Most Americans still go to their local polling stations to cast their votes on Election Day. However, the current COVID-19 pandemic has led to concerns for voters' health and safety.
As a result, many states are looking to expand their mail-in voting for this year's elections as officials feel that voters should not have to choose between their health and exercising their right to vote.
While all states already provide absentee ballots on request, the rules are different from state to state. About 1/3 of states will only provide an absentee ballot to voters if they meet certain requirements. For example, Texas only allows applicants who are disabled or applicants who will be traveling during Election Day as well as during the early voting period. Other states do not require a reason from applicants, and a small number of states will automatically send ballots to all registered voters.
Both Michigan and Wisconsin recently announced that they will be sending ballot applications to all registered voters, in an effort to make it easier for them to request absentee ballots.
However, mail-in voting has become the subject of fierce political debate between the Republican and Democratic parties, much of it driven by President Trump. Let's take a look at their arguments.
Case Against Mail-in Voting
President Trump believes that mail-in voting will provide an advantage to the Democrats while harming the Republican party.
Other Republicans have also expressed this concern, although there is no evidence to support it. This claim is based on the belief that since mail-in voting is easier than going to the polls, more people will turn out to vote, and the momentum will shift to the Democratic Party.
President Trump also believes that voting by mail will increase voter fraud, even though election fraud in the US is extremely rare. He falsely accused people of stealing ballots, printing illegal ones, and forging signatures, ignoring the fact that many states validate the lawfulness of signatures on the ballot with digital records.
Problem With The Argument
It is unclear whether mail-in voting gives either political party an advantage. Even though many Republicans believe that the system would benefit Democrats, who tend to push for maximizing voter turnout, it is possible that the Republicans may see some benefit as well.
White voters are more likely to support mail-in voting as compared to Black and Latino voters, which are important groups for the Democratic Party. Also, young people, who generally side with the Democrats, are less likely to have a steady address for the ballots to be mailed to, making it harder for them to vote.
While President Trump and many Republicans claim that the system is susceptible to fraud, Democrats argue that mail-in ballots are safer for the public during the pandemic. Without the option, groups that are more vulnerable to the virus will be less driven to vote.
While the pandemic might be driving this move to mail-in voting for 2020, it will likely be a long-term change in how Americans prefer to vote.
Sources: CNN, NYTimes, Reuters, AJC, NBC, ncsl.org