The United States now has the world’s highest reported number of COVID-19 cases. Maine and other states have shut down in an effort to flatten the curve and slow the spread of this new virus, which has killed thousands of Americans, cost millions of people their jobs, and is poised to claim yet another victim: civic engagement.

While many parts of life have gone digital in the age of social distancing — working from home, telemedicine, online workout classes, food delivery — our democratic process still requires a dangerous amount of in-person contact. To vote in the Wisconsin primary recently, citizens ventured into public in a pandemic and waited in line for hours to vote, risking their health to exercise their basic democratic rights. That is not a choice anyone should have to make in the world’s longest-standing democracy.

We can be almost certain that COVID-19 will make a comeback in the fall, just like the flu does every year. To ensure that voters can make their voices heard in November while maintaining social distancing, America needs nationwide absentee voting by mail.

Any change or expansion of voting methods adds complexity to ballot tracking and voter authentication. But the five states with universal vote by mail —Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — have reported low rates of fraud. President Trump himself mailed in his ballot in the 2018 election.

As a member of NextGen Maine, which is running the largest youth voter turnout program in our state’s history, I believe it is possible to protect both our citizens’ health and their voting rights. No one should lose the ability to participate in our democracy because they are ill, caring for ill family members, or otherwise unable to make it to the polls due to COVID-19.

That is why America needs universal vote by mail in November.

 

Keanna Daniels

Presque Isle


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