Election season is upon us. There was a time when we talked about “election day,” but now the process lasts a few weeks. We have absentee voting, early voting at the polls, and finally, voting on election day. Soon the first absentee ballots will be in the mail, so it’s important for every voter to be educated on the election process.
That statement sounds funny, considering in past elections, the process has only been to go to your precinct during the polling hours on election, cast your ballot and leave. However, this year, with a pandemic that’s likely to have a second peak in the fall and all the discussion and confusion in the media, it may take some extra thought before you cast your ballot.
First, I will try to keep this discussion as nonpartisan as possible. My concern is that every person, who is eligible to vote and wants to vote, has a way to easily cast a ballot. Our nation’s leaders should be chosen by a vote that reflects the wishes of the majority of voters. Anything that gets in the way of that goal is not good for our country. I would like to see a voter turnout at least in the 80th%ile range. We should strive to reach 100% turnout, but for practical reasons, that will never happen.
The last thing we should do is to discourage people from voting, either by adding difficulty to casting a ballot or by not providing enough voting sites or voting machines, so voters end up standing in line for hours.
Because of health concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, absentee ballots will be a large percentage of the vote. Mail voting can be done safely and efficiently, without fear of fraud. Balloting in several states has been by mail only for many years. We’ve also always had a large number of overseas service members, employees working abroad and people with health concerns who cannot make it to a polling place. Instances of fraud are few.
The only case of mail fraud I can recall reading about in recent times was in 2018 in a North Carolina congressional district. A person fraudulently convinced some voters with absentee ballots to turn them over to him for collection and delivery to election headquarters. Of course, they never made it. The ploy was caught and a bipartisan state election committee voided the results.
Just a few reminders I’d like to pass along to prospective voters:
Make sure you’re on the registration rolls. If you haven’t voted in several years, your name may have been stricken from the records.
If you plan to vote by mail, make sure you get your absentee ballot early and return it early, to avoid any mail delays.
I’m not sure about the law on this, but every county should provide several safe ballot drop boxes for absentee voters who may mistrust the mail and want to deliver their votes in person.
Instructions sent out with absentee ballots should indicate the exact amount of postage needed on the ballot envelope. As I recall from the last election when I voted by absentee ballot, the instructions only said to attach adequate postage, but didn’t give the exact amount. I had to inquire of the exact amount at the post office. However, many absentee voters may not be able to travel to the post office and they would like to drop their ballots off with their mail carriers.
I’m not sure what happens to a ballot received without adequate postage, but I fear it might not get counted.
One thing people of both major parties can agree on: This may be the most important election in our lifetimes, so it’s important that everybody who wants to vote gets counted.
Winston Jones is a former journalist living in Carrollton.