Mail-In Voting

Mail-in Voting: Its Effects on the 2020 Election and U.S. Citizens

Monica Mita, Fall 2020

Every 4 years in the United States of America there is a presidential election held which decides who will be the Nations’ president for the new term. There are controversies and differences in opinions every election period, but the 2020 election did not continue like it normally does. This year there is a global pandemic with the Covid-19 Virus. This virus is affecting not only in America but also in every country around the world. Covid 19 is a respiratory illness that is contagious and can be life-threatening, especially for individuals that have underlying medical conditions. 2020 has been a difficult year for many due to the virus and the dangers that many faces. The effect of the Covid-19 virus on both the individuals in the United States as well as the effect it had on the election will be an event in History. The 2020 election allowed mail-in ballots to be available to many across the country this election year depending on their state and the regulations that the state established because of Covid-19. The Covid-19 guidelines limited the number of people in an area and maintaining the social distancing, this made for a smaller turnout for in-person voting because many mailed in their ballots. With the mail-in voting throughout the country, there has been an increase in the number of people that actually voted. [1] The act of mail-in voting has been around for years but was not as easily accessible as it has been in the 2020 election.

Mail-in voting in the 2020 election period has been more accessible and opened to so many others. Prior to this year’s election, mail-in voting was available in all states but had different rules. The states either required an excuse, did not require an excuse, or did all mail.[2] Mail-in voting started during the Civil War. [3] During the Civil War and continued today it is called absentee voting, soldiers were given the opportunity to cast their votes from their battlefield units and have them sent home to be counted for them.[4] Absentee voting is an aspect of the countries voting system that is still in place today, this allows many if not in the country at the time to be able to send in their votes if they meet the requirements. Some states adopted the concept of mail-in ballots prior to the Covid 19 pandemic, such as Oregon which has mail in as well as points where the ballots can be dropped off.[5] In Oregon there has not been any in-person voting in the state since 1998 because of the mail in and drop off locations, this state has found the mail-in and the drop off locations to be beneficial for many in its community as well as effective for the government itself. The year of 2020 has been a rough year for many not only in the United States but all over the world. Mail-in and absentee voting was not common in the United States prior to 2020 because there were more regulations and requirements that the individuals had to meet as well as it was not offered in every state. Mail-in voting was adopted by every state and available to every citizen this year because of the Covid 19 virus that has been impacting the world drastically. Prior to the 2020 election mail-in voting was not a common thing in the United States because many of the states did not allow it or had other requirements that needed to be met to be allowed to participate in mail-in voting.[6] In the 2016 election, there were 24.9% of Americans participated in absentee or mail-in voting.[7] Compared to this year’s 2020 election there has been a total of 50.3% votes cast by mail-in voting or absentee voting. 8] This is record-breaking for the United States not only because there were so many mails in votes but also because the number of individuals that voted in general increased drastically.

In each state, there was a different protocol and set of regulations for the mail in and absentee voting, but this was available to all citizens.[9] Massachusetts was one of the more lenient yet timely states when it came to the mail-in ballots. Massachusetts did not require any excuse to use mail-in voting but allowed ballets to come in up to three days if they were postmarked by the day of the election.[10] Compared to other states like Maryland which allowed the ballots up to 10 days after the election as long as they were postmarked by election day, each state followed their own guidelines but became more accessible for the citizens.[11] The different states all processed their votes in a timely manner while allowing the citizens within each state to get their votes and have it count. Many were worried about their mail-in ballots, so they brought their ballots in with them when they went to vote in person, this was not only because of the mail system but also the idea of being targeted by the different political parties within the nation.

There were many fears and opinions that went along with the postal system being able to keep the delays at a minimum and making sure all the ballots could be counted. There were States that allowed mail-in Ballots up to 10 days after the election but others that only allowed three days. The states with the shorter amounts of days had many that feared that their votes would not have been counted.[12] This was the case for both the Primary and the election itself. This fear continued to be a trend throughout many of the states because of the fear of postal service delay. There was fear and worry in the minds of many during this election period and the voting process definitely was one of the reasons for this worry.

In the United States, there were targeted attacks on the mail-in ballots because of the votes that they could or could not have been for. The 2020 election has been very controversial and caused many disagreements within the United States. The main cause for these disagreements was because of the two that was campaigning for president, Biden, and Trump. These two individuals had very different thoughts on Covid 19 as well as on other different aspects of running America. With these two vastly different individuals running for president came the citizens the support each individual. There are many individuals that have strong feelings for and against the ones that were running for president. With these strong opinions came controversy as well as disagreements. This resulted in ballots being ruined. For example, in Massachusetts there was a mailbox that was burned, this caused many ballots to become unreadable because of the fire and their votes could not be counted.[13] The mailbox in Boston catching fire was not the only one in the United States that this happened to. There was also a similar case in California that also had many ballots that could not be counted because they were damaged.[14] With the ballots being burned there were many that wanted to just save as many votes as they could because it was an act of arson. In California, it was found that an individual deliberately placed a burning piece of newspaper in the mailbox in Los Angeles, which burned at least 100 ballots at that time.[15] The vandalism of the ballots caused many to be worried and scared that their votes would not be counted, this resulted in many going in to vote in-person to guarantee that their votes counted. Along with going in on the election day, many citizens across the United States participated in early voting which was done prior to election day. With the different types of voting that could be done, there was a smaller amount of people in one area at once which helped prevent the spread of Covid 19.

There have been many questions that come with the mail-in voting. Some questions are will my vote actually be counted and is there an increase in voter fraud. There are many worries that come with the mail system and the fraud that they can lead to, but with research, it is shown that the fraud is not as common as many think it is.[16] The fraud that many think of when it comes to voting is not as frequent as many think, the fraud that is worried about is far and few in between. Many think of individuals that take another person’s identity to vote or the ballots being burned like what happened in California and Massachusetts, but during this extremely sensitive and impacting election there were only two attacks against the mail-in ballots as well as more monitoring when it came to who voted and showing who is alive or dead so voting to could as accurate is possible.

The 2020 presidential campaign and the election are events that are considered monumental in the history of the United States because of the impact that Covid-19 had on them. Covid-19 did not just impact the individuals that ran in the election but Covid also had a major impact on the way many citizens felt and voted this year. Covid has impacted the voting but the mail-in voting system has adapted to what obstacles stood in the way. The mail-in voting has changed and developed since the civil war but had adapted to meet the needs of the citizens within the United States. Individuals all over the world that are citizens of the United States can send their votes in so that they can have their votes be counted.

Notes

[1] Drew DeSilver, “Mail-in Voting Became Much More Common in 2020 Primaries as COVID-19 Spread,” Pew Research Center (Pew Research Center, October 13, 2020), https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/10/13/mail-in-voting-became-much-more-common-in-2020-primaries-as-covid-19-spread/.

[2] “Voting by Mail and Absentee Voting,” Voting by mail and absentee voting | MIT Election Lab, accessed November 1, 2020, https://electionlab.mit.edu/research/voting-mail-and-absentee-voting.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Drew DeSilver, “Mail-in Voting Became Much More Common in 2020 Primaries as COVID-19 Spread,” Pew Research Center (Pew Research Center, October 13, 2020), https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/10/13/mail-in-voting-became-much-more-common-in-2020-primaries-as-covid-19-spread/.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Absentee and Early Voting,” accessed November 1, 2020, https://www.usa.gov/absentee-voting.

[10] Mandy Zoch Brian Hinkle, Absentee and Mail Voting Policies in Effect for the 2020 Election, accessed November 1, 2020, https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/absentee-and-mail-voting-policies-in-effect-for-the-2020-election.as8fdrhÿqpx.

[11] Ibid.

[12] “Fear Your Absentee Vote Won’t Count? Election Official Says No Need To Worry If Instructions Are Followed.,” WPLN News – Nashville Public Radio, July 30, 2020, https://wpln.org/post/fear-your-absentee-vote-wont-count-election-official-says-no-need-to-worry-if-instructions-are-followed/.

[13] Kathryn Sotnik, “Mailbox Burned Near Site of Ballot Box Fire in Boston,” NBC Boston (NBC10 Boston, October 26, 2020), https://www.nbcboston.com/news/local/mailbox-burned-near-site-of-ballot-box-fire-in-boston/2218847/.

[14] Katie Shepherd, “A California Ballot Drop Box Was Set Ablaze. Authorities Are Now Investigating the Incident as a Suspected Arson Attack.,” The Washington Post (WP Company, October 20, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/10/20/california-ballot-box-arson/.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Hans von Spakovsky, “More Examples of Election Fraud Prove the Left Is in Denial About It,” The Heritage Foundation, accessed November 1, 2020, https://www.heritage.org/election-integrity/commentary/more-examples-election-fraud-prove-the-left-denial-about-it.

Further Reading

Kevin Schaul, Kate Rabinowitz. “2020 Turnout Is the Highest in over a Century.” The Washington Post. WP Company, November 12, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/elections/voter-turnout/.

Mary Spicuzza, Alison Dirr. “As Recount Continues, Group Sues to Stop Wisconsin from Certifying Its Results and 386 Unopened Absentee Ballots Are Found.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 25, 2020. https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/11/24/nearly-400-unopened-absentee-ballots-milwaukees-south-side-found-during-recount/6408071002/.

Worcester State University Fall 2020