US elections, every 4 years is an important affair considering the country’s economic significance in global market. Choosing the right candidate is one of the important and rightful duty of any Citizen. This year this duty of theirs could be challenged by a couple of factors like the COVID and the uncertainties around the Mail-In Ballot Systems.
what is this Mail-In Ballot System?
The Constitution allows the right to vote before election day, if that is the only way people could cast their vote. So, for any reason, the US citizen is unable to vote on the election day, they could definitely request for an “Absentee Vote”, and mail to their local authorities with their vote sealed in a ‘Secured Envelope’.
Why are the republicans against the mail in ballot?
Let us get into the nitty-gritty of things.
With a total population of 331 million, the registered voters are around 153(as of 2019) million which constitutes only 50% of the population. Out of this, Senior population constitutes around 49.2 million; for most of them ‘Mail -In Ballot’ would have been an option all these years if not all. Now, it’s all about the 100 million people that is taken into account. Now the fear of the republicans is that they could lose their vote from Low-Income, young adults, senior citizens who would not bother to request for a ‘Mail In Ballot’.
In this Voting mechanism, there are three classifications. (a)All mail Voting (b)No excuse absentee voting and (c)Provide Excuse to request ‘Mail in Ballot’. Out of the 51 states, 16 states need to provide an excuse for a request of Main In ballot, 30 states fall under the “No Excuse” category and 5 states will receive the mail in ballots by default.
4 out of the 5 ‘default’ states, are currently democratic; and Republican being the majority in the other two categories already has one hurdle where people must try to apply for the ‘Absentee vote’. In such a situation not all the voters would try to request for a ‘Mail In ballot’ to their local authorities. This is a drawback for the republicans.Now, we can relate why there is a stir in the congress about the ‘Mai In ballot’ system.
What could go wrong in this system?
- Citizen would not even try to request for a ballot. They might not go out of their way and apply for an ‘Absentee vote’
- Time delay is a big hurdle, that too in this COVID situation logistics, postal department delays, staffing issues, salaries etc. all these would add to considerable delays.
- Missing/not-matching signatures. Voters could miss signing on the envelope which might result in rejection of the ballot. These issues were there even in the past elections
- Missing important identity information like license no. etc. and thus getting rejected.
- Shift in residence-A person who has shifted from Illinois to Georgia, would be able to vote in both the states if USPS dutifully forwards the ballot to the new residential address.
- Legal fights in Counting- Given the current situation a mis count of even one vote would affect the outcome. Neither of the parties would take this lightly which would delay the outcome significantly.
- A possible human error, the election officer misreading some information and rejecting the ballot.
- States like California could accept the mail ballots up to 17 days after the Election day. This might cause a delay in counting and could lead to a point where a clear winner could not be decided by Jan 2021 and the sitting president will have to leave the office by that time. There could be a point that there is no presiding leader for the nation.
- No. of people needed for counting the ballots- Though the counting by itself is through a scanner, the process of removing the sealed vote from the envelope; re-arranging the ballots so it is properly scanned; all these needs human intervention. If Mail in ballots are being considered for the safety of the voters due to COVID, the safety of these people who count the ballots also matters.
What Can be done?
- The system needs a retrospect. Why are there disparities for the ‘Absentee voting’ system among the states, should not it be uniform. The President is elected for the entire nation; So, shouldn’t there be common rules/system across the nation. Why does certain states allow the mail in ballots to be sent by default while others need an excuse?
- Time delay is one of the major concerns in this process. If taken a closer look, delay is mainly due to missing/mismatch information, which might either cause rejection of ballot or the election officer should get in touch with the resident for more information. Can this verification process be shifted one step ahead, i.e. when there is a request for ‘Mail In ballot’, the resident could send their photocopies of their identity proofs for verification. The election officer could complete his/her verification process and then send the ballot to the voter ;when the voter mails back their vote they can resend their identity proofs just to make sure it is from the right person. This might reduce a last-minute delay.
A safer environment for voting
- A drive through booth set up for casting the vote.Similar to ATM drive throughs, the voting machine could be set up where voters could just drive by the voting ballots and cast their vote. A drop box could also be placed by the side of the voting stations so the highly vulnerable groups could drop their casted vote and can avoid touching the voting machine .
- The election officer who needs to verify the identity information can sit in protected/well ventilated booths (similar to a toll booth) ahead of the voting stations.
- For Citizens with mobility challenge and who do not have access to transportation, the government can arrange some mobile polling booths/drop box to collect their ballots.
- Now, what if the voters can’t turn up on election day. Well, they would have already applied for a ‘Mail In ballot’; there is already a system in place to collect them in their drop boxes. This needs a slight tweak. From 6 months before the election, there can be an officer assigned (say once in 2 weeks) by each of these drop boxes who can verify all the information on the envelope. There by saving much of the obvious errors.
These adaptations obviously need lots of changes in the system. But it is never too late for a change today for a better tomorrow.
To vote is our right. Let us make full use of it. We will need a better place for our children to live in.
So what do you all think, will this work?
Please leave your comments, feedback and suggestions.