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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?

The realities of early and postal votes show the US democratic system is at breaking point Show more Show less

The realities of early and postal votes reveal the US democratic system to be in disarray. Many claim they lead to voter suppression and fraud. .
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Long queues outside early voting stations should not happen and are a form of voter suppression

Long queues outside early voting stations are evidence of a failure of planning, which disproportionately affects groups that have had to battle for their right to vote. Staff shortages and sparse early voting centres mean that for many, early voting is much harder than it should be.

The Argument

Organisers have known for months that this election will be held during a global pandemic, and they ought to have made early voting more accessible. Long lines have formed outside early polling stations around the country, and whilst some suggest this due to increased voter enthusiasm, issues of staff shortages, limited numbers of polling stations and technical problems are also significant contributors. In some places voters have had to queue for up to 11 hours - this cannot be put down to voter enthusiasm alone.[1] Long lines also disproportionately affect particular groups - an MIT survey found that in the 2016 election black voters on average had to queue for six minutes longer than their white counterparts.[2] Long queues also disproportionately impact working class Americans, who cannot always get time off work to vote and queue, and Native Americans, who may live hundreds of miles away from their nearest polling station. Fewer open polling stations also disproportionately affect those living in urban areas. In Ohio, for example, one rural county has approximately 97 times more early voting stations per voter than a more densely populated urban county.[3] Combined, the national picture is one where early voting is more challenging, particularly for those in densely populated or very rural areas. Voter groups at risk of voter suppression in the past are at even greater risk in this election.

Counter arguments

All Americans are having to make sacrifices during the pandemic, which affects everyone. Steps have been taken to try to ensure that all Americans can cast their vote safely and without putting staff at risk. Voter queues are unavoidable in a pandemic, but they are not a result of targeted voter suppression.

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-us-2020-54572790
  2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-us-2020-54240651
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/15/ohio-us-election-voter-suppression
This page was last edited on Friday, 23 Oct 2020 at 09:48 UTC

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