On Tuesday, November 3rd, Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s campaigns will come to a close when the votes are counted for the presidential election. On this day, votes will be sealed, and voters will be able to use their voice. But how? With concerns about contracting the Covid-19 virus, the polls are looking a little different this year. Many people are opting to use mail-in ballots while others are sticking to the polls, as skepticism over the mail-in ballot's reliability rises.
In Pennsylvania, the deadline to register to vote, October 19, 2020, is quickly approaching. Whether it is by mail, or in person, eligible voters must register soon because the outcome of this election will greatly influence not just four years ahead of us, but our long-term future.
A very popular method for voting this year is mail-in ballots. Mail-in ballots have always been used, and in the 2016 election, nearly 25% of all votes cast were by mail-in ballots. Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington have always used the universal mail-in balloting system, and this year California, Vermont, Nevada, and New Jersey have joined. With this method, every voter is sent a ballot by mail. However, in most states, you must apply for an absentee ballot (mail-in ballots include absentee ballots). Usually, many states require an excuse for receiving an absentee ballot, however this year there is a “no excuse” policy. This allows voters who do not feel comfortable going to the polls to vote and avoid crowded areas.
Mail-in ballots have been criticized for their reliability even though absentee balloting has many precautions in place to prevent any fraud. Requiring the voter's signature on the outside of the envelope, having election authorities check the address it came from and only giving mail-in ballots to registered voters are just some of the steps that are taken to ensure each vote is accurate. Fraud, stealing and impersonating someone is a criminal act, and if a criminal is caught, they could face jail time. Mail-in ballots are delivered directly to election authorities and remain sealed until they are counted on election day. This method should greatly increase voter turnout, but republicans fear it gives them a disadvantage. Many lower-class democrats do not have access to transportation, or simply don’t have the time to get to the polls to vote. Mail-in ballots make voting simple, and possible, for democrats of the lower-class. In the 2016 election, only 55.4% of eligible voters actually cast a vote. The 2020 election is predicted to have a much larger turnout, and the more people vote, the tighter the race could be. Mail-in ballots are a reliable form of voting and the perfect option for voters who wish to distance themselves from the polls.
The other form of voting is going to the polls. Because of social distancing and being aware of the dangers of being in public, the polls are expected to attract fewer voters than normal. Polling places are taking many precautions for people who do come in, such as social distancing lines and signs to keep people spread out. This could create the appearance of long lines, which may scare people away. For the 2020 election, there is a shortage of poll workers because many people do not want to put themselves at risk for catching the coronavirus. This will lead to slower counting of ballots. While not the safest option, in most states the polls will be open and waiting for people to vote how they traditionally would.
The coronavirus has put a strain on many activities. For the upcoming election, voters have two options, in-person voting, or mail-in ballots. While mail-in ballots may be safer for public health, many voters fear they may not be a reliable way to get their vote in. This election will determine who leads our country for the next four years, and the results will affect every single person living in the United States. Before it's too late, register to vote to make your voice heard. Whether it's at the polls or in the mail, stay safe and cast your vote.
Register to vote at https://www.vote.org/state/pennsylvania/.
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