COVID-19 has started to change many different aspects of our life, and for many have changed the American civic duty to vote. With 2020 being an election year, changes have been implemented in cities and states, however politicians on the right fear of ballot stuffing and other voting crimes. State legislators have started to put in policies that will impact how voting will change under a COVID-19 world and in the future.
States from predominantly Republican states are implementing stricter policies for mail-in ballots, as well as removing some power from oversight officials. For example, the state of Iowa passed two different bills, HF 2463 and HF 2486, which will impact the general election for them. HF 2463 made the protocol for county assessors obtaining information for vote-in ballots; instead of using “best practices” to obtain information needed, county assessors must call the voter on file. If there is no response, the voter is then removed from the mail-in ballot registry.
HF 2486 prevents the secretary of state from making any changes to the voting process without the Legislative Council’s approval, including mailing out ballot applications. Wisconsin Democrats have put together several different bills to help make voting by mail more accessible for everyone. However, each bill has been voted down by the predominant Republican legislation. More Democratic states take action to make voting by mail more accessible and easier for people to sign up. For example, in Illinois’ new law signed June 16th by Governor J. B. Pritzker, SB 1863 helps promote voting rights by sending an application for voting by mail for anyone that voted since the 2018 state election. Similar laws have been passed in democratic states like Michigan and California, as well as some GOP-led states. For example, for their June 2nd primary, Indiana election officials decided that any change with voting would be done on the county level, and while most counties did not send out mail-in ballots, they encouraged people and tried to make the application process more transparent.
While Indiana is in legislative recess, it would be interesting to see if applications are sent out across the state. Overall, states have tried to grapple with the transition of voting “remotely,” and unfortunately some government officials are making it harder to vote during the pandemic. Right-wing politicians emphatically argue that voting by mail will be a problem and will hurt the integrity of voting. However, it should be noted that most of the actions taken by them have been infringing on the civic duty of American citizens to vote.
Despite the Voting Rights Act of 1965 being passed, government officials have found ways to dismantle the voting system; closing voting locations in low-income communities, confusing ballot language, taking away voting rights for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, and many much more. With cases rising across the country, even Republican states might adjust to make voting by mail the optimal choice. The true impact will not be felt until November, but the expansion of voting rights through voting by mail will have lasting effect even beyond 2020.
Michael Lavin is a senior attending the University of California, Berkeley, earning an undergraduate degree in Economics. He also is interested in public policy. Last fall, Michael was able to intern for Congressman Mark DeSaulnier from California’s 11th Congressional District. In addition, Michael has gained experience in government relations teams including working with the peer-to-peer car sharing platform Turo. Upon completion of his degree, Michael hopes to be working either in government or with public policy think tanks. Beyond his interests in politics, he also enjoys watching sports, exploring new cities, and hiking. Michael is excited to work with the rest of the Covid19Today.org team.