The pandemic will not, barring some miracle, be gone by November when it’s time to head to the ballot box. But even if it were, American households have taken a serious social and financial blow that would prevent many from being willing or able to go out and vote. Suddenly, many Americans don’t want to go out and risk getting sick among large groups of people. Suddenly, too many Americans have lost their houses, cars, jobs, and daycare. Suddenly, for many Americans, voting has become a bottom-level priority, and it’s hard to blame them.
It’s an especially grim reality when you consider the obvious — the next election is a chance to resuscitate our faltering government. But, of course, there’s an obvious solution to the impending voting fallout. This last Friday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order requiring all California counties to send voters ballots by mail.
Normally, I would harp on about why every state needs to send every voter a ballot by mail because that’s what needs to happen. But today, I want to focus on the arguments Republicans will barrage the media with when, inevitably, other governors, Democrat or Republican, propose or sign executive orders requiring ballots to be sent by mail. In Newsom’s case, the few remaining Republican legislators in California criticized his move as usurping the legislature’s power. This would certainly be one of the Republican party lines in any state.
And so would the tired argument about voter fraud. Republicans like to justify their draconian voter-ID laws and other similar laws by claiming, wrongly, that voter fraud is rampant and that it undermines democracy. Of course, voter-ID laws have a near laser-focused effect on poor communities, in particular poor communities of color—people who tend to vote for Democrats. But of course, the only notable voter fraud case in recent history benefitted, and possibly won the election for, you guessed it, a Republican.
Yet another argument Republicans would spout in opposition to universal mail ballots would be that it would be too expensive, and that right now should be a time of austerity given the massive stimulus they just passed. But of course, this argument is also beside the point. In fact, I’m more than willing to admit that it isn’t cheap. Here’s an article all about how voting by mail isn’t fast, cheap or even all that easy to implement. And you know what? None of that matters. The Trump government handed massive tax cuts to the ultra-wealthy and big corporations, given farmers bailouts that were necessary because of stupid and stubborn foreign policy, and handled the pandemic response horrendously. Why should we rabbit-ear our pockets now that it’s time to spend some money on what is unquestionably the heartbeat of our democracy?
If you’re reading this, I know I probably don’t need to convince you that everybody should be able to vote by mail, but it’s important that we call and write to our politicians and make ourselves clear: we needto vote by mail. We need to keep democracy going.