensure that “[…] no Republican is ever elected again!”
On the other end, Democrats are pointing towards the worldwide health crisis as cause to implement more absentee voting measures. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempted to include vote by mail legislation within coronavirus relief legislation, but the resolution was blocked by Republican lawmakers and the CARES act passed without voting accommodations.
The CDC recommends that voters abstain from hitting the polls in November as a health precaution and in order to stop the spread of the virus. However, during April primaries, many across the country may still be forced to wait in line to cast their ballot.
As of now, many states have already implemented a vote by mail policy. California residents can visit the Secretary of State’s website for clear instructions on how to apply for an absentee voter ballot — although they must first be registered to vote.
Despite health concerns, mentions of voter fraud, and other issues inhibiting the presence of people at the polls, there is no sign of the election dates in November being postponed to a later date. Even as the rest of the world grinds to a halt, politics and democracy will not wait for America to catch up. Only time will tell the overarching ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis for the American political system as well as the world at large.