The 2020 elections are the most consequential in generations. But with a global pandemic not only straining our healthcare system, paralyzing our economy and upending our daily lives, our fundamental right to vote is equally under threat.
The Primary Day debacle in Wisconsin is the most recent — and cruel — example. Conservative lawmakers, right-wing judges and even the U.S. Supreme Court participated in a massive voter suppression scheme to keep the Primary Election date and curtail absentee voting. Voters waited in line, some for hours, wearing masks and distancing, while those with underlying medical conditions or didn’t want to risk getting sick were essentially disenfranchised.
No one should have to choose between their health and safety and participating in our democratic processes. While most states and the federal government have yet to adopt universal vote by mail, one of the best ways right now to stay safe this election season is to request and vote by absentee ballot.
We’ve put together a quick guide to help you retain your right to vote in the upcoming elections.
Right now, only five states, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah, offer all-mail voting. If you live in one of these states, you’re in luck. But the vast majority of Americans lack mail-in voting options. Multiple bills to enact election security and universal vote-by-mail have stalled in Congress, blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has allowed hundreds of important House-passed bills to collect dust on his desk.
Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump recently called voting by mail “corrupt” and “RIPE for FRAUD” (it’s not). Some suggest that Trump’s unwillingness to provide the U.S. Postal Service with additional funding to keep the agency running during the pandemic is a political game threatening mail-in voting and our democracy. (Hypocrisy alert: Trump himself recently admitted that he voted by mail in Florida’s GOP primary this March.)
Without an option to vote by mail for everyone, how can you exercise your right to vote while protecting your health? A different vote-by-mail alternative: Absentee ballots. Each state has its own rules governing absentee voting — some with more stringent requirements, others enjoy no-excuse absentee voting. Luckily, a number of states have begun relaxing the rules for who can request an absentee ballot, raising the count to 34 states and the District of Columbia now allowing no-excuse absentee voting.
If your state hasn’t held its primary election yet, now is the time to request your absentee ballot. Sixteen states and one territory — Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Wyoming and Puerto Rico — have recently pushed their primaries back or instituted vote by mail. You can find out the rules for your state here.
Requesting your ballot is simple. The non-profit Vote.org provides a number of handy resources to register to vote, verify your registration status and, of course, request an absentee ballot.