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What do early voting and vote-by-mail controversies mean for democracy in the US? Show more Show less
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Record numbers of Americans have cast their vote early before election day on 3rd November in person and by mail. Long queues outside polling stations and fears of voter fraud are the subject of great controversy. What do these controversies tell us about the state of democracy in the US?

More people casting early and postal votes strengthens democracy in the US Show more Show less

Expanding early and postal voting opportunities enables Covid-secure voting. And ensures those unable to attend a polling station on election day are not excluded from the electoral process. Giving voters more control over how they vote means more Americans can vote, strengthening democracy in the US.
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Allowing more people to cast early votes or vote-by-mail is a good way to make voting Covid-secure

Public health concerns over social distancing in polling stations led to new forms of voting. The expansion of early and postal votes limits the impact of the pandemic on people's ability to participate in democracy.
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The Argument

With in-person voting presenting a risk to Covid-19 transmission, many states opted to expand mail-in and early voting. The spread of Covid-19 led to 16 Democracy Primaries being postponed or changed to vote-by-mail with the deadline extended.[1] It was therefore crucial for states to take steps to ensure that the presidential election could go ahead smoothly, without any voter being deterred from voting as a result of fear of infection. The option to cast an early vote in person is also an effective measure to reduce the chance of Covid-19 transmission, as spreading voting over a longer period means voters are less likely to come into close contact with each other. Voting-by-mail is Covid-secure, and in this election only five states require a legitimate reason to vote-by-mail; in all others votes-by-mail are issued automatically or are available to all registered voters who request one.[2] As a result, it is estimated that 80 million postal votes will be cast ahead of 3rd November, more than double the number in 2016.[3] Vote-by-mail records are being broken at the state level too, with Texas breaking the state’s record for the most ballots cast on the first day of early voting.[4] In Florida, before in-person early voting began, 2.5 million votes had been cast by mail and in Georgia, voting-by-mail has increased by 648% from 2016.[5] The expansion of early in-person voting and voting-by-mail has been hugely successful in enabling levels of democratic engagement that were threatened by Covid-19.

Counter arguments

Whilst voting-by-mail has been successful in avoiding Covid-19 transmission risks, the popularity of early voting in person has not done this. Reports of long queues to cast early votes in person present similar (or only slightly lessened) Covid-19 transmission risks as regular voting on election day would. The long queues are also disproportionately affecting certain social groups, and so concerns of voter suppression and deterrence have been raised.

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/article/2020-campaign-primary-calendar-coronavirus.html
  2. https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2020/politics/mail-in-voting/
  3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-53809955
  4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-us-2020-54572790
  5. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/10/19/politics/early-voting-what-we-know/index.html
This page was last edited on Sunday, 25 Oct 2020 at 15:24 UTC

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