Vote By Mail - Defending the Right to Vote During a Pandemic

May 20, 2020

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(This article first appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

As we come to terms with the new reality that the COVID-19 crisis has created, many are wondering how this will impact the November election. Will people be forced to choose between exercising their right to vote and their health? We saw this scenario play out during the April primary election in Wisconsin, where people had to make that difficult choice. At least 40 known cases of COVID-19 can be traced to those who voted or worked the polls for the Wisconsin election. A functioning democracy is dependent on free and fair elections. Especially in times of crisis, there is only one option to ensure this happens: vote by mail. Vote by mail is the best, non-partisan method of increasing voter turnout. It allows voters more time to research candidates and issues, and makes voting more accessible to those with disabilities.

Vote by mail also makes voting easier for people living in rural areas who would otherwise have to drive long distances to polling locations, seniors and those who have to work during traditional voting hours.

During a press conference with Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman and President Dimondstein, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said the ability for people to vote by mail is especially needed during the coronavirus pandemic, when people need to keep a distance from each other. “Do we really want people to have to put their health and safety at risk in order to meet what is a constitutional right?” Condos said.

Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would establish voting by mail in federal elections, but until this becomes law, the APWU is working with other organizations to take a state-by-state approach.

“We’re talking now about basic access to the ballot box and defense of our cherished and hard-fought right to vote,” said President Dimondstein on Democracy Now!. “This pandemic has brought home that if we’re going to have true access to the ballot box…vote by mail is definitely the way to go.”

With the uncertainty around the COVID-19 crisis and its potential impact on the November election, it is our recommendation that everyone who can submit a request for an absentee ballot should do so. A majority of states allow for no excuse absentee voting and, as this crisis progresses, states that require witness signatures for absentee ballots should relax these restrictions. You can go to for information on how to request an absentee ballot in your state. Despite his continued opposition to vote by mail, even President Trump has utilized this method of voting. “We were happy to move the President’s absentee mail ballots through the mail. He trusted us to do that. Tens of millions of people trust us to do that,” said President Mark Dimondstein. “We look forward to doing that on a nonpartisan basis for generations to come.”

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