Currently the world is dealing with a pandemic, the likes of which most people have not experienced. The coronavirus is completely changing how we interact in our society and experts aren’t sure when we can return to normal. Unfortunately, this virus is poised to cause serious damage to one of our most sacred rights and responsibilities. Voting is the bedrock of a democracy and we must make sure our voting process is adapting to make sure as many Americans can vote as possible. With the looming presidential election in November, it is critical that we prepare for an election scenario where the virus is still a factor. That is why I’m advocating for creative solutions like drive through polling locations, automatically receiving mail in ballots and making sure our polling locations are prepared with proper safety measures. This is an incredibly scary time in our country, and we need to take the proper public health precautions to make sure we defeat this virus in a timely manner. However, I would argue more than ever, it is incredibly important that Americans have their voices heard in the direction of the country’s leadership during this crisis and the subsequent fallout. We need to make sure that we are adapting the voting process in a safe and secure way to make sure everyone can have their vote counted.
Towards the end of March, Governor Baker signed a policy into law giving towns the ability to postpone their elections scheduled before May 30. The piece of legislation states that these elections must then be held by June 30. While these measures were important to ensure engagement in local elections, more needs to be done to ensure that participation in future elections can continue. Day after day, the uncertainty of COVID-19 shows that we need to stop leaving things like these up to chance; we shouldn’t assume that we’ll be able to cast our votes in person any time soon. June 30 now, at least to me, still feels like it could be too soon. There’s a lot riding on every election, and we need to brainstorm the alternatives if people can’t make it to the polls on election day.
As stated, there are a ton of ideas and adaptations that we could universally adopt to ensure everyone’s ability to safely vote. While I think we should be calling on Governor Baker and our legislators to do this in the state of Massachusetts, more importantly, this should be adopted nationwide. While the adoption of these measures would likely vary state by state, at minimum, every registered voter in the state should get an absentee ballot mailed to them. The problem with that is that not all states have clear vote by mail laws. While we have this ability, some states have been dragging their feet on updating their voting processes, and we can’t do that anymore. Whether you’re in Massachusetts or at home in another state, make sure you know your resources now, before it’s too late.
MASSPIRG New Voters Project Coordinator